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. …

What to Wear to 7th Grade – Euro Edition

[imagebrowser id=14] [nggallery template=’carousel’ id=’14’]   This is 12-year-old Maude. Looking fantastic! Maude looks good in everything and she loves experimenting with clothes so it’s nothing but joy when we put together outfits for her. This year, she did quite a bit of shopping from Ralph’s closet. Trashed jeans (we’re calling them boyfriend jeans), flannel trousers that happen to fit wonderfully at the waist, a necktie for a belt, a chambray button down and a heather grey polo — all items Ralph had outgrown and Maude adopted. What do you think? Would your daughters like these clothes for middle school? Are these as Euro as Ralph’s looks? Find the whole series here. …

What to Wear to 8th Grade – Euro Edition

[nggallery template=’carousel’ id=’13’] Hello, Friends! Are you ready for the annual series of What to Wear to School posts? I hope so. Because here they come! Ralph is first. Maude and Olive’s photos will be posted soon. Oscar and Betty’s will get posted as soon as we get some photos taken. : ) Ralph was very pleased when his school wardrobe came together. He said it looked more French and that he would fit right in clothes wise. What do you think? Do they look Euro to you? Would your 8th grader wear similar clothes? P.S. – You can find the whole What to Wear series here.


The last two weeks of August are filled to brim for my family. Olive Jean Blair turned 10 yesterday. (Double digits!) Ralph Wallace Blair has a birthday today. Our anniversary was last week. School begins, which means a long list of things to do and buy. And all this competes with an instinct to do nothing but make the most of summer before it’s gone. This year, we’ve also been excited about houseguests (more arrive next week!), and we’ve been thinking of my parents, Grandma & Grandpa Mac, who flew to China yesterday. They’ll be spending the school year there teaching English. That’s a lot of good stuff for one little half-month. : ) Yesterday, for Olive’s Birthday we woke her with breakfast in bed — a crepe filled with rasberries and whip cream, plus ham on the side. (Maude woke early so she could gather raspberries from the garden. She’s a sweetheart.) Instead of a party, we spent the morning at a small amusement park call Festyland. In the evening, we sang Happy Birthday and Olive opened presents. Her favorite was a Swatch. It was a happy day. What’s August like for you? A good month? A boring one? P.S. — Something funny: August 25th is legendary in our families. It’s the birthday of Olive, Ben’s brother Jim, my nephew Colin, Ben’s niece Lindsey, Grandpa Mac, and two of his kids. Do you have funny dates like that in your family?

Public Drinking Fountains in Paris

When we were in Paris for the Tour de France, our niece spotted one of the historic Wallace Drinking Fountains. There are 67 of them throughout the city and they serve up a running stream of fresh water. I had no idea these existed! I’m so glad Ruth did. It was a fun little discovery to make — especially on a hot day. Have you ever made an unexpected little discovery in your town or while you traveled? That sort of thing makes me happy for days.

DIY: Colored Pencil Jewelry

Note from Design Mom: I asked Kate of Mini Eco to create a Back to School themed project for us to try. I think making beads out of colored pencils is brilliant! Wouldn’t these beads be fun for your elementary school-ers to string for a class project? It would also be a fun activity at an art-themed birthday party. Here’s Kate: Lately I have become a little addicted to making (and wearing) colored pencil jewelry. The items pictured are really easy to make and only require a few basic tools. You don’t even need to buy any materials, simply chop a few centimeters from the end of your kids crayons…if you do this neatly then they will be none the wiser!! I think the results look great and you, or your child, will definitely stand out from the crowd wearing them! …

La Cressonnière: Summertime

[imagebrowser id=12] [nggallery template=’carousel’ id=’12’]   This morning I took a walk and happened upon a very yellow, very fall leaf. It was only one, but it reminded me that fall will be here in a few short weeks. Before it arrives, I thought I should make a visual record of what La Cressonnière looks like in the peak of summer. Fruit is everywhere. Apples and walnuts have weighed down the tree branches — they’re so low they almost touch the ground. Flowers aren’t quite as plentiful as they were in the spring, but the roses made a second appearance after disappearing in July. Lavender and honeysuckle scent every path of the garden. The apples will be ripe in a few weeks and we have one small pumpkin. The grapes look glorious even though they’re far from ready — I hope they’ll be delicious.


The only other Americans we’ve met in our little town are a lovely retired couple from Texas. The husband, Mark, has made two pilgrimages to Mont St. Michel. He walked from Argentan all the way there, and it took him about 10 days each time. Did you know Mont St. Michel is one of the top 4 pilgrimage sites in Christendom? (I learned that from Rick Steves. : ) I love the idea of making a pilgrimage to a holy place. It would be so different visiting the island abbey as a pilgrim instead of a tourist. I imagine myself approaching, tired and contrite, taking in the views from the top, meditating in the cloisters and keeping open to spiritual enlightenment. When Laura Mayes and I visited Mont St. Michel last month, she commented that she felt a connection there and that it was “one of her places“. That’s such a great feeling. I think Laura should come back to France and take a walk to Mont St. Michel. How about you? Have you ever wanted to make a pilgrimage? Where would you go? How would you get there? P.S. — We visited Mont St. Michel again this morning, and the weather was so lovely that we spent most of our time exploring the mudflats all around the island. We saw lots of jellyfish — the first ones I’ve seen in real life!

La Cressonnière: Oscar & Betty’s Room

[imagebrowser id=11] [nggallery template=’carousel’ id=’11’]   Ben Blair’s sister, Lisa, and our nephew, David, are here visiting. And we’ve been having the best time with them today! When guests come, we usually have them stay in Oscar and Betty’s room. It’s a beautiful bedroom and has lots of space, so it’s easy to bring in luggage, or a travel crib, and feel like you can spread out. As I was changing the sheets and straightening the room yesterday, I realized I hadn’t shared a photo tour yet. I hope you enjoy it! Betty sleeps in the big double bed. Oscar sleeps in the twin. Their clothes are kept in the dresser and the armoire stores bed linens and extra blankets for all the beds in the house. One of my favorite details in the room is a painted stripe on the ceiling. So elegant! P.S. — Remember when Betty took a photo of her bed?  

Giant Origami

Last week, Maude tried her hand at making giant origami. Isn’t is the coolest!? She made an origami box to hold her smaller paper cranes and she made a giant paper crane too! How neat would a whole flock of oversize paper cranes be at a party? Or in a bedroom?

A Summer Hike

[imagebrowser id=10] [nggallery template=’carousel’ id=’10’]   Yesterday, we spent the morning at La Roche D’Oëtre — it’s about 30 minutes from our home and has some great hikes and a really cool zip line course. We started at the zip lines. Some of their courses are way intense — but only Ralph and Maude were old enough to participate, so instead, we played around on the little kids course for a bit, and then went on a hike. I love hiking with my family! The trail went down the mountain through a lush forest, along a river, and then circled back up again. It was nice and shady (and lined with wild blackberry bushes) and just challenging enough to keep everyone interested. My favorite part was watching the kids play on the river rocks — and seeing if they could get across without getting their feet wet. (No, they could not. : ) I also loved seeing my kids help each other as they climbed up and down the bigger rocks. Nothing quite pulls at my heartstrings like watching them work together. I have fond memories of seeing my children play on rocks in a dozen different rivers. I’ve concluded it’s one of the most fun things a person can do in this life. How about you? Do you have any favorite family hikes?

Music Practice

When I was at Mom 2.0, my friend Ellen gave me a pair of Etymotic earphones and told me to wear them on the plane ride home. Holy cow! They are like magic — with my headphones in, I could hear the movies on my iPhone beautifully, and I could hear the Pilot’s announcements clearly too! Everything else was blocked out. (How in the world does that work?) I was thinking of the headphones today, because Ellen also told me I should have my kids use ear plugs during music practice. Apparently it’s common for musicians to lose their hearing. Isn’t that awful? Ralph is practicing trombone as I type. We haven’t tried the earplugs yet, but I think I should get some. The trombone is loud! Do your kids play instruments? Are you concerned about hearing loss? Or am I just being a worry-wart?


franceDMbanner Flip flops are not very common here. The summer shoe of choice seems to be a pair of Espadrilles. I’ve spotted them at the beach, at the market, and at dinner too. We found ours at the grocery store (it’s sort of like a Super Target) for about 6 euros. They come in all sorts of colors and are worn by girls and boys, men and women. Have you ever worn Espadrilles? My advice: buy a pair that fits nice and tight — the fabric will stretch a bit as you walk. P.S. — I remember being in 5th grade and seeing espadrille style shoes by Esprit at the department store. I didn’t buy a pair, but I coveted them!

Jewelry Jars

I’ve been putting leftover yogurt jars to good use as jewelry organizers. Technically, these are not yogurt jars, they’re pot de creme jars instead — and they work especially well for this task because they have wide mouths and very low profiles. Having my jewelry separated like this is so helpful to me! I keep all the little jars on a shelf in my bedroom and when I reach for a necklace or earrings, nothing is ever tangled or difficult to spot. Since the jars are out in the open, I wanted to pretty them up a bit. So I lined them with origami paper. Perhaps fabric would work even better. …

Pointe du Hoc

pointeduhoc05 We’ve had so many visitors this summer, we’ve had a chance to explore more of the D-Day sites. I think the one I find most compelling is Pointe du Hoc. 250 hand-picked Army Rangers were sent to this outcrop of land that juts into the ocean. Their assignment was to scale the cliffs and take out the big enemy guns that defended the Point. They achieved their goal, but at great cost. Only 90 survived. pointeduhoc10pointeduhoc08pointeduhoc02pointeduhoc04pointeduhoc09 The land at Pointe du Hoc is above the ocean, so it hasn’t been washed clean by the waves. It still has all the scars of a fierce battle. The landscape is riddled with giant craters made from heavy bombing, cement rubble is found throughout the area, and many of the original defensive structures are still standing. pointeduhoc06pointeduhoc13pointeduhoc03pointeduhoc12 For such a serious place, it’s surprisingly easy for children to visit. They can climb and explore and run as much as they like. They don’t even have to watch their volume, because the ocean wind tempers every noise. pointeduhoc11pointeduhoc07pointeduhoc01 But if you do bring your kids, leave the food behind. There are no picnics allowed at Pointe du Hoc — there are no graves here, but it’s considered a burial ground.

Ask Design Mom: Siblings Sharing a Bedroom

Question: I have three children, two of which share a room. As they get older, there is much grumbling of why they have to share a room. Having six children, have you come across this issue and if so, how did you deal with it? Many thanks for your time. — Meg Grant Answer: Hi Meg! We’ve never lived in a house with 7 bedrooms, so as you guessed, we have lots of experience with room sharing in the Blair Family. It’s one of those things. Some kids love it. Some don’t. Olive loves it — we tried a solo room with her and didn’t last 2 days. Maude, on the other hand, begged for her own room for ages, and finally has one! But who knows in the next house… When Maude would be especially frustrated, the best fix for us was to help her do a mini bedroom makeover. Switch furniture around. Add a new piece of art. Decoupage some furniture. Make an inspiration board for her next bedroom. A trip to Target for a new throw pillow. Something small or big that would help her feel ownership of the room and be excited about it. How does it work at your house, Dear Readers? Do your kids share rooms? Did you share a room as a child? P.S. — The bedroom pictured is Oscar and Betty’s room in Colorado. We built the beds for super cheap! You can find instructions here.

Ask Design Mom: Preparing Siblings for New Baby

Question: We are expecting our second child in November. I am curious to know how you prepared your children for the birth of each new sibling. Our son will be three and a half when the baby arrives, and I am looking for unique ideas in getting him excited for his new brother or sister. Thanks Design Mom! — Dena Answer: Congratulations, Dena! It’s hard to predict how any child will react to a new sibling, but one thing that worked well for us, is having our kids participate in naming discussions. Even if we didn’t love their ideas, we would add them to our list and make sure the kids knew they were being heard. A cute twist on this, one family I know let’s the kids give the growing baby a silly name to be called during the pregnancy. What about you, Dear Readers? How have you prepared your child (or children) for a new sibling? P.S. — You can see how my children welcomed Baby June home here.
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