Living With Kids: Julie Schumacher

I met Julie way back in 2015. You know how some people just fill the room with light and energy? That’s Julie. She’s a brilliant mom and brilliant writer. Julie and her family are in Oak Park, Illinois and I was fascinated to hear how she and her husband formed a mini school and pod at their house to make it through the last year. And the way they’ve added a school and a gym to their home is just wonderful. Welcome, Julie!

Living With Kids: Amanda Wade

What a treat! We all get to take a peek around Amanda’s house today. She and her family live in sunny Southern California and this house has all the bright whites and sunny windows to prove it. And the design details are also just so thoughtful. Soft blues, interesting textures and really beautifully chosen pieces. It really is such a treat. Welcome, Amanda!

Painted Bricks For The Garden — Easy Craft Project!

painted-bricks 3

We found a small collection of random bricks in the backyard from the previous owner and wanted to use them somehow. With a little paint and those random bricks, I worked with my kids to create a fun cityscape in my favorite hues — berry reds!

This project is ideal for children. The painting can be done outside! Also, painting bricks does not require precise painting. Again, hooray! Just let the kids paint. They will love it. An adult can go back later and add the details. There is no right or wrong and the details can be really, really simple.

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Don’t have loose bricks or cinderblocks laying around? Check places like Craig’s List for reclaimed building supplies, or head to your local home and garden store — and feel free to bring your kids. There are so many options, they will definitely love picking out their own “houses”.

A Few Things

Hello, Friends. Happy Friday! How are you? Did you have a good week? We are in another lockdown, so the kids were doing school-from-home today. And for the next two weeks, the whole country of France is on Spring Break, so the kids will also be home, but won’t have to think about school. (Our Spring Break was originally scheduled for the first two weeks of May, but it was shifted to April and included as part of this new lockdown.)

We’re not sure if it’s possible, but we really, really want to move in to The Tall House at the end of this month, so during the next two weeks, we’ll be over at the house quite a bit — sanding floors in a couple of rooms, working on more painting, and trying to complete as much of the dusty work as possible before we move in.

I’ve got a great link list for you today. Here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

Tall House Updates: Making Limewash Paint

We made our own wall paint! No for real. It’s called limewash paint. It’s super safe, earth-friendly, and only has three ingredients: Lime, Pigment, and Water. I did not know that making wall paint was a thing you could do, but we did it and we loved it! We loved the process, the application, and how it turned out.

I shared all the details — the materials, the mix we made, how we applied it, how many coats, and one of the most helpful how-to videos — on Instagram, and I’m going to share it here too.

How Long Does It Actually Take To Learn A Language?

In my latest newsletter, I wrote about the realities of moving to a new country and learning a language. I discuss what it’s like for younger kids and older kids. I share favorite resources. I talk about the other kinds of “mini-languages” that you need to learn that you might not have thought of. I’ve been hearing from lots of people who are thinking about making a move to France and are especially curious about language skills. Do they need to learn French before moving here? Do the kids needs to learn French before enrolling in school? If you’re someone who is curious about what our language-learning experience has been like, the newsletter has a whole lot of info you’ll hopefully find helpful. I’ll share an excerpt here, or you can click to read the whole thing (it’s free!). Here’s the excerpt:

Something you might not realize until you’re in the middle of it is that learning a language means acquiring four different skills: Listening Comprehension, Reading, Speaking, and Writing. These might seem like they are all essentially the same thing, but they are actually separate. You can understand someone who is speaking French, without being able to speak French yourself. You can read French, without being able to write French. If you want to learn to do all four, you have to work on each specific skill. And I would recommend doing so in the order I listed: Listening first, writing last.

I’m especially having a hard time with the speaking part. To really do this well requires immersion; spending a lot of time with people who are only speaking French, where you can’t fall back on English. I rarely if ever get this kind of opportunity, because I’m working in English all day long. And it’s a pandemic, so get togethers haven’t really been an option.

Another issue for me, is having lots of bilingual people around me. Ben Blair speaks French well. The kids speak French very well. And most of my French friends here also speak English well. So I’m rarely forced to speak French for extended periods of time. I can run errands, and do the basics, but I need much more practice.

One more reason I’m not progressing as fast as I should be, is that I know just enough French to manage. I studied French in high school, and a semester of college. I feel like I didn’t gain much from those studies at all — though I still have a poem memorized. Hah! — but those studies did give me a head start on reading and a few basics. (Ben also studied French in high school.)

Click here to continue reading.

A Guide To Cleaning Your Tech Devices

11 Secrets to Cleaning Your Tech Devices. Laptops, cameras, smart phones, etc.

When tackling Spring Cleaning, don’t forget about the technological devices that we use every single day and might need sprucing up the most.

I hold my cell phone and home phone in my hands each day, touching the buttons and screens, holding it to my face. I allow my children, with their sticky little fingers, to play games and send texts to their dad or have a chat with Grandma. My laptop screen is smudged by the same tiny fingers. Crumbs lurk between the keys. My camera and lenses shows signs of my last food shoot. Don’t get me started on the desktop computer! I’m not sure I can remember the last time it was properly dusted and wiped down.

11 Secrets to Cleaning Your Tech Devices. Laptops, cameras, smart phones, etc.

Then there’s the television with diaper cream stuck in the speakers and even more smudges on the screen. (Or is this just my house?) I’ve read that these devices with their many buttons and screens harbor more germs than the toilet! Ew!

So how, and how often, should these things we use daily, these things we can’t seem to be without, be cleaned? This post will cover the nitty gritty of keeping your technology dusted, clean, and smudge free.

A Few Things

Hello, Friends. Happy April! How are you? How was your week? We’ve had good things and not-so-great things this week. A good thing: We finished the entryway bricks! A not-so-great thing: France has a new lockdown starting tomorrow. A good thing: Because we’ll be home for the rest of the month, the family won’t need to get up early. (It’s a small bright spot, but I’ll take it!)

This weekend, we’re going to do some spring cleaning, figure out something simple to do for Easter, and maybe do some baking. If the weather is good, maybe we’ll work in the Secret Garden. How about you? How is your weekend shaping up?

Ready for your link list? Here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

Tall House Updates: Brick Fix

One of the most satisfying projects we’ve tackled so far is repairing the brick floor in the entry and dining room. You might remember, we found the brick floor when we removed a layer of asphalt, but along one side, and at the entry, the bricks were missing (we don’t know why they were removed).

We have a great source for reclaimed bricks, so we planned to hire a mason to fill in the missing brick, but Christophe (he’s done most of our other masonry work) was booked, and apparently, so is everyone else. So we decided to try doing the work ourselves.

Here’s a report of how it’s going to so far:

Living With Kids: Barbara Rucci

Barbara Rucci’s house is full of lovely clutter. I look over the scenes she’s shared with us, and I can’t help but think that all her keepsakes on display are nowhere near a haphazard situation, and way more of an ever-changing collection of memories made…as well as those still in the making. Yes, Barbara does clutter right!

Also, if any of you are in the throes of comparing your parenting styles or values or incomes to those families around you, please read on. It seems that living in an affluent community brings with it a wonderful yet problematic set of challenges — maybe you’ve experienced the same dilemmas that Barbara worries over while printing out gratitude quotes from Pinterest! (Barbara, I giggled at the realization of how Pinterest can save us at our most frantic parenting moments!)

All this to tell you that you’re going to love more than the gorgeous photos this week; there’s a lot of wisdom and knowledge well-earned over time in this one. Please enjoy it.

How To Keep Cut Flowers Fresh

10 Secrets For Keeping Cut Flowers Fresh featured on top lifestyle blog, Design Mom

Whether it’s a bouquet of gorgeous roses from your significant other, a friendly bunch of birthday daisies from your bestie, magenta peonies fresh from the garden, or that impulsive bunch of tulips you grabbed on your way through the grocery store check out line, there are some helpful concrete things you can do for keeping cut flowers fresh, lasting longer and looking their best.

10 Secrets For Keeping Cut Flowers Fresh featured on top lifestyle blog, Design Mom

We’ll even cover some of those old wives’ tales you may have heard — like putting a penny in a vase of tulips. Does it work? Come see.

A Few Things

Hello, Friends. How are you? Did you have a good week? We have been tackling lots of renovation tasks and learning new skills, like brick laying and making limewash paint. It feels good to learn new things.

We don’t have big plans this week — possibly a day trip to Le Mans, or maybe a visit to the reclaimed building materials yard. How about you?

Ready for your weekend link list? Here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share:

Tall House Updates

Some updates from the last couple of weeks. You’ll find a discussion about the water softener, some terrifying footage of tradesman going up and down ladders leading up to our roof (while sometimes carrying another ladder), and you’ll learn about something called distemper paint, and how to remove it.

Come see what we’ve been up to.

Mass Killings Are So Commonplace They Barely Make the News

Because of the pandemic and stay-at-home guidelines, we haven’t had to think about mass shootings in awhile. Now that the vaccination program is going strong in the U.S., and the country is opening up, like clockwork, we’re seeing mass shooting after mass shooting. Yesterday, a man with an AR-15 killed 10 people in a grocery store in Colorado. During the weekend of March 14th, four people were killed and at least 34 others hurt in shootings across Chicago. Last week, a man with an AR-15 killed 8 people in Atlanta — he bought the gun earlier that day. The supermarket shooting was the seventh mass killing so far this year.

I saw zero headlines about the Chicago killings. Just another week in America. I fear we’ve all watched gun violence become normalized, right before our eyes.

Where are you at on this issue? Are you still passionately fighting for gun control? Are you still passionately fighting against gun control? Are you exhausted by the gun debate? Have you given up hope of ever getting things resolved?

As you already know if you’ve been reading here for awhile, I grew up in a gun-loving community and have always tried to be respectful of gun rights. Yes I wanted to see real and practical gun reforms, but I also wanted the people I love to be able to keep their guns. In 2018 my viewpoint changed.

I think it was reading the statistics about gun suicides that finally made me realize I can no longer favor the gun rights of my childhood friends over the 100 lives that are lost every day in this country (100 EVERY SINGLE DAY!) due to gun violence.

These days, I would welcome a gun ban. I realize not everyone agrees with me.

Easy Craft Project: Painted Egg Cartons

DIY: Easy Painted Egg Cartons

Your egg usage during this time of the year may be a bit higher than usual. Which means you might have a few empty egg cartons laying around. I’ve always had trouble throwing them out because, gosh, I can probably make something with them, right?! Yes! The answer is yes. The cartons make seasonally-perfect gift boxes.

Each tiny cup is an ideal spot to nestle little gifts, treats, ornaments or cascarones. And with a simple paint job, they’re super cute to boot!

DIY: Easy Painted Egg Cartons

The carton is a blank canvas of possibilities, calling out for cheerful stripes or dots. Let’s paint!

A Few Things

Hello, Friends. How are you? How are you holding up? I’ve found it pretty impossible to think about anything but the murders in Atlanta. To all my Asian friends and those who are in my community, I’m sorry this is happening. And I’m sorry so many people are doing mental gymnastics to sympathize with the killer. #StopAsianHate

On Instagram (in posts and stories), I’ve been sharing thoughts and collecting commentary (I’ll share some below).

In not-awful news, it’s still coats-needed weather here, but our tulip bulbs are coming up, and the trees are thinking about blossoming. Feels like Spring is right around the corner.

In the mood for a link list? Here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

Sponsors vs. Subscriptions — How to Fund Content Creation in 2021

Hey there. I need your thoughts and advice. For a decade, I funded my blog, my writing, and my social media work through sponsored posts. But there has always been tension about the sponsored content from readers, and from me as a creator too. The general feedback I’ve received is basically: We know sponsored posts are necessary so you can make a living, but we don’t like them, and we are going to scroll past, no matter who the sponsor is, or what the content is; we’ll try to be good sports about it, but we really don’t like sponsored posts.

Honestly, I get it. I understand. The mix of personal posts and paid-posts (which are also sometimes very personal!) can feel super weird. Plus, working with sponsors means I don’t always get to choose the topics I’m writing about — so some sponsored posts can feel forced. Working with sponsors is also a huge time-consumer above and beyond the content creation — the proposals, the back-and-forth on contracts, the project management, the approvals, the reporting. I’d rather use that time to create more content and connect with readers.

So 18 months ago, when we moved back to France, I stopped saying yes to sponsored posts. And since then I’ve been looking into other options for monetizing my work, but wasn’t having any luck finding an option that makes sense for me. Then, a few months ago, the people at Substack reached out and I think their platform might be the answer.

Substack is basically newsletter software where writers/creators can offer a combination of free subscriptions, and paid subscriptions that come with perks. Sort of like when you download a free app, but then you can pay if you want to unlock all the app-upgrades. Different writers/creators use Substack in different ways, but the general format is to offer a free newsletter that’s available to everyone, and then, if people want to pay $5/month (or $50/year), they will have access to additional subscriber-only content. The paid content can take various forms — as I’ve explored Substack, I’ve seen subscriber-only discussion posts, recipes, ebooks, live Q&As, podcasts, videocasts, essays, etc. It really depends on the writer/creator and how their subscribers want to connect.

Tall House Updates

Let’s talk about shutters! In France, shutters are very functional. Households will open them each morning, and shut them in the evening. They use shutters for privacy, black-out light control, and to manage heat in the summer. And it’s not just France. Many European countries use shutters daily — Portugal, Spain, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Switzerland and more. Interestingly, shutters are not common in the UK or Scandinavia.

In Instagram Stories, I shared updates about our shutters and did a demonstration of how the shutters work and the differences between our wood shutters and metal shutters. I ended up getting tons of questions from Americans who have not used shutters and were curious about all sorts of things (screens? curtains?). So I answered some of the questions in Stories as well.

And then, I started getting questions from Europeans who were confused why Americans didn’t know about shutters, (hah!) and also wondering what “screens” were (because they’re not common in every part of Europe). So I answered those questions too.

Living With Kids: Hillary Pember

When Hillary reached out about sharing her family’s story I loved that it wasn’t one we hear all the time. She and her husband had just started figuring out being empty nesters, with their 3 kids all in college and out of the home. Then, the pandemic hit and two of the kids had to move back home. Which meant schedules, expectations and routines had to be adjusted. But their comfy, New England style home was just what the needed to weather the storm. Welcome, Hillary!

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