From the category archives:

Love the Place You Live

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Cheerios Protein Box Images and text by Gabrielle.  //  This post is brought to you by Cheerios Protein. Cheerios Protein gives you energy to last you through your day’s adventures, wherever they may be!



For my first Love The Place You Live column here in Oakland, I thought an Oakland A’s game would be perfect! The game was on Thursday night, July 3rd, and was followed by a huge fireworks display. Apparently, it’s an Independence Day tradition here and happens every year the night before the 4th. And it’s so much fun!

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The weather was ideal. The crowd was in a festive mood. And the A’s won!

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The light was so pretty in the stadium, and the kids looked so cute, I took a million photos.

Click here for more pics and details, and to link up!


Maude & Oscar Exploring1

Image and text by Gabrielle.

While I lived in France, I launched a recurring column called Love the Place You Live. It’s all about exploring your own town or community — appreciating and acknowledging the good things around you. I adore travel! But the idea of this column is that you don’t have to travel to find wonder and beauty; the idea is that everywhere has something to offer.

This month marks 1 year of living in Oakland! Though I found the move overwhelming, we love it here and have been feeling more and more settled in. We’ve done some really fun exploring since we’ve been here, but we feel like we’ve only scratched the surface of cool things in our community, and I want to start exploring more earnestly.

So, I concluded that it’s time to bring back Love The Place You Live!

This is how it works: I’ll announce when the next Love The Place You Live column is going to appear. Then, anyone who wants to, can join in by exploring something in their community. It can be anything. A coffee shop you’ve been meaning to stop into. A vintage clothes store. The new library. A new-to-you park. A pretty hike. A food truck. The ballet. Anything you like! And I’ll explore something with my family as well.

I’ll write up my report and publish here on Design Mom. You can write up your report wherever you like (your blog, your Facebook page, etc.). Then, you can add the link of your writeup to my blog post. It’s awesome! It creates an easy way to explore all the different reports and is a great reminder about how much there is to celebrate in each of our communities.

Sound good? I hope so! I’m planning to post the next Love The Place You Live on Monday (that’s July 7th), and I would love you to join me. Do something fun this week or this weekend — maybe a local Independence Day parade! Then, plan on linking to your writeup on Monday.

I can’t wait to read about your adventures!


By Gabrielle.

The Abbey Restaurant (or Bistrot de l’Abbaye) is a place that’s been on our need-to-try-list since we moved here almost 2 years ago. I’m so glad we finally went. And I’m trying not to kick myself for not going sooner. I practically licked my plate clean!

We were told this restaurant was known for its good food and bad service. (There are expats who will say the same thing about the entire country of France. : ) But we found both the service and food to be wonderful.

This was a date, so it was Ben Blair and me sans kids. And we met 4 other friends at the restaurant. One of them, Mark, is the only other American we’ve met in town. He loves learning about the history of the area and told us the restaurant building was indeed a former abbey, and that the building dated to medieval times — approx 1100 a.d. (Wow!). He mentioned you could tell by the particular type of stone faces on the building.

He said that at the time, the little town would have been walled, and that the abbey would have been right outside the walls — with a moat between the two — so that travelers would have a place to eat and sleep if they approached when the wall was closed.

Above the restaurant, you can now find apartments. Can you imagine living in an apartment that’s almost a 1000 years old?

Click here to see more pics and link up!


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Fall has come in so gently and beautifully over the past few weeks, and the fantastic weather has really made us want to get outside and soak it up. So for this month’s Love The Place You Live exploration, we decided to seek out a hike through the local forest. Our town is actually very near a National Forest, and we drive through it all the time — but we’ve never stopped to hike!

fall hike

We parked near a village called La Lande de Goult and started up a path through the woods to the top of a hill. (Maybe it’s a small mountain. Living near the Rockies makes you biased. : )

Click here to see more pics and to link up!


Not long after we moved here, when we’d driven around a bit, we noticed signs that said Haras du [fill in the blank], all over the place. When we inquired about them, we were told they indicated horse breeding farms, and that the horse-breeding capital for all of France was right here in the town of Argentan. It’s called Haras du Pin. (You can pronounce is Huh-rah-do-pan.)

I can’t wait to tell you about our visit, but first, I need to apologize. I intended to write about William the Conquerer’s Castle in Caen for this post, because we spent Saturday in Caen running errands. But I didn’t get any photos! Not one. So I’m sharing our visit to Haras du Pin instead. It happened one year ago this very month. So the good news is: at least the photos look seasonal. : )

Click here to learn about Haras du Pin, and add your own link!


For this month’s Love the Place You Live column, we visited a Vide Grenier — which is basically a community wide rummage sale. But this one was in a tiny village called Avoines that neighbors our own tiny village, and though we didn’t know many people there, it felt much like an event in our own neighborhood. We had a great time and came home with a few silly trinkets.

My favorite purchase was a handful of ceramic feves, the little tokens that are baked into King Cake. I bought several of both the white and colorful versions. Only 10 centimes each! I though they would make a fun souvenir. Or be little good-luck tokens to keep in your pocket on special days — like a big test day.

The vide grenier was centered around the town’s Mairie office. Even the tiniest villages have their own Mayor here in France, though this village is so tiny it doesn’t have a store or school or bakery or post office. Outside the Mairie, there were tables and benches set up for picniking, and there was a booth selling hot sandwiches and frites. So yummy!

Treasures ahead… Click here to see more pics and add your link!


For this Love the Place You Live column, I’m writing about Domain de la Galotière. It’s an apple and pear juice farm about 25 minutes from our house. This region of France produces wonderful apples, pears and all the related products like juice, cider, and a strong drink called calvados. Fun fact: this is the only region of France that doesn’t produce wine. No grapes here, it’s all about apples in Normandy.

The farm couldn’t have been more charming. Every building was made from half timber construction and the whole place was picturesque — down to the friendly dog. The inside of the shop was filled with jams and bottles and baskets and everything you might expect of a country farm. We ended up buying 6 bottles of apple juice and 6 of pear. Confession: we bought the juice on Saturday and we’re down to 1 bottle of apple and 3 bottles of pear today. It’s really good!

Click here to see more images and add your link.


Friends, it’s working. Love the Place You Live is working! Meaning: this column is encouraging me to do some really satisfying local exploring. Which is exactly what I hoped for!

This week, I’m sharing some photos from a nearby brocante/tea salon (brocante = antique shop) called L’Indiscret. I have been meaning to check out this particular brocante since the very first week we moved here. It’s been over a year and I still hadn’t stopped in. Then, last week, when I was thinking about what I should write about for today’s post, I remembered the brocante! So Ben Blair and I dropped in on Saturday.

I was so glad we did! It’s a lovely a place — a cute antique shop up front, with a warehouse full of furniture in the back. The shopkeeper on Saturday was the daughter of the owners. She lives in Paris but comes home on the weekends to help at the brocante. The shop is currently only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but the owners dream about retiring from their day jobs and running the shop full-time. I love stories like that!

Click here to see more brocante photos and to add your link.


Okay you guys! You ready for my first Love the Place You Live report? Don’t laugh, but my explorations this weekend had a glitch: my camera was out of batteries. Hah! So instead, I decided to write about a local outing we made a couple of months ago to a place called Mont Ormel.

One unexpected side effect of moving to Normandy, is that we suddenly became very interested in World War II. There are signs of it everywhere, and there are plenty of local residents who were teenagers at the time and remember it well. So we’ve done our best to read up about it — at least, all the parts that have to do with this region.

Which brings me to Mont Ormel. Have you ever heard of it? I hadn’t. But if you’re a World War II buff, you probably have. A really decisive battle happened at Mont Ormel. Sometimes it’s called the Battle of Normandy, or the battle of the Argentan-Falaise Gap. It was the final battle before the Allied troops freed Paris. Kind of big deal! But it’s something only the locals really seem to know about, because the D-Day Beaches are the main destination for tourists who are interested in World War II. (And the D-Day Beaches are amazing too!)

Pretty much any drive through Normandy involves gorgeous views. In fact, one of the family jokes is that Ben Blair will say in a commanding voice: Behold: Normandy! whenever a particularly beautiful vista appears — and sometimes he says it like 15 different times on the same drive. It’s just really, really pretty here. But the views from Mont Ormel might be my favorite.

It was so hard to imagine a battle happening in such a serene place. It broke my heart thinking about it! If you ever get a chance to visit, there is a small visitor center with a well done movie — and it’s offered in both French and English. But even if the visitor center was closed, this is a great destination for a Sunday drive. Beautiful views and paths for taking a nice long walk.

I’ve got more images after the jump — and I’ve added a link-up widget at the bottom of the post. Feel free to add the url of your own Love the Place You Live report. I can’t wait to see what you found!

Click here to see more images of our fieldtrip to Mont Ormel.


Love the Place You Live

February 23, 2012

Last week I formally introduced a travel column, but if you’ve been reading awhile, you know I’m equally interested in adventures closer to home. Every where we’ve lived, there have been beloved landmarks, beautiful views and hip shops — and I’m sure that’s true for you as well!

I get a kick out of exploring whatever community I’m living in, so a couple of years ago I asked your opinion about a column called Love the Place You Live. The idea is that we’ll all seek out something cool in our own towns. It could be anything — a great library or museum, a new café, a terrific hike or concert, a favorite building, a local vegetable stand. Whatever you like! Then, we’ll write up our discoveries. I’ll add a linking tool to my post, so that if you’d like to share your adventures, all the links will be in one place, ready to explore.

Two years later and I still really love the idea. So let’s do it! Make plans to explore some bit of the place you live. On Monday, I’ll write up a post about what I found and I’ll include a link widget — you can add your post’s link and we can all read about some of the things people love about their towns. Good? I think it will be fun. I can’t wait to see what you guys love about where you live!!

What do you think? Is Love The Place You Live appealing to you? Do you like the idea of participating and adding your link? Or maybe just the friendly reminder to do some local exploring?

P.S. — I think it’s so important to embrace the place where you are living. Even if you’ll only be there for a short time! Learn to love it. Discover its treasures! Speaking of which, these photos are of an old-chapel-turned-exhibit-space. It’s where we saw the cow exhibit and it’s off by itself on a country road. We’re so glad we know about it!

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