Design Mom » Search Results » fjordieth The Intersection of Design & Motherhood Thu, 28 Aug 2014 22:09:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The 5th (and Last) Six Months in France Thu, 15 Aug 2013 14:30:37 +0000 Design Mom

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 |

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.


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 3rd Six Months in France Wed, 24 Jul 2013 16:00:24 +0000 Design Mom


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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Flying Houses Tue, 14 May 2013 13:00:16 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Flying Houses by Laurent Chehere.

Here. A few photos to kick your imagination into overdrive just in case your week already needs a little lift.

Wouldn’t it be fun to travel by house? Think of the time you’d save on packing! Ha. (Oh, dear. I think the Fjordieth festivities and travel fatigue are getting to me!)

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Favorite Pinners: Cecilie Ellefsen Tue, 07 May 2013 15:00:57 +0000 Design Mom

Cecilie Ellefsen

By Koseli.

A few weeks ago I introduced a new series to spotlight favorite pinners and find out what inspires them most. Here’s the second post in the series — nicely coinciding with Gabrielle trip to Norway. Enjoy!

We’re so excited to feature fabulous pinner, Cecilie Ellefsen. She’s a Norwegian illustrator living and working in Oslo. Here‘s what she has to say about her colorful and whimsical aesthetic:

Growing up in a rural part of Norway, nature and animals have always inspired me. The feeling of finding that secret childhood forest with enchanted critters, hollow trees, traps and hideaways fascinates and inspire me. I love to draw and always bring my sketchbook with me. When I`m not drawing, I like to eat good food, watch strange animated films and visit fleamarkets to find treasures for my ever growing collections.”

We asked her to pick a couple of her favorite recent pins and share just why she loves them.

Miniature Matches
Kokeshi matches. Who can resist tiny things with faces on them, right?

 Tilly and Gul

Sircus elefant scene by Fideli Sundqvist. LOVE her work!!

Beautiful. You know I can’t resist tiny things AND objects with faces! Thank you, Cecilie. If you’d like to follow Cecilie’s whimsical boards, you can find them here.

Do you have favorites on Pinterest? We’d love to hear.

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Norway Tue, 07 May 2013 14:00:25 +0000 Design Mom


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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A Few Things Fri, 03 May 2013 17:00:41 +0000 Design Mom

Mustard Field in Normandy

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. I hope you’ve had a wonderful week. Are any of you at Mom 2.0 this weekend? I’m cheering on the conference from my laptop. I was supposed to speak on a panel, but had to cancel when I had flight problems. Total bummer because it’s truly one of the very best conferences out there. But you know I can’t feel sorry for myself when we have such an exciting trip coming up. That’s right, the Fjordieth is happening on Monday!

While we get packed up, and work on a Norway itinerary (suggestions eagerly welcomed!), here are a few things that might be of interest:

Spine Poems — are they the new magnetic poetry?

- My son Ralph has been making awesome 30-second videos. This one is my current favorite. You can see the rest on his YouTube channel.

Vermeer-esque photos of kids. Thanks, Chara.

- Each charm raises funds for a different non-profit group — you can literally wear what you believe in.

- Remember Richard Prince? He’s in the news again.

- On my Cafémom column: 6 Ways to Cut the Clutter and Hollywood Glam Nursery.

- An interactive novel for kids aged 9 and up. It’s made for the iPad. The trailer looks interesting to me, like a predictor of what’s to come.

- When is a blogger not a blogger?

- Totally funny. (And totally feel good.) Thanks, Heidi.

- Cinco de Mayo is on Sunday! Here are 18 ideas to help you celebrate.

- Today I seem to be pinning lots of flowers. What are you pinning these days?

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


P.S. — That field at top? It’s next door to our house. Amazing!

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Happy Birthday Ben Blair! Thu, 07 Mar 2013 16:30:34 +0000 Design Mom

Text and photo by Gabrielle.

Today is Ben Blair’s 40th Birthday. Forty years. Forty great years!

So we have big plans. The kids are still on school vacation, and this is how we’re celebrating. First, we used a roll of paper to make a scroll listing 40 of the fantastic things Ben has done in his life — memorable things like walking the Brooklyn Bridge, and life-changing things like raising six kids  — and then hung the scroll from the ceiling over our bed so he would see it as soon as he woke. The list was so long that it tumbled down, rolled off the bed and pooled on the floor! When he woke up, we brought him breakfast in bed and took turns reading from the list — and even adding more items at the bottom.

This afternoon, we’ll have sandwiches and tartes from two of his favorite bakeries. And this evening we have a dinner date planned in Caen.

But the real celebration is happening in May: Ben Blairs Fjordieth in Norway! We bought tickets for the whole family and we can’t wait!! The fjords have been on Ben’s travel wishlist since I met him and I’m so glad we’re finally making it happen.

Originally, we loved the idea of turning the trip into an extended family & friends event, but ended up feeling bad about asking people to spend money on plane tickets. For us, it’s a bargain — we bought 8 plane tickets for about $850 (can you believe that?). But a ticket from the U.S. is pricey.

The big surprise for today: We invited friends and family to send video birthday messages for Ben, and Ralph edited them all together to make one big movie. It’s about 45 minutes long and it’s fantastic! It has me laughing and crying from one minute to the next. Instead of gifts, we’ll surprise Ben with the video this afternoon when we light the candles and sing happy birthday. The video is sure to be a treasure for Ben, and it’s a treasure for me as well. I love seeing how much people appreciate and respect this good man I’m married to.

As for me, I didn’t make a video for Ben, but I do want to write a little tribute here.

1) He takes his role and husband and father very seriously. His relationships with me and the kids are his first priority.

2) He cares what the house is like, what’s on the walls, what sorts of books are on the coffee table.

3) He doesn’t have a design background, but that doesn’t mean he just humors me when I ask him an opinion on paint color. He’ll talk through the goals of the space with me and give me an honest assessment.

4) If you read an especially calm, reasoned, and kind response from me, to a rude or irrational comment on this blog, Ben Blair may have written it.

5) Speaking of which, he kindly edits my posts whenever I ask him to. Which is often.

6) Ben Blair is incredibly funny. It’s typically the first thing friends mention about him. The very last moment of my day, as I’m falling asleep, is usually me laughing at something he said.

7) He understands that what he does now will affect our childrens’ happiness as adults. He’ll sit and patiently practice music with the kids because he knows that one day, when they’re grown up, they’ll love hanging out and playing music… or maybe want to start a band when they’re in high school.

8) Ben is modest. It’s almost painful to him to talk about his accomplishments.

9) An example of this: We got married while we were in college and I didn’t know he was on the Dean’s list until after we were married.

10) Ben is accomplished. Did you know he has a PhD from Columbia? That is not an easy thing to earn.

11) He’s an excellent cook. The two most requested meals at are house are The Greek Meal and The Chicken+Mushroom Sauce Meal — both Ben Blair creations.

12) He’s also an excellent driver. I can always relax when he’s driving because he’s so good at it. He just handles a car really well. Even when we drive in the UK and he has to drive on the left side of the road! He does the driving on all of our roadtrips.

13) He sincerely rejoices in others’ successes. I remember a day in our early marriage when one of his friends received good news about getting into his first choice medical school. Ben heard the news and spent the rest of the day on cloud nine.

14) He has a generous spirit. The kids will request movie night refreshments, and my instinct is to buy the bare minimum, but if Ben does the shopping he’ll bring home 3 times as much as requested (which also prevents any kind of hoarding or bickering over portions from the kids). There’s always more than enough if Ben’s around. Life feels generous when he’s in charge.

15) He acts like I’m attractive. Even when I’m not.

16) He wrote this. (Wouldn’t it be great if he started updating again?)

17) He’s fearless. We wouldn’t be here in France if it wasn’t for his fearlessness and sense of adventure. We wouldn’t have moved to Greece when we were newly weds either. Those ideas would have been appealing to me, but I would have been too scared to actually make them happen. Living abroad is challenging, and I couldn’t do it without him.

18) He takes chances on me. He believes in me. When I would invest time and energy into this blog, before it became my job, he never questioned it.

19) He’s comfortable in his own skin. He doesn’t pretend to be what he’s not.

20) He’s a good tennis player. And a good athlete in general. In high school, the top coach called him the best overall athlete in the school. (And because of his modesty, I didn’t learn that little tidbit till we’d been married for years. One of his friends told me.)

21) Ben is beloved by his friends. If something good happens to them, they know he will be happy. If they’ve run into trouble, they know Ben won’t judge and will want to help.

22) Ben had bright red hair when we married, but it has faded over the years. Now that he’s grown his beard out (it’s been a year and a half now), it’s been fun to have a ginger around again!

23) I share them on Design Mom, but the Olive Us movies are really Ben’s domain, Ben’s responsibility, and Ben’s creation. He works super hard on them.

24) He takes the kids swimming. I dread trips to the pool, but the kids love going so much! So he makes sure it happens. He taught the oldest 5 to swim and he’s teaching June now.

25) He actively seeks to learn new things. He’s currently reading photography books so he can master our camera.

26) When I met him, he was the President of the Bean Society. It was an unofficial club at our university where students had a monthly meeting to honor beans (and legumes of all sorts). They would sing songs about beans. Write poetry about beans. Invite professors to speak at the meetings on Beans & Philosophy, or Beans & Literature. There was a Bean Society Newsletter.

27) Ben works hard to help our kids develop their talents. Ralph has been working on a Zombie Movie (here’s part one), and Ben will help him carry props to the location, assist with camera work, and be helpful in any way he can. Note: It’s not a school assignment, it’s just something Ralph is excited about. So Ben puts in the time and helps him make it happen.

28) He forgives me daily.

29) He befriends my friends, so that when the phone rings and it’s Laura Mayes or Laurie Smithwick, he’s as delighted to talk with them as I am.

30) He picks up new languages like it’s no big deal.

31) Sometimes, when we’re hanging out as a family, Ben will say: Okay. Pushups everyone. And all the kids (plus Ben) will do pushups.

32) From very early on in our marriage he’s actively worked to make this a balanced partnership. We’ve had turns trying out traditional roles, but mostly our marriage has been an effort to reach our goals and get the work done — regardless of who does the work. He embraces the role of parent and housekeeper as needed. He embraces the role of breadwinner as needed. I know our arrangement wouldn’t work out for every couple, but it’s been great for us.

33) Related, Ben is a vocal feminist. He’ll identify cultural problems and help me put words to maddening situations when I’m too frustrated to think rationally. He’ll talk about these issues with our kids over the dinner table. I’m so grateful he takes issues I care about seriously.

34) He dreams big. He’s already thinking about our next adventure. Should we build a house? Move to a developing country so our kids get a more well-rounded view of the world? And he loves thinking up big ideas. We have lists and lists of businesses he would like to start or products he would like to create.

35) Speaking of which, some of his ideas have grown and thrived, but others haven’t. He doesn’t dwell on the failure. He just keeps moving forward. Keeps working hard.

36) He loves futuristic technology. He love robots. He’s completely fascinated by The Singularity.

37) His favorite TV shows are Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, Rick Steve’s Europe, and Breaking Bad.

38) One time, Ben and 8-year-old Ralph were driving to a cub scouts meeting. Ralph asked him what the word was in A Christmas Story. The word when the boy drops the bolts during the tire change and says, “But I didn’t say fudge.” Ben answered quickly and frankly that the word was fuck. That it was a word we didn’t use, but that Ralph didn’t need to be worried about it.

He just handled it so well. No stress. No getting mad at Ralph for asking. He took all the fear and power of that word away in an instant. (Kind of like saying Voldemort.)

39) Which reminds me, our kids are comfortable asking Ben anything. Or bringing problems to him. They know he won’t get riled up, he won’t get angry. He always starts by assuming the best of them.

40) Concerned that our family prayers were turning into rote statements, Ben drafted a sort of outline of the things he hoped our family would focus on in prayer. Things like:

Let us not forget, or lose sight of how strange and beautiful is life, how much we love each other, and that a part of us will die when any of us dies. Having each other gives us an anchor in this world.”

“Help us to be creative, to seek great things, to build, to dream, to film, to write, and to finish. To give what’s demanded by the project we are working on.”

Help us to have reverence for life, for each other, for other views and perspectives.”

Help us to be good. Help us to help those who are suffering, to comfort those who stand in need of comfort. And to celebrate the victories of others.”

Every so often, before family prayer, we’ll review Ben’s outline and refocus our efforts. It’s an evolving outline and the whole family contributes to it and adds their thoughts. We don’t quote from the outline, but let it inspire our thoughts as we pray.


What a great person. I love him dearly and know I hit the jackpot when I married him.

Happy 40th Ben Blair!

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Fjordieth! Thu, 19 Apr 2012 11:29:59 +0000 Design Mom

Friends! I’m so excited to tell you about this. Every time I think about it, I get all giggly. Next March, Ben Blair will turn 40 years old. The big Four Oh! Obviously, we want to do something awesome to celebrate such a landmark birthday, and we’ve come up with the perfect thing: a trip to Norway to see the Fjords! That’s right. We’re going to celebrate Ben Blair’s Fjordieth Birthday!!!

Ben has talked about visiting the fjords since I’ve known him. And somehow, we haven’t made it happen yet. But I think we’ve finally found the perfect excuse. Of course, as soon as we thought of the idea, the first thing we did was have a logo drawn up. (Hah! Can you guess my graphic design background?) There’s nothing like a logo and a public announcement to make me commit to a project. I hired Clayton Thompson. I knew I wanted hand-lettering, and I knew he would do an amazing job. And he did! Don’t you love the logo?

But here’s the thing, outside of the logo, we don’t really have a plan yet. And I’d love your advice. Should it be a romantic getaway? Should we invite everyone Ben Blair knows and loves — and see if they’re up for a big trip? And if yes, how might that work? Should we bring the kids? What would make it a really amazing celebration?

And what do you do at the Fjords? Hiking? Boating? I really have no idea. Have you been? Can we go in March for his actual birthday? Or do we need to postpone the trip till a warmer month?

I hope you’ll brainstorm with me! I’m so excited to get the plans going, and I’ll be sure to share updates as I go. Hooray for Fjordieth Birthdays!

P.S. — Don’t laugh, but I started planning this the day after Ben Blair turned 39. : )

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