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A Few Things

July 29, 2016


Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? How was your week? I’m waving hello from the South of France. The delayed road trip I mentioned was successfully rescheduled! Yesterday we explored Marseilles — such a pretty town, and the home of the famed French soap. Today we’re renting a boat and exploring the Calanques, one of France’s national parks (stunning photos here).

And this weekend we’re going to explore more of the French Riviera — St. Tropez, Nice, Cannes, and a visit to Monaco too. This is our first visit to the French part of the Mediterranean Sea and we are getting a big kick out of how different it feels than other parts of France. It’s very close to both Italy and Spain and it’s easy to see the region has been heavily influenced by both.

It feels really good to soak up the sun, and soak up the family time, and get time at the beach every day. A great way to spend the last days of July! I’m off to slather on more sunscreen, but before I head out, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- I LOVED this interview about what the future might be like if whole cities turn to driver-less cars.

- The ultimate U.S. road trip, with the help of science.

- History was made this week when a woman was nominated as an official candidate for president. I was personally very moved, but not everyone was — see these varied thoughts of 9 prominent feminists on the news.

- How we teach our kids that women are liars.

- Just saw this kickstarter for a device to help you sleep while traveling. I’m kind of fascinated.

Severe drought threatens southern Africa.

- Useful online tool to measure how much men are talking compared to everyone else.

- Autism as an adult — lots of hard things, but some hope too.

- Hah! Non-threatening leadership strategies for women.

- Breathtaking winners of a National Geographic photo contest.

- I first learned about fistula on a trip to Ethiopia and I’ve followed news about it ever since. Here’s a story about an all-female medical clinic in Kabul who treats women for the devastating, but solvable, medical condition.

- This is ‘by far the best time in human history’ — despite what you might read on Facebook.

- Thinking about moving abroad? I just found out La Cressonnière will be available at the end of August! (For those who don’t know, it’s the amazing house in France we lived in.)

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.



Random Thoughts

June 13, 2016


Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Well, Hello. Welcome to June’s installment of my random thoughts. Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments.

- Like you, I woke up yesterday to the horrific news about the mass-murder in Orlando. Like you, I’m feeling all the feelings. I’m simply heartbroken for the victims and their families. I’m distressed and disturbed that in 2016 there is still so much hate directed at gay people, that coming out is a very dangerous thing, requiring more bravery than I will likely ever have to muster. I’m angry that there are still people in my life who aren’t willing to consider serious gun law reform. I’m sickened as I read the statistics showing plainly how much more gun violence there is in the U.S. compared to the rest of the world.

Like you, I want to take action, but feel daunted and somewhat helpless. What can I do? I talked my kids and wore my rainbow dress yesterday, I made calls to several senators on this list today, I’m looking up local blood drives to see where I can donate this week. Of course, none of it feels like it will ever be enough. What about you? How are you holding up? What do you do when you feel powerless in the face of tragedy?

I know this is a heavy way to start the post. The rest of my random thoughts are much lighter.

- Yesterday, I took Ben Blair and the 5 oldest kids to the airport. They flew to St. George for our annual Cousins Week. I’ve mentioned it before, but basically, any cousins 8 or older are invited to my sister Sara’s house in St. George for a camp of sorts. It’s a week(ish) of unlimited popsicles, movies whenever you’d like, swimming, sugar cereal, staying up late and bonding with cousins. Each day, some structure is built in with outings, crafts or activities. Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents help out with the structured parts and Sara takes care of the rest. Sara has been hosting Cousins Week since 2009.

Something fun this year: There are four new 8-year-olds joining the group!

- Our whole crew will arrive home from Cousins Week late Thursday night. Till then, June and I are the only ones home. It feels so strange. The house is super quiet and of course, June is missing her best friends. Things I promised June we would do this week in an attempt to relieve her broken heart at not being old enough for cousins week: get mani-pedis, buy a box of Frosted Flakes (her favorite sugar cereal), and shop for a “Chinese dress” (I’m not sure what this is, but she saw something in a window in Chinatown last time we were there and has begged for a “Chinese dress” ever since).

I rarely get extended alone time with one of my kids, so I’m really looking forward to our week together, just me and June.

- We leave to France on Monday. That’s right: 1 week to go! I’m a little overwhelmed by the task list ahead of me this week (and by little, I mean very much so), but I have high hopes it’s all doable — especially since most of the family is out of town. It sure makes a big difference. I have literally zero kid events, kid pick up times, or mandatory kid errands till Friday. That opens up a lot of time!

We’re not staying in La Cressonniere while we’re there, but we’ve found a couple of gorgeous places to rent that are in the same general vicinity — and not too far from our cottage.

- Speaking of which, I’m super, super, super excited to work on The Cottage once we get to France. Last week, we got in touch with our architect in France. We’ll meet with him soon after we arrive and see what we can accomplish over the summer. But I have to keep reminding myself not to get my expectations too high — everything takes longer than I think it will. Hah!

As I’ve mentioned, my daydream when 2016 started was that we would have tons of work on the cottage done from January through June. And then, when we arrived this summer, the hope was that we would use our time for finishing work — painting, choosing a fridge and stove, shopping for beds, etc..

Did that happen? Not even close! Oh well. We’ll see what we can manage this summer. One thing I know for sure: It’s always easier to put things in motion when we’re actually on site. And even with the much slower timeline, I still can’t wipe the grin from my face when I think about making improvement to our little piece of French countryside.

- My sister Jordan is about to have her baby, and I won’t be here to help. It is killing me! I’ve never lived close enough to watch the kids or bring dinner before, and now I do, but I’ll be out of the country. Unfortunate travel timing on my part! Do you live near any of your siblings? Have you ever been able to help them when a baby arrived?

- Tomorrow is my birthday. It will be a celebration for two — just me and June. I generally prefer a very low-key birthday, so that’s fine with me. I’m thinking we’ll get the promised mani-pedi.

balloon banner DIY

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.


Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness. Remember when we were on House Hunter’s International? I just received an email with this video link — it’s a 4 minute summary of the episode — and I’m dying of laughter. It was 2011. Everyone is so young! Little June is just a baby!

I’ve been so careful all these years when I talk about the House Hunter series — I don’t want to give away all the secrets about our episode, and I won’t ruin it for you today, but if you ever meet me in person and want to know the real behind-the-scenes story, I will totally tell you.

Did you ever see the episode? It’s called Historic Country Homes in Normandy. I can’t seem to find the full video anywhere, but you can watch the 4 minute version on, or you can see the full episode in 4 parts on Youtube.

Tell me, Friends. What’s your take on reality TV? Have you ever been on a reality TV show? Or applied to be on one? If you could choose any reality show to be on, which would it be? And do you watch any reality TV? My favorite is still Project Runway. It’s the best! I love how it showcases the creative process from beginning to end.

P.S. — One sort-of spoiler: If you’ve been reading my blog for a long-time, you already know that we didn’t find our French rental through HHI. We found it on a rental website while we were still living in Colorado. I wrote about that here and here. I say “sort-of spoiler” because those posts were public long before HHI ever reached out to us. : )


Report from France

October 20, 2014

By Gabrielle. Images from Olive’s Instagram. Video by Ralph.

As promised, here is a little report about Olive and Ralph and their experience in France this semester.

Olive has been in France since September 1st. She’s young (she turned 13 the week before she moved), and we knew this might not work for her, so we were prepared to fly her back home if she wasn’t thriving. But so far, she seems to LOVE it. She’s staying with our dear friend, Caroline, and Olive says she’s amazed how fast dinner clean up goes with fewer people in the house. Hah! I love that she’s getting to see how another house is run. It’s important to me that my kids understand there are lots of right ways to do most things.

She really seems to be developing a sense of independence — helped by the fact that she lives in town and isn’t waiting on a car and parent to get her around. During her first week, she needed to change her money from dollars to euros, and instead of waiting for a grownup, she decided to take care of the task herself. She walked herself to the bank and inquired about the exchange. The bankers sent her to the post office and she was able to take care of it there. No big deal. And just to remind you, this is all taking place in French.

Speaking of French, she said she’s doing well with the language and can speak mostly accent free. She’s enrolled in the same school she attended when we lived there and it’s been wonderful for her to instantly know people and be in a familiar place.

Keep reading for more of the report!


City Versus Suburb

September 11, 2014

DIY: Wooden postcard with photo transfers. So cool!

By Gabrielle. Images from the New York Wooden Postcard DIY.

It’s September 11th, so of course, the great New York City is on my mind. And I thought it might be a good day to have a city-related conversation. Last month, I shared a home tour featuring a city apartment in Chicago, and in response, received several requests to start a discussion about how and why people choose to live in a city, versus a suburb, versus a rural area. I love that idea! Especially because this is a topic that comes up frequently among my friends and siblings.

Our year and a half in Colorado, when we lived in a suburb of Denver called Centennial, was our most true suburban experience. The house we rented had a two car garage. The streets in our community were wide and easy to navigate. Everything we could possibly need or want — schools, pediatrician and dentist, movie theaters, the mall, Target, restaurants (both sit down and take out), hardware stores, rec centers — was only a few minutes away by car. We never had to think about parking. Ever. Or pay for it. It was always easy to park. There was a ton of green space, yard space and park space. The kids in our neighborhood could play outside freely and safely. Ben Blair and I would often comment how life was designed to be easy there, and we truly enjoyed living there.

DIY: Wooden postcard with photo transfers. So cool!

That said, our entire time in Colorado, we were constantly house hunting in downtown Denver! And in its closest neighborhoods as well. Turns out I like the action of a city. I like access to the restaurants, the museums, the instant variety of people, places and things. I was drawn to housing converted from old warehouses and factory buildings. I liked the walking district in Denver and the downtown festivals and events. I liked that public transportation is plentiful.

And I found I had some sort of emotional resistance to settling down in true suburbs. But I could never really pin point what the resistance was. Because I could honestly see how convenient life was in the suburbs, especially for a family of our size. And conversely, how inconvenient it might be in the city — the lack of parking, the tiny + expensive grocery stores, the smaller living spaces. It seems like the suburbs should have been a no brainer, but they weren’t.

Keep reading, more good stuff ahead.


Two Kitchen Tools

May 22, 2014

Electric Kettle & Mini Masher

Images and text by Gabrielle.

In March I wrote about the food habits we had picked up from our time in France, and since that post, I remembered two things in our kitchen that we wouldn’t own if we hadn’t moved to France. So I wanted to share them with you. Neither is particularly French, but we started using these tools because they happened to be in the kitchen of La Cressonnière, and we loved them so much, they were two of our first purchases when we moved back to the U.S.!

The best looking electric tea kettle.

The first is an electric kettle. Apparently, these are common as can be — like more standard than a toaster — in every Western country but the U.S.. And they’re definitely sold here, but I had never seen one used by an American friend, and I had never used one myself, until we lived in France.

They are so handy! The water heats to boiling super fast. It’s great for making hot drinks, for making ramen (or cup noodles, as my kids call them), or anytime you need a small amount of boiling water fast (like when we made dye for Easter eggs). Sometimes it surprises me how often we use it.

There are tons of options available. We use this ceramic one — I chose it for its looks (I thought it would be pretty sitting on the counter) but it works great too. : )

Mini Masher - the very best tool for making guacamole and egg salad

I don’t know the official name for the second tool. We call it a mini-masher, and it took me several searches to track one down. This is the one we have, and I found two others, here and here. Dang I love this tool! I use it for two things specifically: to mash avocados for guacamole, and to mash boiled eggs for egg salad.

If you don’t eat either of those things, I would not recommend this tool to you. But if you do eat guacamole and egg salad, this tool will make you about 75% more willing to make them, because it does the job so well, so quickly and so easily — even if the avocado isn’t perfectly ripe!

Of course, this made me wonder: do you use/adore any kitchen tools that you think are probably uncommon? Where did you discover them? What do you use them for? Also, have you used either of the tools I featured? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — Travel season is here! If you’re headed to France, here are Five Fabulous Souvenirs Under $5. And here are 5 more!


vintage dishwasher image

By Gabrielle. Tons of vintage dishwasher images here.

Fun fact: over the weekend we got a microwave! It’s just a little one, but it gets great reviews — and it won’t take up too much space in our kitchen.

I realize microwaves are nothing new, but as it turns out, we haven’t had one for over 3 years! It wasn’t really intentional, it just sort of happened. When we moved to France, the house we rented didn’t have a microwave. At first we wondered if microwaves were looked down upon in France, but learned later that wasn’t really the case. They are widely available anywhere small appliances are sold, and it wasn’t unusual for us to see one in our friends’ homes. Our landlords just preferred going old school, and didn’t keep one in their home.

Since we were embracing the full La Cressonnière life (and originally thought we’d only be there for a year), we decided we didn’t need a microwave either.

It took some getting used to. In fact, little June was only 9 months old when we moved to France, and I missed having a microwave to warm up tiny baby portions. But after a few weeks, we formed new habits and didn’t miss the microwave at all.

Then, when we moved here, though The Treehouse came furnished, the previous homeowners weren’t microwave users. So once again, we were in a microwave-less home. And since we were out of practice using them, it didn’t occur to us to buy one until recently.

This made me wonder: is there a “modern convenience” that you currently live without? I’m thinking of things like dishwashers, laundry machines, microwaves —maybe even Kitchen Aid mixers and toaster ovens. And if you had to choose, which one could you absolutely not live without?

For me, laundry in my home is essential! Second, would be the dishwasher. We’ve had a dishwasher in our home since we first moved to New York in 2001 — it would be hard to give it up. In fact, the dishwasher here at The Treehouse broke within a week of moving here (it was from the 80′s and on its very last leg), and we had it replaced within the month. We missed it too much!

As for other “modern conveniences”, I’m pretty flexible. I can live without a microwave. And I’ve never actually owned a stand mixer (what would Raleigh say if she knew? Hah!).

How about you?


By Gabrielle.

This home makes my heart jump a little. There’s a garden that reminds me of La Cressonnière, and stone walls and gorgeous beams that sweep me straight back to France. Boy, I miss that place. But Felicitas’ home is the perfect antidote for Europe-sickness! It’s a wonderfully balanced mix of old and new, austere and cozy. A place that lives in her childhood memories, but will also take center stage in her own daughters’ memories, too.

Probably, that red garden door will, too. Friends, please welcome the Von Richthofens and enjoy the tour of their haus!

Q: Please tell us all about the family who makes this house a home!

A: Our little family is made up of me, Felicitas, and my husband, Raphael. We are both 33 years old and have two children: Viola is three years old, and Elenor is one. We live in a small village called Sondermuehlen in Germany. Raphael and I have been together since we met at school.

I am an art historian working for the Kunsthalle Bielefeld. Raphael is director of the family enterprise, Stock Mode, which specializes in fashion. We own four stores in our town and neighborhood.

A green clock and a fireplace that looks like a castle. Go see!


Olive Us: Lost Theater

October 29, 2013

Images and text by Gabrielle.

I’m so excited to share another Olive Us episode today, because this one feels magical to me. It’s called Lost Theater, and we filmed it in France. While we lived there, we became friends with Roger and Colette Sineux — the parents of our landlord. The Sineuxs were so good to us. Very welcoming and kind. In fact, on the day we arrived, Colette prepared the house with a fire and a homemade cake! Anyway, Roger and Colette live in a wonderful home with an old barn on the property. During one of our visits, Colette mentioned there was a theater in the barn and invited our kids to check it out.

Lost Theater. A magical little film by Olive Us. http://oliveus.tvLost Theater. A magical little film by Olive Us.

Well. When we opened the door, we just gasped. It’s an amazing space! The light filters in beautifully, and it’s full of props and costumes and sets from past productions. When we visited, the theater hadn’t been used in awhile, so it had a romantic, dusty feel, and the whole family felt as if we were “discovering” the space. It was so dreamy we just pinched ourselves, and kept saying things like, “Can you believe this place really exists?”

Lost Theater. A magical little film by Olive Us.

Over a year later, as we were brainstorming Olive Us episodes for ulive, we remembered the theater and knew it would be the perfect spot to film something special. I hope you enjoy the show!

Lots more photos from the shoot when you click here.


Olive Us: Pétanque

October 17, 2013

petanque title

Big news! Happy news! The Olive Us episodes we made with ulive are now available to view internationally. Hooray! Thank you so much for your patience as we sorted this out. We are jumping for joy that the episodes are now accessible everywhere.

And we’re delighted to share another new episode today! It’s called Pétanque (pronounced pay-tonk), and it shows the popular French game of the same name. Have you heard of Italian Bocce? It’s similar, but the balls are smaller and made of metal. The materials make for a really handsome game.

French game of pétanque.

In France, every little country village has a pétanque field where the older men gather for a game at the end of the day — and you can find pétanque fields in the parks of Paris as well. This episode was filmed in the teeny, tiny village of Fleuré, very near La Cressonnière. We would pass this field several times every day. In fact, this video has me feeling nostalgic!

French game of pétanque.French game of pétanque.

Have you ever played? And if you live outside the U.S., is there a sport or game that’s particular to your country? I’d love to hear.

P.S. — Want to have a little Olive Us catch up party? I’ve re-posted all the 3 of the newest episodes I’ve shared when you click through. Also, before we partnered with ulive, we made 24 earlier episodes. You can find them all on the Olive Us website, or see my write-ups on each episode here.

Click here for 3 recent Olive Us episodes you may have missed.


Carpet in the Lofts

September 30, 2013

Guest Loft

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Today, I’m thinking about carpet in the two little lofts we have.

One loft is in the home office. It measures approximately 7′ x 10′. A small space, but there’s a nice tall window that offers lovely light, and it’s just the right size for a double bed with a nightstand, and a place to set some luggage. So we thought it would be a good spot for a guest bed. And we have lots of guests coming this month — which makes a great excuse for sprucing things up!

reading loft

The other loft is in the family room. It measures a little smaller than the first loft — about 7′ x 9.5′, and it has two windows that offer really beautiful light as well. Our plan is to create a cozy reading spot here! And I have to say, at the moment, I think I’m more excited about creating this reading nook, than any other project in the house. It’s just the right kind of project. Bite-size, which makes it approachable and doable, but meaty too, because it has so much potential for being a wonderful, and useable space — a little getaway from the chaos that is sometimes inherent in a family of 8.

More on our plans when you click through.

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By Gabrielle. Note: These images are “before” photos showing the belongings of the previous owners. I know, I know, I need to shoot some current photos. Working on it, I promise!

I’ve shared the story of how The Treehouse came to be ours. And I’ve explained that the house came fully furnished. But I haven’t really told you much about the layout or what our plans our. So I thought I’d dive in today!

I’ll start by saying the state of the house, renovation wise, is pretty much ideal for someone like me. The home hasn’t been resurfaced in a long time — for example, the kitchen looks to be strictly from the 80′s. Throughout the house, walls need a fresh coat of paint, worn carpets need to be replaced, and light fixtures need to be upgraded. 

I know that’s a lot of work, but it’s perfect for me! Because I’m someone who wants to make those sorts of decisions in my home. So if The Treehouse had been recently redone, then I would have felt awful about changing things up and wasting that work. (As I’m sure anyone would! I know Jenny, who has been doing major renovations, is feeling stumped about her kitchen counters. They’re not her style, but they’re so new she feels bad about changing them.)

Keep reading to find out what we’ve got planned!


A Few Things

August 30, 2013

commission by Paul Ferney

By Gabrielle. Painting by Paul Ferney.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Can you believe it’s Labor Day Weekend? Are you ready to greet September? We have absolutely zero plans for Labor Day at the moment — and it feels so good! I’m still trying hard to lay low and take it easy. But I wouldn’t say no to cooking up something like this. (That post has my mouth watering!)

Even more than Labor Day, homesickness is on my mind. On Sunday, my brother-in-law Paul Ferney gifted us a painting of La Cressonnière — complete with our vintage Renault out front. I cried like a baby when I saw it. Sometimes the homesickness catches me off guard and washes over me like a wave. I’m working on a post about some of the specific things we’re missing (spoiler: lots of food is on that list), and some of the happy surprises about our new community, too. Oh. And the schools! I can’t wait to tell you about the schools.

While I finish up my work before the long weekend, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

-  Now’s your chance to get your own Paul Ferney original! He’s currently offering really affordable custom paintings through The Commission Project. They make an amazing heirloom gift. If you order now, you’ll get the painting in time for holiday giving.

- I’m dying! The funniest reviews on Amazon.

- How to kiss a girl.

- Laura Mayes of The Queso is one of the first blogs I ever read. And she’s still a favorite. The blog has been especially great lately. I spent an hour last Saturday catching up on her posts, and it was a really good hour.

NYC Field Guides: What to do in NYC, pulled together by people you might think are cool.

- 6 beautiful ways to use wallpaper in your nursery.

- One of my dear friends, Lisa Clark, produces and stars in really funny parody videos. Live out your Footloose fantasies with this one.

- The world of Lisa Frank. She is for real.

The Compliment Fairy.

- I updated my right hand sidebar with lots of back to school posts. Yay!

- Stock up for next summer — J.Crew is offering an extra 30% off final sale items with code HELLO30. (I’ll take the polkadots please!)

- If you really love calligraphy.

I hope you have a marvelous weekend. I’ll meet you back here next week. I miss you already.


P.S. — For those of you who have emailed asking how I’m doing, thank you! It really is nice to be thought of. Finding a doctor has proved more difficult than I hoped. I’ll try to write about it next week.


The Treehouse

August 17, 2013

Oakland House

By Gabrielle.

This is the story of how The Treehouse, our home in Oakland, came to be ours.

This is the long version of the story. I’m still figuring out how to tell it in a short version.

Starting last summer, when we embarked on our final year in France, we started looking online at real estate in Colorado. We had loved living in Colorado and our plans never strayed from moving back. We just needed to find a house. We wanted to buy something and settle down. In fact, that was our original plan when we first moved to Colorado, but at the time, we weren’t able to find a house, and then we got distracted by France. : )

treehouse4treehouse5The Treehouse

We really wanted to buy a house before we moved back, because I was overwhelmed by the idea of moving twice — first into a rental, and then into a purchased house, possibly in two different school districts. Ugh. Purchasing a house and moving directly in sounded ever so much more appealing.

See lots more photos and get the full story.


Le Menil Scelleur

By Gabrielle.

Here it is! This is the final post in the 5-part mini-series about our time in France. I’ve been meaning to share it for two weeks now. (These last two weeks! They’ve been full and good, and overwhelming too.) But even though this post has been delayed, today is actually a fitting day to share this finale report about our time in France. Because one month ago today, we said our teary goodbyes and flew from Paris to San Francisco. One month ago!

When I am able to sit still for a moment here and there, I get terribly homesick.

(But don’t feel too bad for me. Tomorrow, I’ll share photos of the house here in Oakland. It’s awesome!)

During our last six months in France, I tried to share lots of posts about small details of French life, and we took two big trips — both North. Here’s the full report:

We marked two years in France. And a gardener power-cleaned the cobblestones at La Cressonnière.

We talked about working with a time difference. And we discussed homeopathie in France.

We shared Stacking Wood, which was filmed right at the farmhouse. It’s another one of our most popular Olive Us episodes. We also took you on a visit to a French cider farm. And talked about the famed local French lace.

Keep reading for our final French adventures!



By Gabrielle.

Here is the 3rd report (of five) in my Adventures in France mini-series (here’s number one and two). This covers February through July of 2012. The thing that stands out to me about this report is the Olive Us series. We started that project fairly casually during this time period, and had no idea what a life-changer it would become for us.

I hope you enjoy the report!

We celebrated Chandeleur (the French crepe-eating holiday that was replaced by Groundhog Day in the U.S.). Experienced a rare Normandy snow day. Survived a frozen-pipes-record-breaking-cold-spell.

We talked more about French parenting. We learned about La Petite Souris (a little mouse that comes to French children instead of the toothfairy). And we talked about how French kids eat everything.

I introduced Love the Place You Live and shared images of a chapel turned art space and gathering space.

We visited a lesser known WWII site called Mount Ormel. This is very close to where we lived and was the location of the last battle before the Allies marched down the Champs Élysées, freeing Paris.

More adventures ahead!



Images and text by Gabrielle (except the last one).

Here’s the second post in my mini-series about our adventures in France. (You can find the first one here.) The second half of our first year in France included a lot more local exploration, and visits to Spain, Belgium and Germany as well. I should note, at the time, we thought we would only be spending one year total in France, so there was definitely a now-or-never feeling to our plans. Take a peek:


We visited the Army Ranger WWII Memorial at Pointe du Hoc. It’s the most impactful war site I’ve ever visited.


We adopted French-made espadrilles into our wardrobe. Took a summer hike in the Swiss-Normande region of France. Ooohed and aahed over the fields of sunflowers. And shared our take on topless beaches in France.

(June took her first steps! And I talked about work-life balance.)


We shared Oscar & Betty’s bedroom. And some photos of the gardens at La Cressonnière in summer.

We made more visits to Mont St. Michel — this time we walked around the beaches surrounding the mont.

More adventures ahead!


The First Six Months

July 15, 2013


Images and text by Gabrielle.

I know. I know. I need to stop talking about moving. But I can’t help it! It’s taking up every square inch of my brain at the moment. Over the last few weeks, I’ve occasionally felt a pang of regret at some small thing we haven’t done during our time in France. And finally, I had to stop and remind myself that we absolutely jumped in with both feet and have taken advantage of every possible opportunity. No regrets!

I thought it would be fun to write up a mini-series of posts covering some of the adventures we’ve had since we moved here. It’s been a nice round 2 1/2 years, I’m going to break it into 5 posts covering 6 months each. I hope you enjoy the mini-series. And thanks for indulging my trip down memory lane!

la cressonniere hallway

We flew to France on February 1st, 2011. And started to get to know the house, La Cressonnière — we introduced the tree house, we shared the halfbath (I still find it so charming!), we shared Olive’s bedroom, too. But it actually turned out to be Ralph’s room, when he suddenly outgrew the bed in his first room! We talked about the floors, and showed off the gorgeous kitchen. We also learned more about the artists that worked in the studio here at La Cressonnière.

french ceramic yogurt container

We started to explore our community — we learned to shop for food in France, and discovered our first French licorice. We gave our initial French school report, we met our neighbors, and started discovering French clothing stores for kids. Oh. And we discovered the yogurt aisle!

chateau carrouges

We found a castle very near our home. We started exploring brocantes. We were amazed at the countryside covered in wild daffodils.

Winged Victoryeiffel tower picnic

And we started exploring further from home as well. We spent our first touristy weekend in Paris as a family — day number one & day number two.

Keep reading for more adventures from our first 6 months in France.


A Few Things

July 14, 2013

French Grandmother

By Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. I’m typing this on Sunday evening. I intended to publish it on Friday as usual, but the week slipped by so fast! I’m not even sure what to say today. I feel like my mind is in a sort of suspended animation, because I’m not quite ready to process what this move means. What our time in France has been. What our time in Oakland will become. So I’m just concentrating on things like luggage weight restrictions and last loads of laundry instead. Have you ever been in that kind of head space?

While I practice my best mental avoidance techniques, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

Ramadan - When and What to Eat.

Wheatgrass ice cubes for blemishes.

How to Learn to Dance in a Year. So cool!

Turn a summer day into a celebration with homemade popsicles.

Human-powered helicopter.

Three year old photographer. For reals.

bedroom for an 8-year-old with modern touches of yellow.

The perils of giving kids IQ tests.

Readers sent in footage of the quietest spots in NYC.

Great ideas for a camping themed party!

I hope you’ve been having a wonderful weekend. I’ll meet you back here tomorrow (that’s Monday). I miss you already.


P.S. — As soon as I hit publish, we’re off to say goodbye to The Cottage and to take some photos — I still haven’t shared a proper tour yet. So many goodbyes! School friends, favorite views, the treehouse, neighbors, familiar drives, ancient architecture, the cows in field next door… The photo at top pictures Marie. She has been the French language and culture tutor for our kids, and she had us over for cake and a proper goodbye. So sweet I can hardly stand it.


Packing Up

July 9, 2013

cat in the entry

Image and text by Gabrielle

Last week I was confidently telling Ben Blair that packing up would be a snap, and that we’d be able to spend this last week in France relaxing in this gorgeous home. Hah! Today my confidence is less confident. I forget so easily how quickly “stuff” accumulates. Let’s take schoolwork for example. Think of all the schoolwork your child brought home this year. Now times that by 6 kids. Now times that by 2 1/2 school years. That’s a lot of stuff!

So we’re going through the stacks of notebooks and binders, and trying to make wise decisions on what to keep and what we won’t miss. And we’re helping the kids sort through their emotions about saying goodbye to things that might feel precious at the moment, but will be forgotten shortly. Then, figuring out if it’s better to ship the keepers to California, or if we can make room in our allotted luggage without going over airline weight limits. And that’s just the school stuff. : )

Oh man, I can not wait till the packing is done. I am plowing through it as quickly as possible because it’s my least favorite thing.

But it’s not just the packing, I’m quite the basket case this week. Trying to pack. Trying to get my blog work done and my Alt Summit work done (Alt Summit SF is next week!). Desperately trying to be present during these last days before our move.

Honestly, I don’t remember feeling this emotional about a move before. There’s so much in my head, and I want to write about it, but feel like I won’t have time for weeks. I’m craving more hours in the day in the worst way.

Tell me, Friends. Have you had a particularly challenging move? Share your horror stories, and your most beautiful/hopeful moments mid-move. I’m sure I’m not alone!

P.S. — Please forgive me if posts are late this week, or if I can’t respond to comments as quickly as I’d like to. I’m doing my best, I promise. : )

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