From the category archives:

travel

Mount Everest

June 28, 2013

Mt. Everest

By Koseli. Image here.

I am endlessly fascinated and terrified by anything that has to do with Mount Everest. I’ve read Into Thin Air, watched inumerable documentaries on the subject, and scoured the internet for as much information on the peak as possible. There’s no end to the mystery and thrilling stories behind that prestigious climb. And for as much as I try, I cannot wrap my head around why someone would want to climb such a treacherous mountain; at the same time, I can imagine the complete and utter rush of accomplishing such an incredible feat. This time-lapse video of Mt. Everest captures that other-worldly natural drama that makes this peak almost magnetic.

I’d love to know: Is it hard for you to wrap your mind around such terrifying adventure like this? Or do you crave tackling seemingly insurmountable obstacles? And, just because I might die if one of you says yes: Has anyone climbed Mt. Everest?!!

P.S. — George Mallory, an English mountaineer who tackled Mt. Everest in the early 1920s, is famous for responding to the question, “Why do you want to climb Mt. Everest?” with “Because it’s there.” The audacity, am I right?

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Summer Road Trip Picks

June 13, 2013

summer road trip picks

This post is sponsored by Best Buy. Find all the tools to capture, save and share life’s moments.
Our kids aren’t even out of school yet, but we’re already mapping out the summer schedule. And the topic of road trips keeps coming up. Do you have any road trips on your summer calendar? I know I’ve mentioned it before, but we find road trips more relaxed and easier to manage than plane trips.

The whole idea of being able to jump in the car and go feels so romantic and adventurous. And even if I do a crummy job of packing, on a road trip, I know I can stop for forgotten essentials on the way. In fact, we’re already talking about what sorts of road trips we might make after we move back to the U.S.!

For those of you hitting the road this summer, when I imagine my idealized family road trip, this is what I would pack:

1) Binoculars.
The thing about binoculars is, if you have them with you, and they’re easily accessible, you’ll use them! You’ll explore your surroundings as you drive, and you’ll give in to the temptation to stop at every scenic lookout on the way. Which will end up meaning a better trip! Plus, they double as entertainment for the kids. This cheery yellow pair floats.

2) A weekend travel bag.
We love our luggage, but for a spontaneous road trip I like the idea of a stylish soft-side bag — something that’s not too big, so that you don’t overpack. This one by Rail & Wharf caught my eye.

3) A summery blanket.
Your kids will use it when they’re napping in the car. And it will be just the thing for an impromptu picnic on the roadside or at your destination. This turkish towel folds down simply without a lot of bulk, perfect for keeping in the car all summer without taking up lots of space.

4) A sun hat.
Yes, it will protect you from the sun. And yes, when your hair looks awful after a day jumping in-and-out of the pool, this will hide the mess. Wear a chic sunhat and a pair of shades, and you’ll be set for pretty much every summer situation. I love this stripe-y one.

5) A cooler or basket for snacks.
One of our favorite things about road trips is having easy access to food right there in the car, so we don’t have to depend on a drive thru. We like to keep a cooler stocked with goodies where the kids can reach it. This red one looks vintage and will make you feel nostalgic.

6) A Go Pro camera.
Do you know the Go Pro? It’s made specifically to film things like skiing, skateboarding, mountain biking, skydiving, etc. It can be strapped to your forehead like a headlamp so you can film what you’re seeing while you adventure. Ralph has one and loves it! Like the binoculars, if you have one, you’ll look for excuses to use it. You’ll sign up for wind-surfing, or go zip-lining at the ropes course, just so you can film it. And hey, whatever it takes to get you out there and adventuring is a winner in my book!

7) An activity book.
Yes, kids get bored on car rides. So we like to bring along entertainment. We’re big fans of activity/sketch books. They work for a variety of ages, so the kids can share them. The younger ones might treat them like a coloring book, and they older ones might follow the challenges and activities. We like this option from illustrator and children’s poet, Calef Brown.

8) A deck of cards.
A deck of cards simply comes in handy on a road trip. The kids might use the deck to entertain themselves — with a card game, or by practicing their cards tricks. And when you get to your destination, the grownups will use it for late night card games as well. They take up so little space, that we like to keep a deck in the glove box all the time. This deck by Helveticards calls to the designer in me.

9) A hoodie.
Summer trips mean you can get way with packing light. Swimsuit, t-shirt, beach-y skirt, flip flops. Done. But I also like to include a hoodie for everyone in the family. They just come in handy, don’t they? For changes in the weather, or for a cooler, late night adventure at the sand dunes. It’s nice to have an extra layer at the ready. This one has polka dots with smiley faces. Cute!

10) A beach towel.
Lastly, don’t forget to pack your beach towels. They’re sure to end up multi-tasking along the way, and they’re made to get beat up and hide the dirt, so you can use them hard all summer long. A stack of cheery beach towels sitting in the trunk of the car is a sign of good things ahead.

Now your turn: Tell me what I missed. What is your essential-can’t-leave-home-without-it road trip item? And where will you be driving this summer? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — Numbers 1, 2, 5, 6 and 8 would make great Father’s Day gifts!

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

Image and text by Gabrielle.

The other day, we were wiring some money from one of our U.S. bank accounts to our French bank (funds for the cottage!), and I realized I’ve learned a few things about how to move money from place to place that might be helpful for anyone embarking on an international adventure. Here are 5 tips I wish I’d known before we moved.

1) XE.com is our favorite for international transfers.
It’s free to sign up. You can add multiple accounts to draw funds from (we have a personal account and a business account), and you can also add multiple accounts to send funds to. We use it to pay rent on La Cressonnière. And since we get paid in dollars, but run errands in euros, we also use it to transfer our monthly budget from our U.S. to our French account. XE seems to offer the best exchange rates we’ve seen and there are no added fees, so the exchange quote you see is what you pay. I love that.

There are two downsides. First, it takes time. The transfers don’t happen overnight. It usually takes about a week for the funds to make it from one account to another. This means you have to work ahead and think ahead. When we don’t think ahead, we end up using our U.S. debit card for groceries or gas, and there are added fees for international purchases. Which is a bummer. Second, the max transfer is $10,000. Normally that’s way more than fine, but when we were buying our car, the max limit didn’t work for us, so we had to figure out a different way to go. 

Keep reading for 4 more practical tips.

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Tomorrowland Sketch

By Koseli. Image found here via Work

Like so many of you, my first time at Disneyland was a magical experience. I don’t remember long lines, sticky rides, or impatient  employees — I remember sprinting into the park at 7:30 AM, wearing matching Mickey Mouse overalls and purple JCPenny fanny packs with my little sister, and tirelessly riding ride after ride in a euphoric haze. We were not the family that ate the roasted turkey legs or overpriced icey pineapple drinks — our family of nine worked the heck out of Disneyland for seven solid hot days, from open until close everyday. We maintained our energy with only peanut butter sandwiches, granola bars, and Tang stuffed in our backpacks and pockets. And it was absolute, complete heaven. To this day, those seven days in Disneyland are some of my very happiest and most vivid from my childhood.

These gorgeous sketches of Tomorrowland from a1955 pencil layout for a newspaper capture that magic and childlike optimism that I think we all crave, and find in tiny pieces in places like Disneyland. This particular text in the sketch stuck out to me: 1955 becomes 1986 as you enter the new era — Tomorrowland where our hopes and dreams for the future become today’s realities. 

Let’s talk about Disneyland. What are your favorite memories? Or, have you never been? Any first-timers planning a trip this summer? I should note: I have friends who have a real distaste for theme parks. Perhaps you fall in that camp and Disneyland holds no appeal for you?

P.S. — Did you know Gabrielle was born in Southern California and is also a big Disneyland fan?

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Visit to Chartres03

Images and text by Gabrielle (and some images by Ben Blair, too).

We’re in our last 5 weeks of living here, and though we have no big trips on our schedule (until the big trip home), we’ve been considering a couple of Saturday day-trips to local destinations. No matter how much we’ve seen, it seems like there is always another intriguing place to explore! For example, we haven’t been to the white elephant rock of Etratat yet, and we’ve heard Bagnoles de l’Orne is definitely worth a visit.

Visit to Chartres16

Anyway, we started talking about our favorite spots that are within a couple of hours of our town, and it reminded me that I never shared our photos from our field trip to Chartres — the world-famous cathedral that’s about an hour away from Paris.

Visit to Chartres12 Visit to Chartres13

Visit to Chartres14

So I thought today would be a perfect day for a little report.

Click through for more photos and details about our visit.

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Street Food in India

June 7, 2013

Street Food in India

By Koseli. Photo found here.

Did you know India has one of the largest street food cultures in the world? Daniel Klein spent a day eating his way through India, north to south (but covering only as much as possible in one day), and composed a fascinating film of the experience. It captures the vibrant colors, ingredients, and techniques behind a multitude of Indian dishes, but maybe more interesting, the people and way of life behind the food.

How do you like to eat when you’re traveling? Do you embrace local cuisine however it’s prepared and served, or are you a little more wary? Do you eat street food?

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Rent The Life

June 5, 2013

By Gabrielle.

Have you ever dreamed of escaping your same old, same old and live like someone else for a while? (You’re not alone! I’ve been living in a farmhouse in France for the past three years!) Well, dreams come true. For a price.

If you could envision yourself as a lighthouse keeper eating all the lobsters in the Bay, the Rose Island Lighthouse might be for you. That would be one fantastic night light for your kids, right? Or if you want to completely unplug, try an Amish Immersion holiday. Craving a return to nature? A teepee and not much else in the way of conveniences — like bathrooms — is what you’ll find in New Hampshire. But for those of you who want a little more swagger in your summer, there’s this. Even P. Diddy would be jealous. (Is that what he’s called these days?)

Which one is tempting you?

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9/11 Memorial

By Koseli. Photos by Kari Christensen.

On Mother’s Day, my husband and I met up with two of my brothers and their families at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. It was a final family get-together before my brother Kristian and his family moved to Dallas, TX, for medical school. For the past 4 1/2 years, the three of us have lived in New York City together — braving cross-town moves, job changes, stolen vehicles, hot subway cars, and every crazy thing city life can throw at you. We’ve also shared exciting new career opportunities, innumerable picnics in Prospect Park, first-time parenthood, surviving that first-time parenthood in tiny one bedroom apartments, and most recently, Hurricane Sandy.

Waving goodbye to my brother as the train pulled away from the Atlantic Avenue station was one of those sweet but terribly sad moments you feel an era coming to a close. My brother worked and lived near Wall Street for years so visiting the memorial was a timely and special occasion for us all.

More about the memorial after the jump.

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Kayaking in the Fjords

May 15, 2013

kayaking in the fjords32

This post is brought to you by The New Santa Fe from Hyundai.
Text by Gabrielle. Images by Gabrielle and Ben Blair.

I’m still going through the bazillion photos from our trip to Norway, but I’m impatient to share one of the trip highlights: Kayaking in the Fjords. As you may remember, a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Jordan and Liz zip-lining through the Redwoods. Well, the whole family was really inspired by their adventure and we’ve been craving an epic family playdate for ourselves.

Since I knew we had a trip to Norway on the schedule, I started searching out activities that would be amazing and that the whole family could participate in — which is sometimes tricky when the youngest is 2 (actually 3! she had her birthday on this trip) and the oldest is 15. Kayaking was perfect!

kayaking in the fjords08 kayaking in the fjords_1 kayaking in the fjords_2

We weren’t sure when and where we would find kayaks during our stay, but in this case, flying by the seat of our pants worked out really well. On one night of our trip, we stayed in charming cabins that were right on a fjord in a tiny town called Aurland.

kayaking in the fjords12 kayaking in the fjords16 kayaking in the fjords02

We knew we needed to catch a ferry at 3:00 the next day, but the morning was free for exploring. And luckily, there were kayaks to rent just down the road (just look for the “padling” sign). Fantastic!

More photos and more report ahead.

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Home

May 13, 2013

Flam Train Stop, Norway

Image and text by Gabrielle.

We are on our way home today. Taxi to shuttle to airplane to car. It will be a long day, and it will feel so good to get home again!

Friends, have you ever felt like you’ve had your fill of travel? I confess, I’m ready to sit still for awhile and put the suitcases away. And I keep wondering how long the feeling will last. A year? Only a few weeks? Will I be feeling the wanderlust again by Friday? : )

This trip has been epic. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s the last big trip before we move back to the United States. And it definitely felt like a grand finale. I can’t wait to share a full report!

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A Few Things

May 10, 2013

Aurland, Norway

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How’s it going? We are still in jaw-dropping Norway. It is seriously stunning. We arrived in Bergen late last night, but it was so light, and we were so hungry, we took the whole family to dinner at around 10:00 PM. Hah! We are off our normal schedule for sure.

Hey. It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday. I hope you’re feeling okay about that. I know that for a lot of people, Mother’s Day is the most emotionally fraught holiday of the year. Maybe they feel they’re not a good mother. Or maybe they have a strained or chaotic relationship with their own mother. Or maybe their mother died and they’re heartbroken. Or maybe they long to be a mother themselves. It can be a rough day!

We go really light on Mother’s Day celebrations at our house — especially this particular weekend because we’re traveling — but if you’re in the mood for something festive, I can highly recommend this charming banner, these Big & Small projects, or this Momtract that made me laugh.

While we make site-seeing plans for the day, here are a few things I thought you might enjoy:

Someone to thank the next time Downton Abbey airs before you have a chance to watch it!

Cyber-parenting. (Do you friend your kids and your kids’ friends? Are you obsessive about monitoring their online behavior? So much to discuss here!)

Mesmerizing. And I want a yoghurt. (Tell me if you got a little misty, too! Or am I just travel-weepy?)

- Such a beautiful storyVia Dooce.

A lip-sync contest to make you smile and chair-dance at your computers!

- It’s true, isn’t it? Compliments from other women are the best.

- I know the April 15th deadline came and went, but our taxes were filed last weekend. Hooray! To celebrate, I invite everyone to watch this.

- Let’s get ready for picnic season!

What Ali Wore. The many dapper outfits of an older Brooklyn gentleman.

- An artist collects DNA from found objects (like chewed gum!) to create 3D Portraits.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and that you feel peace and joy on Mother’s Day whatever your circumstances. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — We’ve had 2 birthdays this week (Flora June and Betty) and have been celebrating on the go. We packed up balloons, birthday candles and some colorful papergoods so we could throw together an instant party — just add cake!

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Scandinavian Design

May 8, 2013

Telephone Booth in Oslo, Norway

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Just a quick hello from Norway! We spent yesterday in gorgeous, sunny Oslo, and today we’re on a train headed to Aurland, and eventually Bergen. You can bet I’ve already fallen in love with this beautiful country.

Wishing you a lovely Wednesday!

P.S. — Norwegian phone booths win.

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Norway

May 7, 2013

Fjordieth

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

We’re in Norway! The big Fjordieth trip is finally happening. We checked into our hotel late last night and I can hardly believe we’re here. Hooray for Ben Blair!

Ben Blair | Fjordieth

I love this photo of him donning his gloves that I snapped last winter. I think he’s definitely channeling some inner viking!

Rain is scheduled for much of our trip, but right this minute, we have a perfectly sunny day in Oslo, so we’re going to make the most of it. Feel free to join us on our adventure via Instagram.

P.S. — Something else I can’t believe: Flora June Blair is 3 years old today! Remember her birth? (Wasn’t it two seconds ago?) We woke up early and filled her bed with balloons, then served the traditional breakfast in bed. She was over the moon about it! Man oh man we love that little girl.

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Venice | Design Mom01

Text by Gabrielle. Photos by Gabrielle and Ben Blair.

[ UPDATED with a full report. ]

Here it is! A report on our trip to Venice. I’ve been promising this for months and now it’s ready to share.

Here’s the thing about Venice. It’s not like Rome. Or Florence. In Rome and Florence, there are specific things you want to see, and that you stand in line to buy tickets for — like the Colosseum, or the David. In Venice, the thing that you want to see? Is Venice. Yes, there are museums, and yes there are ruins, but if that’s what you’re looking for, pick another city. You can go island hopping, you can walk 30 minutes to visit a church, but the alley around the corner might be just as cool, or cooler.

Venice is the attraction in Venice.

Venice | Design Mom03 Venice | Design Mom66

You can’t take a bad photo. If you’re looking for photos opps, choose Venice. There is no bad light, there is no bad angle. It’s just photo after photo of heaven. And we tooks hundreds of photos, and I included way too many of them after the jump. (I need to beg your forgiveness in advance.)

Venice | Design Mom18

When you’re there, it almost feels pretend. As if it’s a stereotype of Venice. As if Disney had created Venice as an amusement park for grownups, and they had staged all the texture and exposed brick — no detail too small. I had to keep reminding myself that people really live there. There are grocery stores and schools. Venice is all about texture. It’s like a city in constant decay, but the decay is beautiful, it’s what draws us in.

Venice | Design Mom06

And if you visit over New Year’s, Venice is COLD. We bundled up like crazy. As long as it was dry, we spent the day outside and explored… But we did have one rainy day. On that day, we visited the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, then spent the rest of the day in our hotel room having a movie party — it was too cold and wet to be tourists.

As I’ve written before, traveling in the off season has worked great for us. No lines, no waiting at restaurants. But there are some disadvantages. An example in this case: the most recommended gelato shop was closed! You can even see a photo below of Maude trying the locked door. Sad face.

I’m going to write up a list of what we did, but really, just show up and walk around and take photos. Walk until you’re hungry. Then eat. Then repeat. That’s all it takes to have a grand time in Venice.

To see about one million photos of our trip, and find a list of what we did, click here.

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An Excitement Pack

May 3, 2013

Excitement Pack—to get your house guests excited before their trip

By Koseli.

I recently ran into the sweetest idea for upcoming house guests: an excitement pack by Giulia Duch. She lives in Barcelona and instead of just waiting for her friend from the U.S. to arrive, she collected photos, mementos, ticket stubs, and small treats that represented her favorite to-dos, and labeled the items with things like, “you’ll sleep here”, or “you’ll sunburn here”. Then she packed it all up in a simple packing envelope, and sent it away.

Can you imagine being the friend on the receiving end? Best surprise package ever! I can’t wait to borrow Giulia’s idea for the next time we have visitors to New York.

How do you capture the “looking forward” to a trip part? Any pre-trip traditions to help you savor the experience?

Excitement Pack—to get your house guests excited before their trip Excitement Pack—to get your house guests excited before their trip

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Honfleur & Deauville

May 2, 2013

Honfleur, France | Design Mom

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

This post is about Honfleur and Deauville. Two neighboring towns here in Normandy that we never tire of visiting. We’ve been to both many times, but the photos in this post are from a visit last May. Spring in Normandy is very wet, and often cold, so when the sun comes out, you can bet we take advantage of it.

Honfleur, France | Design Mom

These first images show Honfleur. It’s a small fishing port that is big on charm. And the light here is so remarkable that it won’t surprise you to hear this little town is considered the birthplace of impressionism. In fact, it’s not unusual at all to see painters with easels set up near the water, capturing the boats and flags and sails on their canvases.

Honfleur, France | Design Mom Honfleur and Deauville14

We’ve been told there are particular things to do in Honfleur — churches to visit and towers to climb — but we’ve never done any of them. Instead, we like to walk through the narrow side streets, window shopping, and stopping for ice cream. We might ride the port-side carousel or watch the boats come in. And then we’ll eat a late lunch or early dinner at one of the touristy restaurants that line the wharf — there are a dozen to pick from.

Keep reading — the umbrellas of Deauville are ahead!

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Château Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France | Design Mom

The Loire Valley is the region along the Loire River, a little south and west of Paris. It’s famed for its numerous castles that tower above the river. And lucky for us, driving to the region only takes about an hour and a half from our house.

Château Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France

So last year, on the last Sunday of May we hopped in the car after church and made a day trip of it. Our goal was to see two castles and to get a general sense for the region. We knew one day wasn’t really enough time, but figured a day trip would almost be like a scouting mission for a longer trip. The first castle we stopped at was Chateau Chenenceau.

Château Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France | Design Mom Château Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France | Design Mom

Some castles are more kid-friendly than others, and this one is probably the most family-friendly that we’ve visited — lots of options for roaming and free-ranging, and the weekend we were there, it wasn’t too busy at all.

Château Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France Château Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France Château Chenonceau, Loire Valley, France | Design Mom

There are gardens to explore, bridges and moats, a grand checker-board hall with views of the river, and on the way out we explored the garden maze and had a little picnic. Also. We took a TON of photos. So please forgive me if this feels like a photo dump. : ) Hopefully it will be helpful for anyone out there who’s considering a visit to the Loire.

Read more and see tons of photos from our daytrip — click here.

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Amsterdam | Design Mom07

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Two years ago we made our first trip to Amsterdam. On that trip, we saw the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, took a Canal tour, ate the best-rated Frites in town, rented bikes, spent a day in Vondelpark, visited the Floating Flower Market, did lots of window shopping in the Nine Streets district, ate amazing Indonesian food, and had an extended visit to HEMA. Plus visited the tulips, too — we caught the very tail end of the season. You can read about that trip here, here, here and here.

Amsterdam | Design Mom16 Amsterdam | Design Mom13

But this trip was totally different. With the exception of  a return visit to Vondelpark, it was all new! From this trip, there are 5 things I want to pass on for those of you planning your own visits to Amsterdam.

Keep reading! 5 tips plus tons of photos ahead.

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Travelogues

April 29, 2013

Ireland | Design Mom

Image and text by Gabrielle.

I’ve mentioned we have one more big trip on the schedule before we hold still for a minute — hold still to enjoy the rest of the days and weeks here in this fairytale French farmhouse.

I was going through photos the other day, and was reminded there are several adventures I haven’t written about yet. Like our New Year’s trip to Venice, or a whirlwind weekend from a year ago, where we took my niece to favorite spots all over Normandy.

So before we make that last big trip (we leave to Norway next Monday), I thought I’d share some of our yet-to-be-written-down travelogues this week. Four to be exact. Starting with a report on last week’s visit to Amsterdam that will be posted tomorrow.

I hope you enjoy them. And I hope they will get you psyched for your own travel plans. Which reminds me: What are your travel plans? Have you started thinking about summer vacation yet? Will you be visiting cousins? Camping? Flying somewhere exotic? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — I snapped the instagram at top in Ireland.

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A Few Things

April 26, 2013

Amsterdam in April

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I hope you’ve had a great week. We are home from Amsterdam now, but still in the middle of a long school break — what a treat it was to skip our usual school day morning routines and sleep in today! Amsterdam was as delightful as can be. It really is one of my very favorite cities and I like to imagine what it would be like to live there. (A little report about our trip is coming!)

We’ll be shooting more Olive Us footage this weekend, so I’m off to finish my wardrobe assignments, but in the meantime, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- A flat, mail-able pinata. Great for sending birthday wishes to someone far away!

- Is a good enough life good enough? Do you agree?

These rolling pins are cuter than my rolling pins.

- Remember this post‘s impassioned discussion? Maybe this has something to do with why some took issue.

- I love everything about this toddler’s room.

- I can always use tips on how to look better in photographs, especially from such a stylish woman. (And is your left side your best?)

- And here are easy tips to take better pictures of your kids.

- The Longest Wait — we were right there just one week ago! Thanks, Joe.

- Managing your energy.

- Who knew IKEA could be so romantic?

- Throwing a Spring party is still on my mind — here are pretty floral invitations I’ve been bookmarking.

- Quick! Before National Poetry Month is over, here’s an App to help you memorize your favorite poems.

Wringing out a wet cloth in space (skip to 2:00 min).

- April showers? Let’s stay in and make hand cookies.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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