Watercolor Calendar

watercolor calendar
watercolor calendarwatercolor calendarwatercolor calendar We love a big wall calendar at our house, so I decided to make one this weekend. I used my kids’ watercolors — little tubes of gouache (pronounced gwash) — and oversize sheets of paper. If you haven’t tried gouache before, don’t be intimidated. It’s basically opaque watercolor, and it’s really easy to work with. Find instructions below. paint on plate watercolor calendar

Chateau Carrouges

What a happy weekend. It was very rainy, but we did lots of exploring in our van anyway. We went to Rouen and saw the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. And we stopped at Ikea to pick up a high chair. On Sunday, we went to church. Our Mormon congregation here is teeny tiny — fifteen people not counting our family. And I have to say, I was delighted to realize how much of the Sunday School lesson (which was taught in French) that I understood. The drive to church could not be more picturesque. In fact, every time we get in the car to go anywhere I am stunned by the beauty of the countryside. Rolling hills, meandering rivers, picturesque farms, manor houses and cathedrals off in the distance. This building is at the entrance to the grounds of a castle, Chateau Carrouges, about 15 minutes from our house. We were driving by on our way home from church and decided to stop and check it out. Open grounds and we had the place absolutely to ourselves. Such a treat!

Shopping for Kids

verbaudet pink baby clothes
verbaudet pink baby clothes It’s fun to figure out the kids clothing scene here. I stop into every little shop and boutique I can find. Some are familiar brands like Jacadi and Zara. Others are new-to-me. Saturday we picked up June’s cozy little ensemble at a store called Verbaudet. It’s my favorite shade of pink — so muted it’s almost peach. I also window shopped at Cyrillus, which seemed so French to me — stripey boatneck tops and neutral colors. I love it all. Readers have been telling me I must visit DPAM (apparently it’s like a French Old Navy), but I haven’t happened upon one yet. Any other not-miss stores I should know about?

What to Pack When Moving Abroad

So what in the world should you pack if you are moving to another country and what should you leave behind? Great question. And the answer is a vague “it all depends”. European to USA plug adaptorEuropean to USA plug adaptorEuropean to USA plug adaptor Are you moving to a furnished apartment? How furnished? Will you need sheets and blankets? Will you be there for four seasons? What is the weather like? How much are shipping costs to your new city? How much baggage is allowed per plane ticket? How many kids do you have? How old are they? Will you be working while you’re there? Do you need work materials? And on and on and on… Clearly, if you’re contemplating a move abroad, your packing list will be very specifically tailored to your family and situation. In this post, I’ll tell you what we brought. …

La Cressonnière: Neighbors

This is a photo looking out our back window. Free range chickens! Roosters too. During breakfast, we hear the roosters making their morning hellos. Which I find very charming. free range chickens france Our next door neighbor runs a Petite Farm. She brought us some fresh eggs the other day and they were delicious. I’m not sure if my neighbor sells her eggs, but I hope so. I’d love to buy eggs from right next door. Wouldn’t that be lovely? She raises cows too, but I think they might be for beef, not milk. I’ll have to ask. The cows are pretty and white. At least two of the calves are still nursing. white cows in francewhite calf nursing cow Baby June likes to stand at the window and watch the animals. We are working on our bawk bawks and our moo moos. I need to find out what French cows and chickens say. Do you know? baby at window

How We Shop & Eat in France

There have been sweet comments and emails asking more about food in France, so we took the camera to the market this morning and snapped some pictures so I could write a proper post. We love the food here. We’re so lucky to have easy access to fresh, local produce, and we think it’s wonderful that there’s a focus on what’s in season. When you buy something at the market, it will be placed in a little paper bag and the corners will be twisted up like this: The bag is filled with 4 small avocados because I’ve been craving guacamole. Question: should I feel guilty if I still crave non-French foods from time to time? : ) dried apricots We also bought some gorgeous dried apricots. They were placed in a little bag too. We only wanted a handful or so, but couldn’t remember how to say quarter kilo, so we asked for a half kilo instead. Hah! At the dairy booth, we bought a nice big wedge of Carrouges cheese. We’ve heard it’s pretty mild and really, really good. I can’t wait to try it. We also bought a pint of fresh milk at the dairy booth. The milk was in big buckets and it was fun to watch them ladle it into this bottle: I’ve already had a glass full and it is wonderful. …

Cachou Lajaunie

cachou la jaunie breath mints french
cachou la jaunie breath mints frenchcachou la jaunie breath mints french Here’s a fun little thing to show you. I was looking for a breath freshener and saw these at the supermarket. They’re called Lajaunie and they’re made in Toulouse. The “mints” are black bits — they look so small but have quite an impact. Very intense. The taste is somewhere between licorice and mint. I imagine the main ingredient is anise. Pretty packaging. To get out the bits, you twist the top and bottom till a little opening appears. The mints in the container make a nice shaking noise, so June thinks it’s a rattle. Want to try them? You’re in luck. cachou la jaunie breath mints french

La Cressonnière: Floors

Here’s another mini-tour of La Cressonnière. Today, I’d like to show you the old stone floors and a the view down the pretty upstairs hallway. old stone floor La Cressonnière dates to the 17th century. And it was added to in the 18th century. From what we understand, the stone floor in the kitchen and living room are original to the 17th century building. Apparently, in the summers, these floors and the thick stone walls keep the house very cool. (In the winter, that means slippers make a lot of sense, so that little toes stay toasty.) The photo above is actually of the floor in the hallway upstairs. But you can find photos of the living room and kitchen floors below. la cressonniere hallway

Living the Language

Many readers have asked how Ben Blair and I are handling language learning for ourselves. The answer: French is the language we both studied in high school, and a little in college too. So we do know a few words. And I have to say, Ben Blair can do amazing things with the little bit he knows. So far, I have seen him interact confidently at all sorts of stores, at the school, on the phone and with our neighbors. He is so daring! But our little bits of French aren’t nearly enough, so we do have a plan. We are trying to hire a tutor who will come to our home and work with us Monday through Friday. Surprisingly, a tutor is proving hard to find, but I’m crossing my fingers it will happen this week. In the meantime, let’s all be inspired to learn a new language after watching this incredibly charming little video. Originally seen on The Paper Dialogues. Thanks for the link, Khali.

School in France

french school notebook red elephant
Are you curious about how we’re handling school while we’re in France? Today, I thought I’d write up a little report for you all about it. But first, let’s admire these pretty French school notebooks from Laughing Elephant. Aren’t they handsome? I love school supplies at any time of year and from any country. They make me want to write a book report. : ) french school notebook red elephant Now to business. We have gone back and forth, back and forth on how to handle school for the kids while we’re here. But in the end found it was something that needed to be decided once we were actually here and could check out the schools and see how our kids were adjusting to the move. …

Olive’s Room at La Cressonnière

Here’s another peak of our rental home here in France. Today, I’ve snapped some of my favorite details from Olive’s Room. It’s actually Baby June’s room too, but my pictures of the gorgeous antique crib didn’t turned out, so we’ll revisit that yummy little tidbit later. gorgeous headboard This headboard is my favorite one in the house. Isn’t it lovely? Here’s a detail shot: gorgeous headboard

La Cressonnière: Halfbath

I want to share more of the details that make this house so interesting. But there are so many! Too many to share all at once, so I’ll start small. With the tiniest room in the house. A little halfbath on the main floor located under the staircase. la cressonniere half bathla cressonniere halfbath The first thing I noticed was a row of little metal plates nailed to the door. I’m not sure what these plates were originally used for, but I think they’re so pretty. Do you know? I’m guessing some kind of printing. …

Financing a Move Abroad

Here’s another practical post. Many readers have written in asking what the real costs of moving abroad are. It’s a great question. So let’s do it. Let’s talk about the nitty gritty of how much money it took the Blairs to move to another country. Spoiler: it wasn’t free, but it likely wasn’t as much as you’d guess. Also, I’m going to write this using a tone that assumes you’re interested in moving abroad. If you’re not, no stress. Feel free to skip this post. Our rent for La Cressonnierre is almost exactly the same as the rent we paid on our modest home in Denver (around $1500/mo). It’s actually slightly less or slightly more depending on the Euro exchange rate. If the house was closer to Paris, I’m sure it would be much more expensive, but because it’s almost 2 hours away, the price is very reasonable. After some research, we can see that our daily expenses and utilities in France will be quite similar to what they were in Denver. Which means that really, our monthly family budget won’t change much at all. So the good news is: if you can afford to live wherever you’re living right now, you can probably also afford to live abroad — assuming you’re flexible about location. In fact, if you move to a country with a lower cost of living, your monthly budget costs could even go down. But, there are real costs leading up to the move. …

Luggage & Travel Day

Another practical post to start off the week. Today, I’ll be sharing the luggage we chose and reporting on our travel day. blair family at airport Our luggage search was fairly extensive. First we window-shopped, just to get a sense of what was out there and what might work for our family. We started at TJ Maxx, which is my favorite spot to find great individual pieces at bargain prices. Next, we checked out the Army Navy Surplus store to see their enormous, sturdy duffel bags. I even approached Lands’ End about a possible luggage sponsorship because I love their totes and figured their luggage would be excellent as well — but during discussions, we figured out they didn’t have quite the sizes we needed for this particular voyage. So we kept searching. suitcases lined up blair family What I found out in my research: luggage can be really expensive, but there are true bargains to be found. We eventually happened upon the brand fūl (pronounced ‘fuel’) during a Costco trip. It gets great reviews and is very reasonably priced. We ended up buying 7 duffel bags (they were $40 in store), and then bought 7 carryon/backpacks online. That’s 3 pieces for $90. Not bad! Especially considering most of the carryons we looked at were around $200 each. …

Gold Heart Knee Patches from Susan Petersen

Note from Design Mom: While I’m busy with the move to France, I’ve got a crew of talented Guest Moms filling in for me. Today’s second Valentine’s Day project is these adorable heart leggings from the always creative Susan Petersen. Still trying to figure out what your gold heart loving daughter is going to wear to her Valentines Day party? Don’t worry friends, I’ve got you covered. Supplies needed: Leggings, I got mine from Target for $3.50 Fabric paint, I used DecoArt So Soft metallic Sponge brush, Freezer Paper …

Knitted Jewelry from Rachel Faucett

Note from Design Mom: While I’m busy with the move to France, I’ve got a crew of talented Guest Moms filling in for me.Rachel is back with another great find for us today. This one would make a sweet Valentine gift. Enjoy! As knitting and crocheting fill the fashion world with new twists on centuries-old crafts, Tanya Aguiniga takes it a step further and adds knotted rope to the mix with her Unraveled Cotton Rope Necklace line. …

Abstract Art For Kids from Dani Henriksen

Note from Design Mom: While I’m busy with the move to France, I’ve got a crew of talented Guest Moms filling in for me. Today Dani is sharing three terrific painting projects with you. Enjoy! This is such a thrill for me to step out of my life as a full-time mom for a moment and share some painting ideas here on one of my favorite sites! I hope that these art projects inspire you to go out and buy your children some paints and canvas and encourage them to express their own unique creativity. Since my first son was born almost 6 years ago I have looked forward to providing each of my children with opportunities to create through art. You will see that these projects are not complicated (or expensive) and only require a few simple materials. My sons Liam (5) and Lance (3 ½) created 3 simple Abstract paintings to share. …

Taking Off

Phew, I can hardly believe we made it. Today we’re boarding the plane (all 8 of us!) and embarking on our adventure to France. Send happy thoughts our way for our kids to survive the entire flight. Hopefully the iPad doesn’t get old. : ) The pretty photo is from Cori Kindred, the plane just needs to be directed slightly south. And don’t worry, I have a lot more great guest posts lined up so there won’t be any radio silence.

Accordion Folder, Movers & Storage

accordion folder open
accordion folder open Here’s another one of those practical posts about France. It’s features the accordion folder above (which has lately become a beloved object of mine) and how we are moving and storing our belongings while out of the country. file folder sticky notes But before I tell you about all of that, I must show you these post-it notes I’ve been using with the accordion folder. They’re part of the organization system designed by Peter Walsh. They come with tapered corners(!) and I think they are much prettier than the typical post-it colors. …
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