New York Report

Hello, Friends! It was such a good trip to New York. Packed with meetings, meetings and more meetings — plus visits with some of my favorite people. It feels good to be back with my family. I arrived home yesterday and assumed I would jump right back into work, but forgot how jet-lagged I would be. I think I slept for 20 hours straight! : ) One of the highlights of the trip was getting the cracked glass on my phone repaired. On the spur of the moment, I had it replaced with red! It makes me happy when I pull it out of my pocket. P.S. — Just curious: do you use covers for your phones? I confess, I never have. I like the feel of the bare phone in my hand.

Living With Kids: Angelique Hoffman

Angelique’s Maryland home is over one hundred years old, but she’s done an incredible job with staying true to the architectural preservation of the house while simultaneously adding her style to make it a home. Add a husband, three young daughters, and the bustling vintage-modern home furnishings and apparel shop she co-owns with a friend, and you can imagine the just-right amount of pink and creative flair that sneaks into the home’s everyday decor. Enjoy the tour! Q: One hundred years old! I love that. What are the challenges and charms of an older home? A: Challenge number one is the lack of storage! I edit and clean out what we don’t need a couple of times a year; thankfully, I’m not a pack rat! Our master bedroom has a closet the size of a small coat closet, so that one belongs to my husband. My clothes are hanging on a garment rack from Target in a quirky room that the previous owners converted from a sleeping porch into a 1/4 bath, with a pink jetted tub and nothing else. I’d like to turn it into an actual closet or 3/4 bath someday. My kitchen received a facelift when we moved in, but it’s pretty dated in terms of functionality. The cabinets were installed in the 1950s and are tight. However, I love how large and liveable the kitchen is; someday, we’ll bring it up to speed. We’re operating on the 20-year plan, even though I thought we’d have everything on our wishlist accomplished within five to seven years! …

New York City

I’m off to New York today. So excited! The weather looks like it’s going to be amazing. Something funny: I have all sorts of errands to run while I’m there. Things like getting a camera lens fixed, an external harddrive salvaged, and my iPhone glass replaced. All errands that I could technically run in France, but I’ve saved them for this trip because it will be so much easier to take care of them in a city I know well — and where English is spoken! : ) If you were in New York City this week, what would you want to do? P.S. — I’m a little obsessed with these photos of New York taken by Charles Cushman in the middle of the last century. I put together a slideshow with some of my favorites here. Wouldn’t you love to own the frankfurters umbrella?


Last night, we sat around the kitchen table chatting, laughing and cracking walnuts from our tree. Such a pleasant way to pass an evening! The walnut tree at La Cressonnière (it’s the treehouse tree) has been over-the-top generous with its crop of walnuts. We’ve gathered basket after basket with no end in sight. The kids pick them up right off the grass. In April, our friend Stephanie gifted us a bottle of walnut oil and it’s delicious. I wonder if we can take our walnut harvest and have some oil pressed… I’ve never done anything like that. Have you? …

School Report

We’re over a month into the new school year and I thought you might like some more fun facts, reported by my kids, about their experience at French school. You can find our last report here. – Sometimes Ben Blair and I think we have a good handle on things. But then we realize we have no idea what’s going on. Today, when we picked them up from school, Betty, Oscar and Olive reported that it was field day and apparently they were supposed to go to school in sport pants and bring water bottles. We had no idea! And I swear, we have been reading the notes. Hah! – Olive plays marbles during recess (so old school!). She said it’s pretty competitive. The kids bring pencil cases full of marbles. I like taking pictures of the marbles. : ) – Ralph said the kids at school think he is an expert rapper. But he said really, he just knows the lyrics to an Eminem song. – All five are coming along with their French and understand lots of what’s said at school. Last year, we didn’t have them do homework, but this year they do. Sometimes that means a several-hour-long session at the computer with Google translate. – When kids are finished with lunch, they wait for everyone else at your table to finish too. – Maude is taking Latin this year. Ralph is taking Spanish. They like taking these classes because they’re at the same starting point as their classmates and they get good scores. They said it’s strange to feel like the best in some classes and the worst in others. – In middle school, the boys always greet each other with a handshake. Each boy goes and shakes every other boy’s hand. They also shake hands when they say goodbye. The girls say hello and goodbye with a kiss on each cheek. – Kids younger than middle school greet and say goodbye with one cheek kiss. – We mentioned the track suits on a previous report, but during warm weather, the boys wear short shorts during gym. (We’re still used to the US look of long sport shorts.) – The backpack of choice is Eastpak. – The biggest sport is soccer. Badminton, handball and ping-pong are also a big deal. – The students all stand when an adult walks into the classroom. – Many of the high school kids smoke and the adults don’t seem too stressed out about it. They’re not allowed to on campus, but as soon as they walk past the campus fence, students feel free to light up and don’t feel compelled to hide it. – Our kids are used to school lunch here. They said they’re curious about what they’ll think of school lunch when they return to the States. – Sort of school related: The kids are getting lots of invitations to birthday parties. The parties are simple and sweet. Not a lot of fuss. Overall, everyone is doing great and staying enthusiastic about school. We’re super proud of them!

Living With Kids: Christine Visneau

Christine Visneau is cool. She’s the proprietress of an indie kids’ shop in Dallas called Little Bean, the designer of an adorable clothing line, one of the creatives behind Small Magazine, and she plays the drums. You just smiled about her being a drummer, didn’t you? I told you she’s cool. The home she shares with her husband, Steve, and their two daughters, Miette and Amelie, is also effortlessly cool; a space where bursts of creativity can grow wild, and bright ideas even brighter. It’s a space where professional art hangs side-by-side with Miette’s and Amelie’s, which sends an incredible message about value and worth, don’t you think? Enjoy the tour! …

Monet’s Gardens at Giverny

[imagebrowser id=19] [nggallery template=’carousel’ id=’19’]   Hello, Friends! Did you have a good weekend? Ours turned into an adventurous one. At the last minute, we drove to Paris to see Nuit Blanche 2011 (I’ll tell you all about it in another post). We slept over at the Ferney’s on Saturday night and stopped at Giverny when we drove home on Sunday. It was a gorgeous day to visit Monet’s Gardens. The weather felt like summer and the flowers were still in full bloom. I had two favorite parts: the Japanese garden (where the famed waterlilies are) and visiting his house. His dining room is entirely yellow and has a table that seats 14! (Monet had 8 kids and lots of visitors.) His kitchen has a huge old stove very similar to the antique here at La Cressonnière. Photos aren’t allowed inside the house, but we took lots in the gardens. Have you ever been? What’s your favorite work from Monet?

Halloween Planning

I’m still amazed that it’s really October! The conversation at our house has pretty much turned to non-stop Halloween topics. Same for you? I keep warning the kids that Halloween is not a big deal in France (and that October 31st falls during a 2-week school break), but they can’t help themselves. They are daydreaming about throwing a party for their friends. Bobbing for apples, pumpkin carving, maybe a spook house in the barn. Martha’s new book Handmade Holiday Crafts, came in the mail last Friday, so they’ve been taking turns bookmarking their favorite ideas from the Halloween section. Personally, I’m feeling drawn to the glittery projects (skulls, bones and pumpkins). I suppose I’m just looking for an excuse to get my glitter on. Have you started making Halloween plans? Are you hosting a Halloween party this year? UPDATE: The good people at Martha Stewart saw this post and want to offer 5 (autographed!) copies of Handmade Holiday Crafts to Design Mom Readers. So this post just turned into a giveaway. Woot! To enter, leave a comment below telling us about your favorite Halloween craft or tradition. The five winners will be announced on Wednesday. ——– The winners are Kelly, Rik, M. Peterson, Heather and Janeannechovy. Thanks for playing!

Living With Kids: Blair Stocker

I reached out to Blair of the wonderful wise craft blog almost immediately after seeing her home featured on Apartment Therapy. I must have scrolled through her tour three times. It wasn’t just the artwork she’d chosen or the colors she’d painted the walls or how she had arranged the furniture that impressed me; it was the sheer thoughtfulness of it all. I’ve always believed that our homes and everything we’ve chosen to put in them and keep around us are often the truest reflections of our personalities. After a week of generous and kind emails from Blair, I can tell you that thoughtful doesn’t even begin to cover it. She and her husband, Peter, along with their two children and a beloved cat named Gracie, have made an artful home in Seattle, Washington, in between running a brand consulting agency, creating a line of chocolate bars with flavors like Savory Ramen and Apple Pie and Graham, and being…artists! Enjoy the tour. You’re going to fall in love with Blair and her home, too. I just know it. …

Hollyhock Dolls + Easy How-to

When my friend Emily was visiting last week, she taught Maude and Olive how to make hollyhock dolls. Such an adorable little craft! They would be fun to make at a birthday party with a fairy or woodland theme, and they’re perfect for a low-key Sunday afternoon. Emily’s mother is a naturalist and an artist. She taught Emily all sorts of fun things to make from pretty bits of nature. Wouldn’t it be a treat to spend a day with Emily’s mom and learn some of her secrets? The how-to is easy. Pick blooms of different sizes, and new buds for the heads. Remove the fuzzy, pollen-y stamen. Then, use toothpicks to piece the flowers together. We used three flowers to make the skirt pictured. If you have hollyhocks in lots of different colors, you could make a multi-color skirt. Keep scissors nearby in case you need to shorten your toothpicks. Experiment and see what you come up with. You can use a smaller bloom as a hat, or maybe even use a flower to fashion an umbrella. Emily’s husband, Weston, recommended using two smaller blooms as arms — so cute! P.S. — I’ve never planted hollyhocks before, but they grow like weeds here at La Cressonnière. They are everywhere! Have you grown them?

First Day of Fall

Welcome Fall! I’m so glad you’re here. I love this season. The clothes, the colors, the temperature. Yummy, yummy and yummy. What do you think fall will be like in Normandy? I’m crossing my fingers that the trees will be gorgeous. I was looking for good leaf-y pictures and found an old post about our family hike in the Catskills. It was 3 years ago and the kids are so little! I could hardly believe it. I think fall makes me nostalgic. Just curious: Do you prefer to call it fall or autumn? I feel like I had a decade where I was preferring autumn, but lately I’ve found myself saying fall more often.

Living With Kids: Maria Fé

Maria Fé’s Georgia home looks like an absolute haven, doesn’t it? Colors ease gently from one to the next, magazine-worthy vignettes wait patiently in every corner for their close-ups, and can you believe her chevron wall? It is truly a thing of beauty. It’s clear that Maria and her husband, Brad, prefer clean lines, modern twists, and elegant tones. And when their son, Jack, came along, they stayed true to their design leanings. His bedroom is solid and sturdy, but still remarkably soft. I love nurseries that are equally pleasing to babies as they are to their parents, since we end up spending so much time together in them! Enjoy the tour! …

Living With Kids: Jane Foster

Have you ever seen a breath of fresh air? It usually appears suddenly, boldly, always beautifully, and leaves you much happier than you were just a second ago. And that’s exactly how I’d describe Jane Foster’s home. Jane is a brilliant screen printer and fabric wizard who lives in Totnes Devon in the UK with her partner and young daughter. Together they’ve built a contemporary modern eco home where she creates all of her happy designs. I promise her home tour will make you want to paint every wall in your house white! …

Godparents: Tradition or Trend?

I’m trying to get up to speed on the modern day version of Godparents. I can’t help but notice that many of my friends — some religious, some not — haven chosen Godparents for their children. The idea of people I trust keeping my kids in mind is wonderful. Of course, that happens every day with aunts, uncles, friends and neighbors. But there’s something interesting about making the relationship formal. I’m so curious. What’s your experience with Godparents? Did you choose some for your children? Or do you plan to? Did you choose relatives or friends? Do they have specific duties? Have you heard of OMGmother? Did you grow up with Godparents yourself? Is/was the relationship what you hoped it would be? P.S. — Only slightly related to this post, but I think Sofia Coppola is the coolest. Among other things, she interned at Chanel at age 15, directed Lost in Translation and married Thomas Mars of Phoenix. She’s rad. Image at Tout le Cine.

Luxembourg Gardens

[imagebrowser id=18] [nggallery template=’carousel’ id=’18’]   It feels like we haven’t visited Paris in ages. On our last trip (it was in July), we spent the afternoon at Luxembourg Gardens with Jordan and Paul. We ate ice cream on the great lawn and road the go-karts in the shade. From what I understand, the go-kart area is an independent venture run by an older couple. She sews the little flags used to mark out the racing area. He makes sure kids who tumble off receive an extra turn for free. Don’t you love learning the little stories that are hidden in big cities? P.S. — Paul took these excellent photos. He also launched a new round of the Commission Project. You should grab a spot before they’re sold out!

Wild Blackberries

The country road we live on is lined with wild blackberries that started ripening near the end of August. There are so many! Every few days, we fill a basket, then eat them by the bowlful with cream and a touch of honey. When I was growing up in St. George, sometimes we’d find wild asparagus growing along the irrigation ditch across the street from our house. There’s something so wonderful about gathering food that belongs to no one and that you didn’t purposely plant or cultivate. It very much feels like a gift. Have you ever gathered wild fruits or vegetables?

What to Wear to Kindergarten – Euro Edition

[imagebrowser id=17] [nggallery template=’carousel’ id=’17’]   It’s Betty Blair’s turn! (Fun fact: Betty is our only child with no middle name.) If Betty was in the US, she would be attending Kindergarten. Here, she’ll be attending the final year of Maternelle. For some reason that I can no longer remember, I hadn’t shopped for Betty in ages. Everything she owned was either too small or stained and worn. So her wardrobe received a pretty complete overhaul. She seems very happy with the new clothes and thought modeling for these shots was the bees knees. Betty loves school and I’m betting she’ll be the first Blair kid to be fluent in French. Find the whole series here. P.S. I included an image of Betty’s lunchbox. I picked it up at a tag sale and Betty was NOT interested. But we tied on a big red bow and that made it acceptable. : )

What to Wear to First Grade – Euro Edition

[imagebrowser id=16] [nggallery template=’carousel’ id=’16’]   Are you completely sick of What to Wear posts yet? So many kids! I hope you’ll indulge me while I finish the series. It’s Oscar’s turn now, and I think I’ll post Betty’s today too, so it’s all wrapped up this week. Thank you truly for your kind comments. The kids LOVE reading what you have to say. Oscar is all about comfort. If his clothes allow him to do “rad moves” then he is happy and satisfied. One thing I realized as we were putting away his new clothes: I pretty much only buy striped socks for Oscar. A little peek of happy stripes can make even the most uneventful outfit feel young and adorable. But really, Oscar is adorable with or without stripes. I would guess most of Oscar’s outfits (except maybe the scarf) would fit right in both American and French schools. What do you think? Find the whole series here. P.S. — Speaking of school clothes, remember Cher in Clueless?

School Supplies in France

School supplies are a big deal here. The lists are long. And they’re detailed. Instead of listing something like “notebook”, they’ll specify dimensions, interior details, and color. Shopping for our school supplies took about twice as long as the back-to-school clothes shopping. I think we made 10 trips to 6 different stores before we gathered everything. It surprised me! I took photos of some of the prettiest items. I love the colored pencils and the folders with the fabric closures. And I think the pencil cases are handsome. Something interesting: classic yellow No. 2 pencils aren’t really sold here. French students use pens more than pencils. Their standard pencils are grey HB pencils with no erasers on the end. And instead of buying them in boxes of 12, you purchase them 2 at a time (pre-sharpened). Did you buy any pretty school supplies this year?

What to Wear to 4th/5th Grade – Euro Edition

[imagebrowser id=15] [nggallery template=’carousel’ id=’15’]   Olive’s Turn! Olive Jean Blair is delightful. She adores color and we did our best to work it in amongst the navy and grey and neutrals. As you might guess, Olive’s wardrobe is peppered with hand-me-downs from Maude — but we always make sure to work in a few new things that are especially for her. Today is the first day of school and she’s wearing the yellow tights outfit. It’s my favorite! The navy “jacket” with the buttons and zips is actually quite lightweight and functions as a shirt or a cardigan. She looks fantastic in the outfit (and in everything she wears). What do you think? Still Euro-looking? Or is Olive’s wardrobe more “American”? Find the whole series here. …
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