29 June 2015

Home: As I Come and Go + A Giveaway!

It's fun to go new places, isn't it? I kind of have a thing for it.

But with recent visits from loved ones, our next move just around the bend ... and our return home to the States sometime after that ... well, it has me thinking about home again. 

It's been such a joy having these adventures and fascinating to live in different locations. But it isn't quite the same as having your own curated items and furniture and bath towels all around you. It has it's advantages (fewer things to worry over and take care of!), but sometimes I miss the fussing about that comes in your own space.

So. I've been Pinteresting. Are you into this? I get it if you are not ... but I'm kind of in love with it. Clipping and saving images and ideas ... you essentially create your own virtual space. (Like when we all used to cut out photos out of magazines ... but without any of the scissors, glue-sticks or three-ringbinders, hallelujah). And since when we move back we won't even have a house to move back too ... ideas are what I've got to work with!

And plus. It's led me to re-discover Minted. I already knew they made incredible invitations and announcements. (Minted's wedding options are particularly charming.) But they've gone beyond that and and have created a venue for independent artists and offer art pieces just perfect for the home.
Just look at these! Foil stamped maps! I am enraptured and think they would go perfectly with just about any other home item I have shoved into our Stateside storage unit. I love maps ... they help take you where you want to go. 

This one above shows the streets of Paris. I see where my favorite hotel is and the Jardins de Luxembourg!

And the motherland! Ah, sweet U.S. of A. It took me leaving your shores to realize that I really am a proud American. So much I took for granted or never even knew to appreciate. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, perhaps? 
And our adopted country of France. France, you are a crazy, beautiful, beast of a lady, but I love you too.
So, which one would I pick? What represents home to me? Hmmm ... that's up in the air.

Because truly ... no matter where you go, which houses and apartments you visit or live in ... home is where your family tromps about and gives you a smile and a wave. It's the best place to start.

Thanks for letting me share this post I happily partnered in with Minted. And lookie ... a $50 giveaway credit! Leave a nice comment below and a winner will be chosen at random on Thursday, July 2!  CLOSED: Random winner chosen. Comments turned off. Liene, you've got mail!

**Giveaway Includes Free Shipping ... and that means US and international readers! 

27 June 2015

Visa Renewals and Going Batty

I took this photo of my file-folder awhile back ... because I'm just so darn proud of it.

We are in the middle of a visa renewal right now that included a trip to the regional prefecture, armed with new documentation and ... the trusty file-folder above. Originals and copies of just about every important piece of data ... we treat it with such tender-loving care, we call it our fourth child.

Living in France requires an initial visa process that is so brutal, I'm convinced it's meant to weed out the people who don't want it enough. Before they will even begin consider your general worthiness, you have to jump through so many hoops, fill out so many papers, go to so many appointments, wait in so many lines, and pay so many fees ... a good measure of people bail before they've begun. I totally understand why they might.

And even once you get here, the saga continues.

It appears the children's renewed documentation is ready for pick up. Yea. Ours, however, is supposed to be ready on the 13th of August. We move south on the 12th. After several stilted conversations later, we seem to be permitted to come in on the 11th. And this will be good ... as long as we actually get our carte des sejours at this time. We've heard stories of getting a temporary piece of paper instead and still having to wait for the real deal. And without the real deal ... we can't leave the country -which we have plans to- and we have to come back to pick up the les cartes when they are ready ... except that we will have relocated 8 hours away.

This stuff makes me so batty. But I am trying to remind myself ... one more opportunity to see God's hand of provision at work.

Know the feeling?

25 June 2015

To Listen Earnestly

Jane overlooking Portofino, Italy 2015

23 June 2015

In the Neighborhood: Tour de France!

Now look at this sign that was just posted near our little village. I was driving the kids to school and when I saw this sign, my mouth fell agape.

Tour de France is swinging through the neighborhood!

Are you a Tour de France follower? It's serious business for some people. What do we need to know, look for? We are newbies!

22 June 2015

In the Neighborhood ... Chateâu De Sassy

 This past weekend we had some dear friends visiting and we took part of our Father's Day afternoon to drive to one of our favorite places, just about 15 minutes away ...

... the view from Chateâu de Sassy.

The house and grounds are privately owned, and I believe, still inhabited. Tours of the interior are available.

 But we just love the exterior. The utterly breathtaking gardens are free to enjoy (as far as I know!!) and whenever we have come ... we have been the only visitors, leaving us to feel like Lords and Ladies of the manor.

I think we've been four times and I'd like to come back a couple more times before our move. Maybe even bring a board game and a picnic lunch?  Everything here is all that you could possible dream French countryside to be.
 You can almost imagine pulling in your carriage to the back stables and running inside, as if you owned the place.
And that view. That view. To behold a sight that would have looked exactly the same to any other visitor two or even three hundred years ago. Our friends said they enjoyed it even more than Versailles. It's just so peaceful, approachable and inspiring.

Do you prefer countryside or city views? Does this country estate surprise you at all?

19 June 2015

Shopping at a Vide Grenier

As I mentioned before, I try not to do too much shopping ...

Keeping an eye on the funds, and such. And of course, this is not to mention that anything purchased must find a way to get back to the States. But I tell you, sometimes it is just too hard to resist.

Brocante stores are my most favorite. They are like un-fancy antique stores. Curated, older stuff but not the expensive frou-frou business. The other fun option is a Vide Grenier, which literally translates to "Empty Attic." It's very much like our garage sales, but done as a community in a village where many people bring their wares. A lot of it is junk. A lot. But if you are lucky ...
... you'll find some real gems. The above are my purchases from this weekend's Vide Grenier visit. It was a good one. Everything pictured came in at 20 euros which is less than $25. And that print is a numbered engraving of Normandy. So fun.
Much like a community garage/yard sale in the States, you wander about and scan for items that catch your eye. In general, you usually make eye-contact with the seller and do a head-bob or "bonjour," out of respect. If you want to touch something, a quick inquiring glance and a smile will give you permission to do so. It's subtle, but again, a respect thing. Diving in and manhandling all their stuff isn't much appreciated.
I saw lots of these milk containers. It's cow country! I kind of wanted one but didn't think it would tuck easily into a carry-on. Heh, heh.

I also saw wooden butter churns and lots of brass and copper. See the little pot at the bottom of the photo? Love.

Oh! And I saw a cow that got loose from a field and was casually strolling one of the roads, like he had some shopping to do, until he veered off and went into someone's backyard. I can't tell you how much I wish I had a photo of it, but I was transfixed by the whole situation.

I don't think there is a lot of haggling going on. Maybe a smidge, but not too much. I always worry about insulting the seller, especially if it's not that much money to begin with. Somehow haggling over a 4 euro item seems weird. I remind myself that even if they might knock 50 centimes or a euro off ... it's not that much money and chances are they could probably use it. 

You may recognize the top paddle from the first photo. It came home with me. (Fun to serve cheese on, I think!) I thought it was some kind of butter paddle, but the older man explained that you would kneel in that wooden box, lean over, and work large amounts of bread dough with the paddle, kneading it up up against the exterior side of the box that you are leaning over. Fascinating.

I joked, asking if it was ever used "pour les enfants" and make a smacking motion, to which I was rewarded with an uproarious laugh and response: "Mais, non! Pour votre mari!" ... But no! For your husband! 

It was all very funny.

I find it so enjoyable to wander through these village events. The pace is slow and friendly and I always love a treasure hunt. 

And when you are done, you just meander back through the streets and find your car parked right where you left it ... on the side of the road in front of a little French cottage.

** PS - I am most excited about the little white and blue box in the top photo. I was surprised that no one in my family knew what it was right away. Any guesses??

18 June 2015

Baby Chicks Through the Window

Through the upstairs window we get to see a happy sight of farm life. Sometimes the neighbor's cows graze in this field but today ... baby chicks!

Tonight the girls and I will go over to see them and buy some eggs. If I'm honest, this is my kind of farming. The best part of farm life without any of the work! I'm lazy like that ...

17 June 2015

Wisteria at La Cressonnière

It's been a month now since these photos were taken, but the wisteria (la glycine) at La Cressonnière was absolutely magnificent.

Jane, my little gardener, was so inspired she set to work on a potted garden.

She found the metal stand and all the pots out in the barn and managed to haul them all out herself (!?!) ...

16 June 2015

Copper Pots and Monet's Kitchen

Pots from Monet's kitchen when we visited Les Jardins. My little baker was enraptured.

15 June 2015

Springtime Closet-Cleanout

I've been trying to "lay low" this week after an appointment with the osteopath. I am not supposed to do anything (my doctor told me, in English, "Just be cool. Be cool."), but doing nothing is only fun when you are already doing too many things. I don't like actually doing nothing. So ... I decided to do some light spring cleaning in the wardrobe department. I love to clean out my closet. Seriously. I love it.

The hallway pictured above holds our shared closet to the left. Isn't it pretty?

When we moved here, we came with just what we could bring on the plane, with the exception of Pops' computer equipment and some books, which we shipped. The bulk of what we brought with us was clothing, but even in that we had to be choosy. 

I am asked frequently about what we chose to take and how we fit it all on the plane. We did put some clothes into storage (only adult clothing, no point with growing children!), but I keep a fairly pared down wardrobe as it is, so it actually wasn't that difficult deciding what to take.

I really enjoy dressing and I enjoy nice items, but I also don't mind waiting until I find just the right thing. When it comes to shopping and clothing, I'd rather own less, have it be decent quality, and really love and wear it. I also love a good discount store and shopping the clearance racks. If you are patient and don't mind the hunt, you can find some beautiful things for normal-people prices. Love that when it happens!

The above photo is everything that I have that goes on a hanger. On the left side next to a few of Pops' sport coats, I have two lightweight coats of mine, skirts and dresses. On the right are tanks, blouses, blazers and some cardigans ...

12 June 2015

Jane Goes to French School

Want to see inside a French primary-school classroom?? I know I sure did ...

 French school is very much what I would imagine school to be a couple generations ago in the States. This is not a criticism, not at all. Just an observation. Teachers know best and parents kind of stay out of the way and don't seem to stress it too much. I've only been inside the classroom a handful of times, which is very strange for this former-teacher, avid parent-volunteer.

There is no school email (never received one single email!!), no phones in the classroom, and there isn't a school secretary or office for the primary level. The teachers just seem to take care of it all. If you have a question, you write a note in your child's carnet (a planner book that goes back and forth). If they need to tell you something, they write a note in the carnet or just flag you down during pick-up time. Field-trip? Might be in the carnet or might just be word-of-mouth ...

10 June 2015

Our Next Adventure: Provence

Here it is, friends, here it is. In two months we say goodbye to Normandy and hello to a new adventure. Next stop? A little Provençal village called Uzès in an apartment located next to a Pizzeria. A Pizzeria! There is a car park close by where we will stash our car, only to be used for specific trips. We will be able to walk everywhere ... school, the market, church, cafés, shops ... and I am thrilled about this. I've always needed a car to do life and I can't wait for this completely new experience.

I do confess, I am already dreading the impending packing and figuring process that will get us there, but it will happen. Miraculously, it always does.

I took a scouting trip back in March to visit schools, sign lease agreements, and get a "feel" for everything. It felt good. And God has been so amazing in the process. Including giving us an email-to-real-life relationship with a precious, gracious, wonderful, retired Christian couple in the area who offered themselves as friends, translators, and even hosts while I visited.

That's it's own story. Truly.

Jane's school is about a 3 minute walk from the apartment. Love. It had a very warm atmosphere and it's proximity to our home is a direct answer to prayer. I feel very hopeful.

 And look at these little winding pedestrian roads to get there. I was charmed.

 And of course, right next to the school is a Duchy. Naturally. (Picks jaw off of the cobblestones.)

Peter and Lucette's school is a bit farther, but a completely doable bike-ride. I'd say 15-20 minutes walking, 5-7 minutes on bike. We'll have to figure out some bikes. But either way, it is still close enough for a quick trip home for lunch. (It's France. We have 2 hours for lunch.) I'm really happy about this.

I'm also happy about the fact that even though the older two are at a separate building/school from Jane, both schools are much smaller than what we've done this year. That approachability is greatly desired. Yet another thing on our prayer list.

Uzès is also known to have a killer outdoor market, twice a week, all year-round.

And it takes about 4 minutes to walk there from the apartment. I'm a little out of my mind about this.

And even though this photo is from pre-spring March, you can see how gorgeous the surrounding countryside is. Village life with the country at the back door. It kind of sounds too good to be true.

I'm really excited to share about this, especially because I've been feeling rather down and homesick lately. Also, still trudging through some diagnostics with my headache/health situation. It's easy to feel like I'm "ready to be done" ... even though I'm really not. Just going through these photos is a reminder of all of God's provisions and to just enjoy the ride.

Like all life-seasons, it'll be over before I know it and I'll be remembering nostalgically about these very days I'm in. Good things can be tough and tough things can be good.

In the meantime, there is life to be lived and enjoyed and entrusted unto Him. Okay then. Off we go...

07 June 2015

Sunday and a Rose Petal Skirt

After saying goodbye to Pops' mama this week (Oh, we've been blessed with the visits from loved ones!), we couldn't help but feel a bit down. But the sun has shown up these past days and is warming us from the outside-in. The girls spent part of today outside in the gardens and enjoying the flowers in bloom. They also discovered they could sew a skirt for Flocon out of rose petals. Oh, the rhapsodic joys of spring!

Incidentally, Miss Flocon de Neige (french for snowflake) is quite happy here in France, as it is her homeland. Jane purchased her when we were in Uzès three years ago. And additionally ... Uzès is where we will be moving in two months.

We have treasured our time here in Normandy and living in La Cressonnière, and have made friendships that make moving on very, very challenging. But we are also excited about this next chapter. More details to come ...