Design Mom » travel http://www.designmom.com The Intersection of Design & Motherhood Fri, 14 Mar 2014 04:58:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 Resident of California http://www.designmom.com/2014/02/resident-of-california/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/02/resident-of-california/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 14:00:56 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=45207

Washington DC in the Snow

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

I like to listen to NPR when I’m in the car, and during the local news updates when a story about California is being shared, I’ll be listening in a removed way and then all of sudden think: Oh. I live in California! This story is relevant to my life! I’m a Californian!

And then I think something along the lines of: That is so strange.

A related thing happens when Ben Blair is driving and I look up from the passenger seat and see a landscape or cityscape that is completely unfamiliar and think: We’ve only been in the car for two minutes, but I wasn’t watching where we are going and I have no idea where we are and would have to use GPS to even point myself in the right direction if I wanted to head home.

Basically, I’m in a funny situation where my home city and home state aren’t quite home yet. It’s not that I have regrets or complaints about moving here, it’s just that everything still feels so new and 7 months in I’m still playing catchup.

This really hit home during my trip to Washington D.C. (I’m still here in D.C., writing this from my hotel room and will head back home today.) On Tuesday, I had the chance to lobby the senators and representatives from my state on behalf of ONE.org. ONE is bipartisan so we were lobbying both republicans and democrats. As we were being briefed the day before, I experienced a moment of identity crisis. My thoughts were something like: I’m lobbying for California? I haven’t even registered to vote there yet. I’m still using my Colorado driver’s license. I have only a slight handle on Bay Area geography — on which cities are where. And I have no idea who my congresswomen/congressmen are!!

Luckily, California happens to have some famous names among our representatives (think Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer), so I actually do know many of my representatives, and my identity crisis was short lived. I reminded myself I was born in California and lived there till I was 5. I learned to speak my native language in California. Growing up, I spent time in California every year of my life and both of my parents were born and raised in California. So I have deep roots in my new-again state.

This trip has been a good reminder to me that it’s time to dive deep and really get to know my state and my city; to learn the problems and passions of California and of Oakland specifically, and to care (or care more) about the outcomes of propositions and proposals that affect my slice of the country.

It also made me curious: Have you ever been in the same state-of-mind that I am in now? Have you ever been surprised that you are a resident of the state/country/city you reside in? Have you ever felt like a resident of no place at all — sort of detached from where you live? I imagine not everyone experiences this sort of thing. Where do you consider yourself a resident of? What are your thoughts?

P.S. — I’ll give a full report of my trip to Washington later this week (or possibly next week.) But have to tell you how lovely it was when it snowed yesterday. The flakes were giant and fluffy and since Oakland doesn’t experience the sort of winter I’m accustomed to, it was a treat to have snowflakes on my nose and eyelashes.

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Olive Us: Pilgrimage to Mont St. Michel http://www.designmom.com/2014/01/olive-us-pilgrimage-to-mont-st-michel/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/01/olive-us-pilgrimage-to-mont-st-michel/#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 17:18:05 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=44594

By Gabrielle. Images by Ben Blair.

Oh man. This episode is an epic one. Here’s a little back story. When people visit the region of Normandy (which is where we lived in France, and where our little cottage is), the number one thing they want to see is Mont St. Michel. And while we were there, we visited this legendary island at least a dozen times.

Every time we approached, there was this moment where we all of a sudden notice the castle-looking structure off in the distance — across fields of sheep — and our breath catches. And then, as we get closer and closer, there is this feeling of wonder.

We loved visiting Mont St. Michel, wandering it’s tiny street and stairways, walking along the beach and exploring the boulders that surround the whole island, sitting quietly in the Abbey garden at the very top, taking in the views on the approach, and the views from high up on the mount. It’s a special place.

montstmichel

So we weren’t too surprised when we learned it was one of the key pilgrimage sites for Christians. Makes sense! When we found out our local friend (and knowledgeable historian), Mark, had made the week long pilgrimage several times — going by foot from our town of Argentan to Mont St. Michel, and staying in gites (which are homes in the countryside that rent out a room for the night) along the way, we were intrigued! The idea of making a pilgrimage, a walking one, with a slow approach, was so appealing to both me and Ben Blair, and we talked about it a lot, and I wrote a post about it here.

Pilgrimage to Mont St. MIchel  |  Olive Us Pilgrimage to Mont St. MIchel  |  Olive Us

So getting to film this episode was simply a treasure. Mark acted as our guide, finding the prettiest routes and giving history lessons as we went. As you’ll notice in the episode, we learned that King Arthur legends have a place in Normandy as well as England, and that some people believe Arthur is buried along the pilgrimage trail — visiting his possible burial site was such an experience!

I feel like there’s so much I could share about this video, but for now, I just hope you watch it and enjoy it.

And if you’ve ever visited Mont St. Michel, I’d love to hear about it. I’d also love to know if anyone out there has made a religious pilgrimage before. Pilgrimages aren’t really a part of my religious upbringing, but they hold such an appeal for me. I hope to make one some day!

Pilgrimage to Mont St. MIchel  |  Olive Us Pilgrimage to Mont St. MIchel  |  Olive Us Pilgrimage to Mont St. MIchel  |  Olive Us Pilgrimage to Mont St. MIchel  |  Olive Us Pilgrimage to Mont St. MIchel  |  Olive Us Pilgrimage to Mont St. MIchel  |  Olive Us Pilgrimage to Mont St. MIchel  |  Olive Us

P.S. — Would you like to know more about Olive Us? Here you go:

- Find the official Olive Us website here, and subscribe to the Olive Us Newsletter here.
- Find all the posts I’ve written about Olive Us — including every episode — here.
- We’ve made 44 episodes so far and collaborated with ulive on 20 of them! You can find the Olive Us page on ulive here.

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Olive Us: Ralph in London http://www.designmom.com/2014/01/olive-us-ralph-in-london/ http://www.designmom.com/2014/01/olive-us-ralph-in-london/#comments Fri, 10 Jan 2014 06:30:33 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=44300

By Gabrielle. Image by Ben Blair.

Do you remember Betty in Paris? Fun fact: it’s the most viewed episode of Olive Us! And I can’t say I’m surprised. Paris is a magical place, and Betty in Paris is a magical video.

We enjoyed making it so much, that we thought it would be fun to make episodes showing each of our kids exploring a famous city somewhere in the world — a mini-video-series within the larger Olive Us series. We like the idea of pairing up each child with a city that fits their personality. For example, (pretending we could somehow film anywhere) if we were making an episode for Maude, we picture Tokyo. For Olive, it would be New York.

And today, I’m sharing video #2 in this mini-series: Ralph in London!

Ralph in London

This video definitely feels more teenager-y than our other Olive Us episodes — including the music! So your youngest viewers may not be drawn to it as much as our other videos. (I’m actually really curious about this, so please feel free to let me know what your kids think of it if you decide to have them watch it.)

For this episode, Ben Blair and Ralph took a weekend trip to London last May (we were still living in France then, so it was easy as can be). Then they spent the weekend running all over town from morning till night, while Tiger in a Jar filmed. We had been to London a couple of times as a family at that point and Ralph had really fallen in love with it. He feels a connection with that city. So it’s a treat for me to see the city through his eyes in this video.

In Betty in Paris, we show a 6 year old’s simple and sweet view of the city, but in Ralph in London, we show a grittier version of a day spent exploring. It’s interesting to me, because cities really do tend to have multiple personalities — so if we had filmed Betty in London, instead of Ralph in London, it would have been an entirely different video, while still staying true to a London experience. I love that! I love that the same city can mean something entirely different to different people.

Have you ever been to London? If yes, did we capture any of your favorite spots in the city? And if we were filming a “You in Any City” episode, is there a particular city in the world you are most drawn to? (I can’t decide which city I would choose! Amsterdam? New York?)

P.S. — Speaking of Betty in Paris, it just turned One! Join in the celebration here!! Would you like to know more about Olive Us? Here you go:

- Find the official Olive Us website here, and subscribe to the Olive Us Newsletter here.
- Find all the posts I’ve written about Olive Us — including every episode — here.
- We’ve made 44 episodes so far and collaborated with ulive on 20 of them! You can find the Olive Us page on ulive here.

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Olive Us: Painting in Honfleur http://www.designmom.com/2013/12/olive-us-painting-in-honfleur/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/12/olive-us-painting-in-honfleur/#comments Wed, 18 Dec 2013 19:39:27 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=44011

By Gabrielle.

Oh. This episode is one of my favorites! About an hour north of our little town in France, you’ll find the village of Honfleur. It’s a small fishing town that is such a delight to visit! (I wrote about it here .)

We spent many lovely afternoons in Honfleur. It’s near the beaches of Deauville, and we loved taking our visitors who had already seen all the “big” sights in France and were looking for something less known.

Honfleur, France | Design Mom

One thing we learned about Honfleur is that it’s considered the birthplace of Impressionism. Monet and Boudin painted here and it became a meeting place for their contemporaries. Fantastic, right? And if you visit, it’s easy to see why — the light in the little town is extraordinary. (Laurie White helped us with the research — her Great Artist program is terrific!)

So we thought it would be fun to make an episode about painting “en plein air“, and share what it’s like to visit Honfleur for the day. I hope you enjoy it!

Tell me friends, do you bring paints or a sketchbook with you when you travel? Have you ever tried painting en plein air? I’d love to hear.

P.S. — Would you like to know more about Olive Us? Here you go:

- Find the official Olive Us website here, and subscribe to the Olive Us Newsletter here.
- Find all the posts I’ve written about Olive Us here.
- We’ve made 44 episodes so far and collaborated with ulive on 20 of them! You can find the Olive Us page on ulive here.

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Olive Us: How to Travel http://www.designmom.com/2013/12/olive-us-how-to-travel/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/12/olive-us-how-to-travel/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 17:04:56 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=43600

width="500" height="300" classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000" style="visibility: visible;">

By Gabrielle.

It’s going to be a bit of a crazy week at our house. Ben Blair flew to France yesterday and won’t be back till Sunday, and starting Wednesday, the wood floors are being refinished. Which means we need to live upstairs until they’re done. Which means we won’t have access to the kitchen. Which will be tricky. But I’ve got a plan! And take out menus! And we’ll make it work.

how to travel1

In honor of Ben’s trip, I thought today would be a fun day to share one of the newest Olive Us episodes, called How to Travel. I’m sure many of you have travel plans for the holidays (or are just returning from Thanksgiving trips), so hopefully this cute little video will resonate. And if you have your own travel tricks and tips you’d like to add, I hope you’ll share them in the comments.

The aim of Ben’s trip is to have the roof and chimney of The Cottage repaired. I tell you, I get a case of the butterflies when I think about progress being made on our pretty little bit of France!

P.S. — Would you like to know more about Olive Us? Here you go:

- Find the official Olive Us website here, and subscribe to the Olive Us Newsletter here.
- Find all the posts I’ve written about Olive Us here.
- We’ve collaborated with ulive for 20 episodes, you can find the Olive Us page on ulive here.

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When Do You Crave A Beach Trip Most? http://www.designmom.com/2013/11/when-do-you-crave-a-beach-trip-most/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/11/when-do-you-crave-a-beach-trip-most/#comments Tue, 19 Nov 2013 17:00:18 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=42151

anse chastanet resort

This post is brought to you by Carnival Cruise Lines. Click here to learn more.


By Gabrielle. Image of the Anse Chastanet Resort.

We’ve done so much travel over the last few years, but never really a beach trip — the kind where you simply sit on the sand day after day with a good book and an umbrellaed drink. And when you’re not doing that, you’re snorkeling. And when you’re in the mood to get off the sand, there’s a tropical jungle offering adventure. Oh man. That sounds so lovely right now! The idea of a laid-back beach vacation (or maybe even a cruise) is one of those things I daydream about when my head is getting overwhelmed, and specifically a beach vacation in the Caribbean, because a reader sent me a link to this article a few months ago, and the pictures are so stunning I sort of seared them into my brain.

Here are the 4 Caribbean spots on my list at the moment, and when I would most want to visit each one:

Isla Mujeres
I’ve heard this is one of those life-list kind of places, and I can see why. I would not say no to snorkeling through an underwater sculpture garden! Oh. That didn’t wow you? Then how about these sleeping shark caves? Could there be a cooler island than this? It’s too bad the beaches there look like this. (Kidding!) One review on Trip Advisor mentioned that from mid-June to mid-September is whale shark season off Isla Mujeres — and you can snorkel next to 35′ whale sharks! So I’m thinking that’s when we’d aim for a visit.

Antigua
I was only vaguely aware of Antigua until recently, and now it comes up in frequent conversation between me and Ben Blair. There’s a canopy tour in Antigua that gets amazing reviews. We’d love to experience it and then bring home inspiration for our own mini canopy tour here at The Treehouse. Every time we talk about our yard, we say, “I guess we’ll just need to visit Antigua first.” : ) By the way, I’m envisioning the canopy tour happening when we’re not sitting on the sugar-crystal-pink sands(!) of Half Moon Bay. The off season at Antigua is May to November, so we think May would be fun — we could wait till school is out and make it a family trip.

Aruba
Aruba is on my list specifically for Eagle Beach. The widest beach on the island. Pristine soft white sand. And four species of sea turtles that nest on the beach! What a sight it would be to see those tiny baby turtles making their way to the water. Makes me gasp just thinking about it. I’ve heard July is nesting season for the turtles, so I think this would have to be a summer trip for me.

St. Lucia.
I’m sure there are plenty of family-friendly activities on St. Lucia, but in my head, this would be a destination just for me and Ben. Mossy mountains, zip-lining, chalky beaches, and a luxury hotel (like this one, pictured at top). Yes, please! They say the weather is best in St. Lucia from December to April — meaning there’s the least amount of rain. And they also say, that even during the peak busy season, that St. Lucia doesn’t get too busy. So I’d say January or February would be perfect — those grey months following the holidays can always use a little sunshine.

I’d love to hear: Have you ever been to the Carribean? If yes, where? And would you recommend it? Secondly, do you crave beach vacations? I know they’re Ben Blair’s favorite kind. Third, when do you crave a beach-y vacation most? If you were taking a trip to the Caribbean, would you make it part of your summer vacation? Or do you save your sand and sun daydreams for the dark winter months?

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Tree Cocoon http://www.designmom.com/2013/10/tree-cocoon/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/10/tree-cocoon/#comments Thu, 24 Oct 2013 13:00:12 +0000 Koseli Cummings http://www.designmom.com/?p=41893

cocoontree-feature

By Koseli.

The Tree Cocoon tent is a 132 lb. floating sphere made of aluminum tubes and canvas, anchored to surrounding trees with ropes. It looks pretty amazing if your focus is an incredible view and sleeping room-only.

But the biggest question of all: No matter how beautiful the accommodations, would you sleep in a tree?

Cocoon-Tent-Tree-House-2 Cocoon-Tent-Tree-House-5

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Tourists in San Francisco http://www.designmom.com/2013/10/tourists-in-san-francisco/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/10/tourists-in-san-francisco/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 14:30:07 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=41841

Transamerica Building by Paul Ferney

By Gabrielle. Painting: Transamerica Building and The Bay by Paul Ferney.

My dearest friend from France, Caroline, came to town yesterday. What a treat to have her here! It’s Caroline’s second time in the U.S., and her first time on the West Coast. For dinner last night, she ate her very first taco!

I’ll be splitting my time between work and hosting this week and I’m really looking forward to seeing the area through Caroline’s eyes. This afternoon, she’s going to take a hop on/hop off bus tour to get an overview of San Francisco, and this morning, we’re going to catch the boat to Sausalito from the Ferry Building and have lunch across the Bay.

The Bay by Paul Ferney

In addition to touristy things, Caroline also really wants to see things like Target, and big American grocery stores, and popular chains they don’t have in France — like Old Navy. All the stores in France close by 6:0o or 7:00 PM, so I think it will be fun to blow her mind with a shopping trip to Target at 9:00 at night. : )

P.S. — Caroline is here till next Monday. We’ve started putting together an itinerary, but we’re still new enough here that we’d love your suggestions!

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Olive Us: Let’s Visit Holland http://www.designmom.com/2013/09/olive-us-lets-visit-holland/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/09/olive-us-lets-visit-holland/#comments Fri, 13 Sep 2013 19:11:25 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=40729

holland title

Images and text by Gabrielle.

I’m delighted to share this week’s Olive Us episode! We filmed it on a spring trip to Amsterdam earlier this year. And I love how it turned out.

Some fun behind the scenes info: We had to plan this trip well in advance, and we did everything we could think of — consulted the experts, the locals, the calendars (old and new) — to schedule the trip during the very peak of tulip season. But all that research and careful planning were a bust! Turns out, Spring arrived unusually late in Europe this year. And we missed the main blooming season by 2 or 3 weeks!

olive us tulip fields17 olive us tulip fields04

The downside to our timing was that instead of the hundreds and hundreds of tulip fields, that you might see on a postcard from the Netherlands, there were only a few tulip fields in bloom. Like maybe 10 or 15 in the whole area. It was simply too early! This was of course frustrating, but also funny, as we commiserated with busload after busload of tourists from all over the world who, like us, had scheduled their trips to The Netherlands at “peak” season. Hah!

olive us tulip fields09 olive us tulip fields10

The upside to our timing was that the earlier blooming bulb flowers — like daffodils and hyacinths — were still in bloom. And really spectacular! And we weren’t expecting to see those at all, because by the time peak tulip season rolls around, they’re long gone. So we did some last-minute scrambling and re-writing and came up with a fresh new concept for the video. And like I said, I love how it turned out. I hope you like it too!

Note: For those of you who don’t live in the U.S.A. and can’t currently view the new episodes: We are working on it! I promise. I was told it should be solved in 2 weeks or less. So I’m crossing my fingers the wait won’t be too much longer. And oh man, I feel awful that you can’t view the episodes! I’m so sorry. It’s driving me nuts (and I know it’s driving some of you nuts, too). Thank you, thank you for being patient while we sort it out.

And another big thank you, to Lotte! She’s our talented Dutch friend who assisted us with the shoot while we were in The Netherlands. We couldn’t have done it without her.

olive us tulip fields16

The windmills! I couldn’t get enough of them. We stopped the car whenever we passed one.

olive us tulip fields01 olive us tulip fields03 olive us tulip fields06 olive us tulip fields05 olive us tulip fields07 olive us tulip fields08

Though it had been cold and rainy on the days before the shoot, it was mostly sunny on filming day. (Such a stroke of luck!) But when the wind came up, it would give the kids quite a chill:

olive us tulip fields11 olive us tulip fields12

 

I had never encountered a filed of hyacinths before. The scent was intoxicating. And overwhelming! We drove with the windows down and we knew when there was a hyacinth field around the bend, because the scent would reach us first.

olive us tulip fields13 olive us tulip fields15 olive us tulip fields14 olive us tulip fields18

Another surprise: the dirt that the bulbs were planted in was full of seashells! I know that The Netherlands is considered to be below sea-level, but somehow, the seashells were unexpected.

olive us tulip fields02

 

Tell me, Friends, have you ever visited Holland during the peak tulip season? On our first visit, we were almost too late and only saw a few fields. On our second visit, we were too early! Perhaps a future 3rd visit will be the charm. : )

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A Time-Lapse Video of Europe’s Famous Landmarks http://www.designmom.com/2013/08/a-time-lapse-video-of-europes-famous-landmarks/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/08/a-time-lapse-video-of-europes-famous-landmarks/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 13:00:20 +0000 Koseli Cummings http://www.designmom.com/?p=39922

louvre

By Koseli. Image found here.

Did you spend this summer on a grand adventure? Or lay low and summer in your own locale? I loved following others’ vacation photos on Instagram and Facebook but sometimes I can’t help but sting with wanderlust — I love going to new places!

This time-lapse video of Europe’s most famous landmarks only pricked my wanderlust more — but it’s also holding me over until our next international trip.

If you could travel anywhere (no constraints!), where would you go?

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The 5th (and Last) Six Months in France http://www.designmom.com/2013/08/the-5th-and-last-six-months-in-france/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/08/the-5th-and-last-six-months-in-france/#comments Thu, 15 Aug 2013 14:30:37 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=39721

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.

A section of the stone wall at the farmhouse crumbled and was repaired by a stonemason. And we put an offer on The Cottage in France!

We took a last-minute roadtrip to Ireland! Small update here. Full report here.

winter walk08

We lived through the extended winter. We snapped photos on a late winter walk in our neighborhood. And then got snowed in. And then got drenched! Also, Ralph made a little movie of the kids picking blackberries. And Ben Blair turned 40!

Five Affordable Souvenirs to Bring Home from your Trip to France.

We shared 5 Fabulous French Souvenirs under $5. And talked about Easter Candy in France.

Embroidery and France

We discussed embroidery in France. What kind of music the local kids were listening to. And postcards in France.

Oscar Blair

We took my parents touring around the D-Day sites and William the Conquerer spots, and Oscar was baptized in the stream near our house!

Amsterdam | Design Mom07

We went to Amsterdam for a video shoot. In fact, from April to June, we filmed 17 more episodes of Olive Us (these haven’t been shared yet, but they’re coming soon!). Another little report from Amsterdam here. And the full report, titled 5 Things to Remember for Your Trip to Amsterdam.

Little Red Riding Hood | oliveus.tv

We celebrated May Day with our neighbors. And shared Little Red Riding Hood (in French!).

kayaking in the fjords08

We went to Norway to celebrate Ben Blair’s Fjordieth! Little hellos from Norway here and here and here. And a write-up about kayaking in the fjords here. (Oh my goodness, I just realized I haven’t even written up a full report about our trip yet. Hah!)

paris - spring 2013

We did a little filming in Paris. The wisteria made it’s appearance. And we visited Chateau Falaise, the birthplace of William the Conquerer.

Five Affordable Souvenirs to Bring Home from your Trip to France.

We gave another report (our last one) about schools in France. And visited our town’s vide grenier (town yard sale). We also shared 5 Financial Tips When Moving Abroad.

converted french mill

We closed on The Cottage! And we found an amazing architect to work on the renovation.

apple blossoms at a French farmhouse

We spent a Saturday zip-lining in the Suisse-Normande. And we listed La Cressonnière for rent.

gabrielle blair alt summit

I went to New York for Alt Summit NYC. And we announced we were moving to Oakland.

peonies

We talked about how we shop and eat in France. And we harvested the peonies for the third and last time.

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

We shared 5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. And we spent the 4th of July at the D-Day Beaches.

French Grandmother

We started packing up. And ended up with 32 pieces of luggage/bags. We said some goodbyes. And the day we flew out? We shared the first post in this 5-part series.

——–

And that wraps it up! What a time we had!!

Thank you so much for indulging me while I’ve re-lived our time in France. I already treasure these re-cap posts! And I’ve referred to them when I want to remember the timeline or when I’m feeling nostalgic. They are my proof that we lived life fully while we were there and took advantage of everything we had access to. No regrets.

And here’s to the next adventure!

P.S. — If you’re curious, you can read all 5 reports here.

 

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The 4th Six Months in France http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/the-4th-six-months-in-france/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/the-4th-six-months-in-france/#comments Mon, 29 Jul 2013 13:00:31 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=39119

By Gabrielle.

This is number 4 out of five posts in this mini-series about our time in France (here are posts one, two and three). It covers the months of August 2012 through January 2013, and includes trips to London, Ethiopia, Switzerland, Paris and Venice.

These months were not so long ago and the memories are still really fresh! It was wonderful to relive our adventures as I wandered through my archives.

I think I’ll get right to it.

Before we were done with jet lag from our month in the U.S., we jumped in the car for a road trip to the London Olympics. An amazing trip!

Shortly after our trip, my Grandma Rudi passed away. : (

We started looking at French cottages. And then we got more serious about the search.

We spent some of our August afternoons at the beach. And we expanded the Design Mom team.

I went to New York for the first Alt Summit NYC. Full report here.

A few hours after I arrived home from New York, we once again jumped in the car for a spontaneous road trip — this time to Switzerland! Mini report here. Full report here (plus 6 tips for last minute road trips). And don’t forget Swiss stacked wood!

We reported on our visit to Haras du Pin. And we made an Olive Us episode about buying eggs from our neighbor.

What to Wear to 1st Grade

We featured our second set of Euro Edition What to Wear to School posts: Olive, Oscar, Maude, Ralph, Betty. We discussed how to Layer Like the French. And we finished our school supply shopping.

euro s'mores

We cleaned the kitchen. Discovered a local hike. And continued our French cottage search. We made Euro S’mores.

announced my trip to Ethiopia with #OneMoms. And wrote lots of dispatches and reports from that life changing trip: arrivalonetwothreefour, what happens next, about the medical system, the brand of Ethiopia, plus Ethiopian souvenirs.

My Grandma Lucille died. : (

I went to New York to speak at Martha Stewart’s American Made event. (Martha tweeted out our panel!) We made spooky scarecrows.

We mourned with the rest of the world about Hurricane Sandy. We spent another week filming Olive Us episodes. We ate dinner at an Abbey that’s a thousand years old. Spent a Saturday in Paris — including a visit to the Centre Pompidou and a ride on the Ferris Wheel. And prepped for our second Thanksgiving in France.

french pharmacy picks

I shared a third round up of French Pharmacy Picks.

We went on a Christmas Tree Hunt. Used our front window to make an Advent Calendar. And discussed stylish last-minute grocery store gifts. Visited the outdoor Christmas Market in Rouen.

Venice | Design Mom13

Then, we went to Venice for the Christmas break! We arrived on New Year’s Eve and celebrated with the whole city. We took a gondola ride. We visited the island of Murano. You can read a full report here.

We bought French linens as a souvenir. (The night we found those linens, we attended an art show in Saint Pierre Sur Dives, and happened upon a Christmas market and parade that took our breath away. I never wrote it up. It was one of those experiences that was so special, I wanted to keep it to myself. Sort of hold it in my heart.) We attended our second Kings Cake celebration.

We shared Betty in Paris — it’s the most viewed episode of Olive Us.

I went to Salt Lake City for Alt Summit 2013, which included hanging out with Jessica Alba! What I wore to the conference. Another mini report here. A post about Chris Anderson’s keynote. A post about Stefan Sagmeister’s keynote. A post about the FashionABLE scarf contest at Alt Summit.

And then, I made my way home.

I have to say, that particular set of 6 months really stands out to me as special. The Olympics and Switzerland and Venice were huge highlights among our travels! I imagine I’ll be re-reading this post whenever I’m homesick for our time abroad.

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Greetings from Las Vegas http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/greetings-from-las-vegas/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/greetings-from-las-vegas/#comments Thu, 25 Jul 2013 15:00:15 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=38982

wind farm in california

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello from the road! We are on day two of a road trip to Colorado. The first leg was yesterday, we drove from Oakland to Las Vegas, then stayed with Ben Blair’s sister Carol last night. (What a hostess. She makes pancakes! And has a pool!) It was a bit strange to be on the road with just Betty and June — such a quiet car. I’m sure the volume will feel more normal when we pick up the 4 oldest from Cousins Week today.

Our transition period from France to Oakland continues to be transitional. Our first week in Oakland felt a bit temporary, a bit like camping. We knew we’d be leaving right away for “summer vacation” — Cousins Week, visiting Grandparents, and heading to Colorado to see friends and make arrangements for our belongings to come to California.

As we were packing our suitcases I kind of gave them the side eye, like, “Really? You again? Already?” I confess, I’m not actually craving any travel at the moment. If I could pick, we would hold still for awhile. But I know this trip is necessary and practical. And I know it will be good one. In fact, it’s already been really wonderful. I love driving through the familiar desert landscape of my childhood.

Next stop, St. George. Then, we’ll finish the day in Moab, Utah. Crossing my fingers for a hike to Delicate Arch tomorrow morning.

Do you have a favorite road trip? A favorite high way? I love coming from Las Vegas to St. George through the Virgin River Gorge. That stretch of freeway is packed full of memories for me.

P.S. — Around the halfway point yesterday we drove by the biggest wind farm I’ve ever seen. Amazing!

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The 3rd Six Months in France http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/the-3rd-six-months-in-france/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/the-3rd-six-months-in-france/#comments Wed, 24 Jul 2013 16:00:24 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=38851

modernkidsblairfamily04

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.

We attended Nuit Blanche in Paris (the all-night art exhibit that ranges across the city).

We shared tips on prepping for a family photo shoot.

We shared more French Pharmacy Picks. Got advice from our favorite French pharmacist on how to care for Ben Blair’s beard. And talked about the oldest pharmacy in Florence.

Visit to Chartres03

We visited Chartres Cathedral.

We featured our favorite local antique shop (called a brocante). Attended the Mardi Gras parade at school. And attended a community philosophy lecture + dinner.

We grew nostalgic over some of our travels and remembered handmade shoes in Barcelona and charming bikes in Italy.

We made an Easter Tree. Marked Babar’s (the famous French elephant) 80th Anniversary. Gave a language learning report. And talked about the family car we drove in France.

We went to Stonehenge in England — just a short over-the-weekend trip.

Easter Egg Hunt at Eiffel Tower01

We had an Easter Egg Hunt at the Eiffel Tower. Full report + photos here. And we finally climbed to the top of the tower, too! Here are our 4 tips for visiting the Eiffel Tower with kids.

We went to Rome — arriving on Easter Sunday! We ate lots of gelato. Visited the Sistene Chapel. And saw all the sites. Here’s our post on Rome With Kids: 7 Don’t Miss Activities, where we report about our trip.

We dreamed up Ben Blair’s Fjordieth. Started shooting Olive Us. (This is epic!) Explored a local cider farm. Said goodbye to my sister when she moved home from Paris. Sad face.

We decided to stay in France one more year, or 2 1/2 years total. We gave lilies of the valley on May Day. I went to Miami for Mom 2.0.

We launched Olive Us! Here’s the post about the very first episode. As I mentioned above, this turned out to be a game changer for us. We ended up filming 41 episodes over our remaining time in France (we’ve shared 24 so far).

I went to Berlin, Germany where I was the Keynote Speaker at The Hive conference.

Deauville, France | Design Mom

My niece, Roxcy, stayed with us during March, April and May. To end her 3-months on a high note, we had an epic last weekend — we made a trip to the Loire Valley, took a special visit to the American Military Cemetery in Normandy for Memorial Day, and spent a day in Deauville and Honfleur.

We reported on a local Vide Grenier. And wrapped up our school year with another school report. We went nuts for the fields of poppies — and shared a tutorial on how to preserve them.

New lavender shrubs were planted at La Cressonnière. We shared our graham cracker substitute. Talked about stamped cookies. And what a visit to a French Bakery is like.

Then, we flew to America to spend the month of July! During our month in the U.S., we spent the 4th of July at a Blair Reunion. Took the kids to a Maynard Dixon exhibit.

The Story of Kish - A video by OliveUs.TV

We filmed 8 episodes of Olive Us all over Utah. A red rock car wash, an ancient desert epic, a ghost town tour by Zion National Park. Rock climbing in Rock Canyon, a pottery lesson in Central Utah. And a mountain picnic in Cache Valley — the very northernmost part of the State.

Then we went to Colorado, where we helped our cousins clean up a toilet-papering prank. And mourned with fellow-citizens in Aurora.

On July 30th, we flew back to France.

And that completes the 3rd six months we spent in France. These posts continue to be therapeutic for me. It’s so good to take time and remember what we did. And it reassures me we took full advantage of our time there.

Does anything from this report stand out to you?

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The 2nd Six Months in France http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/the-2nd-six-months-in-france/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/the-2nd-six-months-in-france/#comments Sat, 20 Jul 2013 16:00:00 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=38812

wisteria

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:

pointeduhoc01

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

rocheriverhike15

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.)

lacress_oscarbetty08

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.

We discovered the public drinking fountains in Paris. Gathered wild blackberries near our home. And made hollyhock dolls.

We took a cooking class taught by Susan Loomis in Louviers, France. We went to a local amusement park (called Festyland) for Olive’s birthday.

luxembourggardens_blair10

And we took the kids to the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris.

olivebacktoschool_2011_08

We featured our annual What to Wear to School posts — Euro Edition. See Ralph, Maude, Olive, Oscar, and Betty. Plus, school supplies in France. And a few months into the new school year, we made another school report.

monetgardengiverny_blair14

We visited Monet’s Gardens at Giverny.

Ben and I went to Florence, Italy (sans kids!) — here’s the trip report. And we also stopped by Pisa where we were wowed by the Leaning Tower.

blairs_barcelona03

As soon as we arrived home from Italy, we loaded up the kids for an epic road trip to Barcelona. This trip included a visit to 15,000 year old Cave Paintings, a night in the medieval city of Carcassonne (which I never even wrote about). And a visit to Sagrada Familia, easily my favorite cathedral ever. Here’s a full post about our Barcelona road trip.

We gathered walnuts from our backyard. And the kids watched a calf being born in our neighbor’s field. We harvested pears from our yard. Enjoyed the orchard across the street. Examined other local berries. (And Ben Blair grew a beard!)

We had our first Thanksgiving in France, including an adventure with a turkey. And we bought a painting from a favorite local artist.

We visited Paris to see the Christmas Shops on the Champs Élysées. Decorated with fresh holly from our yard, and French Industrial ornaments found in the barn. (More ornaments here.) Oh, and we had our best Nativity program yet.

We had a memorable Vintage Car photo shoot — more pictures from that shoot here. And we eventually ended up buying the car!

During the holiday break, we took a Waffle Tour through Belgium.

After the waffle tour, we spent time in Cologne, Germany.

This was big: We decided to extend our stay in France by six months! (The original plan was one year.) And we enjoyed a King Cake celebration with neighbors.

I shared French pharmacy picks. and talked a little about French Parenting.

And the last big event during our first full year in France? I went to Alt Summit in Salt Lake City. Here’s a full report.

And there it is. Post number two of five in this mini-series. It’s been so fun for me to go through my archives and relive these adventures! I hope you’re enjoying it too.

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Currency http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/currency/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/currency/#comments Fri, 19 Jul 2013 13:00:18 +0000 Koseli Cummings http://www.designmom.com/?p=38746

currency

By Koseli. Images from Currency via Campsite.

Currency is a new app that beautifully and simply helps you make quick currency conversions while you’re traveling. I love this! It’s a great way to avoid the stress of international purchases. Or is that just me that gets totally stressed out when checking out in a foreign language with foreign currency? Here’s a little video that shows more about it.

Do you use Currency already? Or maybe you’re just a whiz at quickly calculating exchange rates. : ) Do you have any other favorite apps for traveling? I love Instagram, Days, Hopstop, and the new Google Maps.

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Homesick Foods http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/homesick-foods/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/homesick-foods/#comments Wed, 17 Jul 2013 14:30:44 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=38835

marshmallow oaties

By Gabrielle. Image by Katharina.

Well, hello. Here I am waving to you from Oakland, California!!

We made it. We arrived Monday night. My siblings and nephews (Jordan and Jared and Liz and Sara and Henry and Moses) met us at the airport (SFO) with cheers and a welcome sign. So fun!! My kids could not have been happier.

The Aunts hung out with all the kids (and the luggage + bags — 32 pieces total!), while my brother Jared took me and Ben Blair to rent a van. It’s a huge extended cab van that fits all our luggage. It’s kind of hilarious and awesome at the same time. We have felt like our very own tour group driving it around this week.

We got to the house at about 9:00 PM on Monday night. The sun set as we drove from the airport and we listened to a California mix Ralph had burned to a CD. The lights of the city and the bridges were spectacular. We were feeling a particular mix of satisfaction and expectation, of relief and excitement, and of exhaustion but general awe at this move. Everyone was happy.

The best thing we did to make these first couple of days in California smooth? We hired a wonderful assistant here in Oakland, named Jessica, to prep the house for us. We asked her to set up utilities in our name, and make an internet installation appointment. And we knew we’d be exhausted after our 20 hour traveling day and want to collapse immediately, so we asked Jessica to prep the beds, and fill the fridge with food. (Note: the house is currently furnished, but not with our belongings from Colorado. More on that when I introduce the house in a later post.)

When we arrived, the house was ready and welcoming. We spent some time exploring our new digs, brought in the luggage, oohed and aahed over the contents of the refrigerator, climbed into pjs, and fell asleep within minutes.

Long satisfied sigh.

For the grocery list we sent to Jessica, we asked the kids to name the foods they were craving most from America, and added a few basic staples. Friends, it was mostly junk food! But man oh man it was fun to chow down on so many old familiar favorites when we woke up the next day. Which, by the way, happened at about 3:00 AM California time. (Hah! Hello, Jet lag.)

There’s something so powerful and beautiful about familiar food. It felt like a celebration. Want to see what made the list?

- Marshmellow Oaties (These are the fake Lucky Charms you can find at places like Whole Foods, but my kids like them more than the real thing.)
- Cheerios
- Izze sodas in grapefruit, peach, pear, and clementine — bottles, not cans.
- Carrot Juice
- Root beer
- Vanilla Ice Cream
- Chocolate Milk
- Graham Crackers
- Tings
- Smart Puffs
- Creamsicles
- Fudgesicles
- Ice Cream Sandwiches
- Tortilla Chips
- Salsa
- Frozen Corndogs
- Baby Carrots
- Tillamook Cheddar Cheese
- Flour Tortillas
- Hotdogs
- Hot Dog Buns
- Mustard
- Ketchup
- Eggs
- 2% Milk
- Butter
- Nectarines
- Green Seedless Grapes

What do you think? Would any of this make your list (or your child’s list) if you were homesick?

P.S. — The Marshmellow Oaties, corndogs, and creamsicles were gone first!

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The First Six Months http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/the-first-six-months/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/the-first-six-months/#comments Mon, 15 Jul 2013 16:00:43 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=38477

wisteria

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 Victory eiffel 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.

London

Then, Maude & I went to London on a ferry across The English Channel for her 12th birthday.

mont st michel mont st michel

We made our first visit (of many) to the legendary Mont St. Michel. Which included a visit to a small military cemetery nearby.

House Hunters International  |  Design Mom

Oh. And we shot an episode of House Hunters International. (It aired a few months later. So fun!)

ornate mirror la cressonnière

We shared more of La Cressonnière — we gave a photo tour of the stairwell, posted about the amazing exterior, and shared photos of the living room. We toured the studio, watched the wisteria come in, shared Maude’s bedroom —which since turned into Betty & June’s bedroom. We shared Ralph’s room, too (which later became Oscar’s room).

ribbons on trellis laduree macarons

We hosted an big Easter Egg Hunt. (Posts herehere and here and here. Including 100 Laduree Macarons!)

buying eggs

We explored more of the French countryside. We bought eggs from our neighbor. We discussed laundry and ironing in France. We were amazed at the wild poppies. (Fun fact: The spring is so delayed this year, that the poppies are in bloom right now!) And we made our second report about school.

New Orleans Shop Sign

I went to New Orleans (my first visit!) for the Mom 2.0 conference.

rafting on the dordogne

We drove to the Dordogne region of France and canoed. While we were there, we also went to the famed Marquessac Gardens.

June Blair 1st Birthday

(Baby June turned one!)

tulip fields

We went to Amsterdam — posts about Vondelpark, the city and the tulips!

I went to Sweden on a business trip.

(Baby June weaned.)

le 104 carousel
French Open Final

We had 3 weekends in a row in Paris. First, I met my friend Megan and wandered the Luxembourg Gardens. Then we took the kids to visit The 104 in Paris. And finally, Ben and I had a weekend — just us — including tickets to the French Open Final!

modernkidsblairfamily01_0
chateau medavy

We had French Greys family photos. Maude spent several days in the hospital with pneumonia. We were invited to a French Country Wedding. We harvested cherries from the back yard. (They’re still not ripe yet this year!) We discovered another local chateau, called Medavy.

We started thinking about real estate in France.

Design Mom turned five!

normandyddaymemorial13

In July, we made two trips to the D-Day beaches.

london tower HP7P2

Then, we took a family roadtrip to London, and saw the Harry Potter finale on opening night — here are photos of the city, and the Tower of London. Yes, Ben Blair drove on the opposite side of the road. (Would you dare? I don’t think I would!)

tour de france

And the finale of our first six months in France? We went to Paris for the Tour de France finish on the Champs Elysees. Fabulous!!

What do you think? London twice, Paris at least 4 times, Sweden, New Orleans, the Dordogne Region, the French Open… Could we have fit in anything else? : ) Does anything in particular stand out to you about the first 6 months?

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5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5 http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/5-more-fabulous-french-souvenirs-under-5/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/07/5-more-fabulous-french-souvenirs-under-5/#comments Wed, 03 Jul 2013 14:26:05 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=38386

franceDMbanner

Text and images by Gabrielle.

We are moving back to the U.S. so soon! We’re down to less than two weeks, and I can hardly believe it. Today, I started organizing our belongings into “Donate,” “Keep at The Cottage,” and “Bring Back The States” And it made me realize it’s time to stock up on gifts for friends and family, plus French staples that we’ll want to have in the U.S..

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5

A few months ago, I shared 5 ideas for fun, inexpensive souvenirs you can find at French grocery stores. And today, I’ve got five more ideas! As I pack up for our move, I’ll be filling one of our suitcases with items like these.

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

First up, simple ceramic bowls and dishes. Every grocery store has a kitchen aisle with all sorts of various ceramics. My favorites are the footed bowls in every shade of the rainbow. We call them hot cocoa bowls at our house, because we were taught that French children drink their morning chocolat chaude from these lovely little bowls. They are very French! And can be found in different sizes and colors for about 1 euro ($1.25) each.

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

But it’s not just bowls! You can find all sorts of small bakeable ceramic dishes in varying shapes and sizes. I like the ones pictured for their delicate shade of blue/grey. You can use them to bake individual portions, or for creme brulée, or just as small dishes for ingredient prep. Again, they run about 1 euro each.

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

Stack them up, add a bow, and they make a fabulous souvenir! You could even fill them with French salt as an added bonus.

french 5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

The second idea is candy. That’s a no brainer, right? But the candy that’s boxed and promoted as a gift can be quite expensive. So I recommend buying some favorites that come in not-that-pretty packaging, and transferring them to a cellophane bag instead.

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

My three picks: 1) Salted Caramels. Since salt and dairy are French specialities, you can bet they take pride in their salted caramels. Even the inexpensive ones are delicious! The ones pictured are made in France and don’t have any branding on their wrappers. So they look great in a cellophane bag. These caramels run about $2.50.

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom 5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

2) Vichy mints. These are classic. Again, they’re very French with a distinctive shape and branding.

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

I always keep these in my handbag for quick breath freshening. They’re not too strong and have that perfect texture somewhere between crispy and chalky. A bag runs about $2.00.

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom 5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

3) Licorice gums. Reglisse, which means licorice, is a very popular flavor in France. In fact, you can even find reglisse ice cream! So this is another candy that feels super French.

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

The texture of these is nice and chewy — more chewy than an American gum drop. And the flavor is perfection, at least, if you’re a licorice fan. : ) Luckily, my kids don’t favor black licorice, so when we buy these, Ben Blair and I get to eat the whole bag ourselves. A bag runs about $2.

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

The third idea can be found in the grocery store near the aluminum foil and plastic wrap. French stores offer lots of little paper containers for serving individual portions. I love these! And think they make a great gift for anyone in your life who has a thing for party supplies. They can be used for all sorts of things — like party favor holders, dessert dishes, or to organize your jewelry drawer.

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

Repackage them in cellophane, add a bow and you’re all set. Little cartons like these are around 2 euros (or $2.50) for the whole package.

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

The fourth souvenir idea is a good one for school age kids, teens, or even adults. Head to the school supply aisle and pick up a fountain pen, and a famed Rhodia notebook. Every French student uses both of these. They are an absolute fixture in French schools.

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

The pens comes in many designs and colors and they include 2 ink cartridges. (I recommend picking up a bag of ink refills while you’re there.) The pens are about $2 each.

Rhodia notebooks are a French staple. They come in various shapes and sizes, but they’re always the signature golden yellow/orange, and the pages are always small graph lines. A pen and a notebook together make a fun and very French gift.

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

I think you might laugh at idea number five, but it’s a really good one for foodies! There are tons of amazing and famous French foods but they can be tricky as gifts. For example, foie gras would make an excellent French souvenir for a foodie, but even tiny containers are usually priced starting at $10 and up. And the Normandy butter is out of this world, but how do you transport butter? French mustard is amazing too, but packing up a glass bottle can cause stress. So when I’m looking for foodie souvenirs, I favor items in tin cans. And my favorite pick… is Sardines!

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

Confession: I don’t actually like to eat sardines. But the packaging is so fabulous, that I end up buying them anyway. Hah! Some come in oil, some in tomato sauce, some with herbs. But they’re all very inexpensive at around $2.50 each. And the cans are so handsome, they are pretty much irresistible.

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

Stack two or three, add a bow, and you’ve got yourself a souvenir any foodie would love!

There you have it. Five more French souvenirs under $5. Hopefully, between this post and the last one, you’ll be covered on your next trip to France. You’ll buy gifts for everyone you know without eating up your entire travel budget!

And now I’d love to hear. What did I miss? What would you add? And when are you headed to France?

P.S. — When you’re in the school supply aisle picking up a fountain pen, don’t miss the elastic closure and belt closure folders. I adore these! I’m bringing home a stack of them. If you have a friend who crushes on office supplies, these would make a great gift!

5 More Fabulous French Souvenirs Under $5. Great stuff you can find at any French Grocery Store.  |  Design Mom

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What’s a Vacation to You? http://www.designmom.com/2013/06/whats-a-vacation-to-you/ http://www.designmom.com/2013/06/whats-a-vacation-to-you/#comments Fri, 28 Jun 2013 14:15:15 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=38234

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[ UPDATE: Voting is now closed. ]

By Gabrielle.

I was talking with Ben Blair about vacations and mentioned how much I care about the accommodations — for me, a good hotel room feels like the ultimate luxury. But I realized, it’s not the hotel room exactly, it’s that I want to relax on vacation, and the hotel room helps to facilitate that. Though really, I know there are plenty of people that would choose the beach for relaxation over a hotel room any day!

So now I’m curious: When you think about and plan vacations, are you most drawn to the food scene, relaxation, culture & museums, or adventure? I’d love to know! Add your opinion by clicking on a checkmark above.

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