Joie de Vivre from Ashlea Walter

February 1, 2011

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 post is from Ashlea who is sharing five tips on how to be a little more French. Enjoy!

I bet I’m not the only one pining for an extra suitcase I can just snuggle up in and hitch a ride across the Big Pond with the Blair family. You too? Reality is that I’m not moving our nest overseas anytime soon. Sigh. Sooooo I thought it would be a hoot to enjoy my vision of a very French day in a kind of northern-Michigan-in-January-meets-France kind of way. How ‘bout a little joie de vivre to kick the winter blahs to the curb, lovelies?

1) Wear a pretty scarf. Do not skip over this step. This is integral to the I am so very French experience and a reality here in the frozen north country as the needle hovers in the single digits…

2) Drink some strong coffee slowly and listen to Edith Piaf or the Amelie soundtrack. Again, crucial. Don’t have these options on hand? Put on whatever transports you to the streets of Paris.

3) Make some kid-friendly French food: crepes! I started making crepes recently and I really don’t think I have one good reason to ever go back to making traditional American pancakes. Crepes are so ridiculously easy, delicious and versatile. Sweet or savory, you can eat them for breakfast, lunch AND dinner. Fill them with fruit compote or a bit of veggies and cheese, or just rolled up with a bit of powdered sugar and a drizzle of syrup.

Crepes, adapted from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything”
Makes 12-16 crepes
1 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
1 1/4 cups milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons melted and cooled butter or neutral oil, plus more for greasing the pan
I also like to add a splash of vanilla extract and about a ½ cup of powdered sugar

Combine flour, salt, powdered sugar and milk, then beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs, melted butter, vanilla and butter. If you’ve got time, refrigerate for one hour and beat again before cooking.

Put a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1/2 teaspoon of butter or vegetable oil. Ladle about 1- 1 1/2 tablespoons batter in the skillet and swirl to coat in a thin layer. Dump any excess batter back into the bowl.

Once the batter’s dry on top (less than a minute), flip the crepe and cook about 15 seconds longer. The crepe should brown only slightly and should not become too crisp.

Repeat the process until you’ve used up all of the batter. Enjoy!

4) Adorn your child in a striped boatneck shirt like the French sailors in our dreams wear. So cute, right?

5) Introduce your kids to a French artist. My favoite pick? I so very much love the Mini Masters series, especially the book Magical Day with Matisse. My little birdie, Wren, loves the colorful paintings and the sing-song words.

Lusting for even more joie de vivre in your nest too? I think that Mom was right, let’s turn off the TV and take a long walk. Time for me to step away from the computer and enjoy my coffee. Salut!

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ren Lady Of The Arts February 1, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Haha- I love the concept and the photos- We lived lived in St. Martin a half Dutch and half French island in the Caribbean for two years- Although I predominatly had naked beach babies I did love buying French baby clothes-
Yum- I think it’s time for crepes.


2 Cherri Porter February 1, 2011 at 2:21 pm

All the Putumayo CDs are good for introducing the family to international locales! Here is French cafe,

I also like Carla Bruni, easy listening for the novice listener.


3 Ashlea Walter February 1, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Cherri, YES! I was going to mention that one too. I love that CD. I will have to look up Carla Bruni…


4 elisabeth*itsyfactor February 1, 2011 at 5:48 pm

This is a great CD. We also listen to Charlotte Gainsbourg and her parents round these here parts.


5 Jen E @ mommablogsalot February 1, 2011 at 2:27 pm

On this cold winter day when nothing seems to be going right, this Faux French day sounds right up my alley! Maybe we’ll have crepes for dinner tonight!


6 Nikki February 1, 2011 at 2:32 pm

The baby in the stripes with the crepes was hard to resist. The only thing that threw me was the crepes without Nutella. Impossible!


7 Ashlea Walter February 1, 2011 at 5:01 pm

ha ha ha, agree. Although Nutella is not French, it’s oh-so-European and delicious. Have you seen their new ad campaign about how it’s a healthy breakfast idea? I laughed, but I wanted to grab a jar…


8 JillShe February 1, 2011 at 3:10 pm

I love French day! I’m going to have to look for the Mini Masters series – the Matisse book looks terrific for kids. I have to agree about the Nutella on the crepes – though it just tastes better in France.

Brother cs6000i


9 Jaimie February 1, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Aw so cute, I am making crepes now because of this. I took several years of French in high school and college and I am so jealous of you!


10 elisabeth*itsyfactor February 1, 2011 at 5:50 pm

This whole post is super cute and so true. I definitely second the scarf and stripey tees!


11 Ann February 1, 2011 at 6:47 pm

This was so fun! I have never made crepes for my boys. My mom totally went through a french cooking phase when I was a kid. I remember crepes with strawberries and fresh creme being my favorite. I should do it with all this snow and the snow day that cometh. I wish we were on a trip somewhere. Gabrielle, let us know when you see Le Centre Pompidou! I just love saying that.


12 Tina February 1, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Such a sweet post…I love to dress my tot in stripes!


13 Ransacked Goods February 1, 2011 at 9:20 pm

This cracked me up. Thanks for the giggle!


14 Sarah February 1, 2011 at 9:51 pm

super super cute pics:)


15 Polly February 1, 2011 at 10:31 pm

I LOVE crepes! I spent a summer in France and in just about every single picture I had chocolate on my face. Chocolate from nutella, spread on crepes. Yummy!


16 Shannon February 1, 2011 at 10:37 pm

I love French day. Thank you for the completely do-able ideas.


17 Denise Laborde February 2, 2011 at 2:57 am

Yay! Great post.

I’m with you, crêpes are awesome! But for me, an American expat in Toulouse, there’s no replacing a hot plate of pancakes with syrup at a Sunday brunch table ;-).


18 Ashlea Walter February 2, 2011 at 7:33 am

ahh, yes. the grass IS always greener, no?


19 Denise Laborde February 2, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Exactly ;-)


20 Katherine Mouille February 2, 2011 at 4:09 am

How appropriate! Did you know that Feb 2 is la Chandeleur (Candlemas), a holiday that is traditionally celebrated in France by making crêpes.


21 Ashlea Walter February 2, 2011 at 7:34 am

No, I had no idea! What a fantastic idea for a holiday.


22 nichshee February 4, 2011 at 11:12 am

Otherwise known as Candlemas.. it is great for kids in French schools/creches/nurseries, at some point you know they will be eating crepes AND then go home for them (but we save them for Shrove Tuesday..being British/French family.. falls on 8 March this year).. sugar and lemon is the only way to eat them (being the British half) the French half believes Nutella is the ONLY way to go.


23 nichshee February 4, 2011 at 11:13 am
24 Laura Gaskill February 2, 2011 at 4:55 am

Oh my goodness, I love this!! Just what the doctor ordered today as I sit here with my babe, the snow piled high outside my window. What fun ideas! Thank you, xo Laura


25 Kristen February 2, 2011 at 7:07 am

I just threw Edith on Grooveshark and I am loving it. Great post and great ideas! I’m now lusting after a crepe.


26 Jan @ Family Bites February 2, 2011 at 7:24 am

So fun! We’re big Edith fans here (or at least I am) and it seems like the perfect thing to listen to while we’re snowed in, in Ontario.


27 karen @ our slo house February 2, 2011 at 7:43 am

And to eat like a french woman (and lose weight!) this blog is a must:


28 Anne February 2, 2011 at 8:35 am

So right about the pretty scarf!
The great thing about crepes is that you can use whatever you have–as long as you have eggs, milk, and flour (which we always do)–perfect for a day when you don’t want to go shopping in the cold.


29 marilee pittman February 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Thank you for the delightful post! I thoroughly enjoyed the tips, the gorgeous photos and the recipe for Crepes….


30 victoria February 2, 2011 at 5:13 pm

I love it! And I’m so excited to see Ashley here!


31 judith February 2, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Loved the recipe! So did four of my kids (all boys) who ate the crepes as fast as I could make them!


32 julie February 2, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Fun post! Wondering, do you think I could make the batter and store in fridge overnight? You said if there’s time to put in there for an hour, how about 10 hours?

Just the other day my 4 year old asked me how you say “My little Pony” in French (answer Mon Petit Pony, thank you internet!)


33 Ashlea Walter February 4, 2011 at 6:43 am

Yes, you can store the batter in the fridge overnight. I have done this and they’ve turned out great!


34 Kiasa February 3, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I love this! I’m totally inspired…Paris here we come! I’m now listening to Edith Piaf with your suggestion. We love the mini masters books. Crepes are in order this weekend for sure!


35 Ashlea Walter February 4, 2011 at 6:44 am

Update! I broke down and bought a jar of Nutella. Dangerous thing for me to have in the cupboard. Sigh.


36 Bonnie Dickerson February 6, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Crepes at my house are a regular menu item. Fav crepes combo: Crepe, nutella, fresh berries, and whipped cream. So yummy.

Another fun idea is to get a classic Disney movies in French. Most kids have a fav Disney movie and probably know every word and song in it. This would be a fun way to include a foreign language into their entertainment.


37 Kate The Great February 7, 2011 at 11:01 am

I love that you refer to your wee one as “birdie”; our Toby was a bird in his bassinet on the very first day he was born. Occasionally, he still chirps in his sleep, and this time of ear, there are flocks of Canadian geese flying overhead every day. He looks up every time and chirps.

Also, I love Wren’s red curls and that they’re so free.


38 Jackie | Sweet Little Thrills February 8, 2011 at 12:38 pm

I immediately want to do ALL of these! The Amelie cd is an absolute gem, the boatneck shirt couldn’t be cuter, and introducing children to art is by far my favorite. My husband has already taught our 4 year-old to recite the primary colors, neutral colors, and “mixed colors” when prompted.


39 Alisa March 25, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Crepes with Nutella. Of course, I always had day-old baguette with Nutella and a cafe or a chocolat for breakfast when I lived there during my college years. And learn a few French phrases so you can give your children directions in French. ;-) They sound so much more elegant than in English.


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