Friday, June 29, 2012

The return

We're back in California enjoying visits with friends, blue skies and this view from the deck of the house we've rented for the month.

The house is at the top of a mountain half an hour from where we used to live and so very different from our own California home which we chose to rent out while we are living in France. We're getting used to it though and the neighbours are pretty cute!


In other news of reverse culture shock - Florence is endlessly fascinated by the ice that comes with your drink, I actually gasped the first time an elevator door opened to reveal so much space and I can understand all the radio commercials. Turns out I wasn't missing much with that one!

Have a good weekend wherever you are!

Friday, June 22, 2012

This Moment. Paris

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Joining in with Amanda and friends at SouleMama

Our first year in Paris is almost over.
Next week we return to California for our 'home' visit.
We are looking forward to seeing friends and sunshine.
It has been a year of ups and downs but this spectacle never fails to lift the spirits.
I bet you watch it more than once!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Goodies and giveaways

It's the first day of the big girls' school holidays, but Florence still has another week at Halte Garderie, so today we took advantage of the fact that we could whizz into the city without her to visit the Marais district of Paris. The girls wanted to pick up some souvenirs for their California friends and I wanted to pay a visit to Entrée des Fournisseurs.

Mercerie 2
This is a fabric and notions store to rival the famed Purl Soho with the advantage that it's practically on my doorstep! Tucked away in a courtyard off rue des Francs Bourgeois it is filled with ribbons and buttons and craft books galore and oozing vintage charm.

Mercerie 1
I didn't dare break the no photography rule so you'll have to take my word for it.

Mercerie 3
I did sneak a quick iphone pic through the door though. The clothes so charmingly displayed up there are the actual samples from my favourite Citronille pattern book, the one I used to make Florence's birthday outfit. Once again, I am star struck by fabric creations - hopeless case!

Mercerie 4
I was very restrained and only came out with three half yards of Liberty to add to my ever growing stash. There are more Paris cushions in the works, the first of which will go to my Blogiversary giveaway winner. I hadn't forgotten!

My human random name generator picked...

...Genie of Paris and Beyond. This is perfect because when we met in March, Genie kindly gave me a lovely necklace that she had made and I gave her a Super U shopping bag (albeit with a cool Paris design!). Congratulations, Genie! I'll be in touch to work on your design with you.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

La danseuse

Danse 4
Yesterday, India completed her last day of Elementary School and officially became a Middle Schooler. This milestone was rather overshadowed by the fact that she had to say goodbye to several good friends who are moving to other countries and today she had to take a ballet exam. Performing a dance solo in front of three French judges. In her Fifth Grade Memory Book, she wrote that her ambition is to be a professional ballerina and that a cool fact about her is that she has been dancing since she was two. Ballet is her passion and finding a way for her to continue with it when we moved to France was one of the biggest challenges we faced at the beginning of the year.

Danse 1
Many hours were spent trawling the internet looking for schools that offered enough of a challenge, didn't require us to drive through the Paris rush hour three times a week and ideally had an instructor who spoke a bit of English. I discovered that nearly all French towns run ballet classes, but when India tried out for the one near us it was clear that the training she had already received in the US meant that they would not be a good match for her. Eventually I stumbled upon a glowing review of a school that seemed to offer everything that we were looking for. La directrice of Ballets Artémis speaks perfect English and has enthusiastically welcomed India into her school which encourages excellence and promotes a passion for performing.

Danse 2
These photographs were taken during the performance of Mozart's Requiem back in March. A unique opportunity to dance with a live orchestra. Remember when India was rehearsing for that?

Danse 5
The standard of the senior ballerinas at this school is amazing and watching them dance (they also put on a stunning Casse Noisette (Nutcracker) at Christmas, in which India was a soldier) is a joy for the parents and an inspiration for the younger students.

The question of how to provide continuity for our children's extra-curricular interests when moving to France has been a concern for all the ex-pat parents we have met this year. It was certainly confusing for me, so I thought it might be helpful to outline what we discovered in our quest for after school activities in case someone desperately searching the internets stumbles across this post.

First and foremost, if you are looking for ballet classes in France, search for Danse Classique not Ballet. Despite the word ballet being of French origin and the dance form having been popularised by our former neighbour Louis XIV, ballet classes here are referred to as danse classique. Most French towns have cultural and leisure Associations which run all manner of after school classes. Sign ups happen in September, in our case on one crazy day where everyone in the town descended on the local gymnasium to sign up their kids for their chosen activity. Get there early or miss out. Once signed up you are committed for the year, but I found the fees to be very inexpensive compared to what we were paying in the United States. Once signed up and paid in full you will need to get a medical certificate from your French doctor to prove your child is fit to do the class and buy some extra-scolaire insurance. I found this last part to be very daunting until Keith's admin. assistant figured it out for us. We bought ours online and it was super easy.

Danse 3
And how did India's first ever ballet exam go? She overcame her extreme nerves to achieve the highest score in her section and move up to the next level. Maybe you'll see her at the Opéra one day...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Running away to the circus

Circus 1
Tomorrow is the last day of the school year for India, Georgia and Savannah. The last few weeks have been a whirl of end of term activities, the most of exciting of which have been the extended field trips.

Georgia and Savannah spent a week with their class staying in this former château in Chaudon, an hour west of Paris, learning all the tricks of the circus.

Circus 7
This was the longest time either of them had ever spent away from home and we missed them. With just two kids at home, the house was disconcertingly quiet so I was glad when Friday came around and we could pack a picnic and set off towards the big top to see the end of week show.

Circus 2
The show did not disappoint. We had received letters from the girls during the week telling us which circus acts they had been rehearsing, but it was a surprise when Georgia appeared in the ring with a microphone to tell the first clown joke. Her school reports always say that she needs to be more outspoken and confident so this was testament to what a benefit this trip was for her.

Circus 5
Savannah specialized in juggling and hula hooping.

Circus 4
Circus 3
And they were both stars on the big red ball.

Circus 8
Sisters happily reunited.

Circus 10
After a class picnic in the château grounds, we went for a little walk around the village. Just an hour's drive away from home, we were deep in the countryside and the architecture was completely different.

Circus 11

Circus 12
The best poppies we've seen this poppy season.

Circus 6
When we first told the girls we would be moving to France, the piece of information that most brightened their spirits was that they would get to go on this trip at the end of the year. It has been tough for them to change schools and make new friends and there have been many difficult and lonely days in the course of this year. They came back from this trip filled with joy, having loved every minute of it and with their friendships with classmates cemented. It created such a positive end to the year and will help them enter the new school year with a lot more confidence.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Burning the candle at both ends

Memory Book
It's been quiet around the blog this last week, but not at home. I have been busy on another creative endeavour designing and compiling a yearbook for India's fifth grade who will 'graduate' to Middle School at the end of this week! Not since I was in college have I had to work so hard to meet a deadline. I have seen the wrong side of midnight more often that I care to count, Florence has learnt a lot about independent play and that laundry, it's another unwashed mountain!

I could have probably completed the task in a more relaxed manner if it wasn't for the fact that, just like at university, I have been putting off work to go out. The round of farewell to ex-pats events continues with a big one on everyone's bucket list having been crossed off on Saturday. High Tea at the Ritz Paris with nine of my favourite ladies. This was a huge treat for all of us, inspired once again by the lovely Véronique and her post about the world famous hotel in which she mentioned that it would be closing for renovations this summer for two whole years! This was the last chance for all of us, moving or not! Somehow, despite husbands away on business trips, imminent arrival of moving crews and end of year dance recitals everyone managed to get away for the afternoon and a fabulous time was had by all. The setting was gorgeous, the food was delicious and all was going well until one of our party spotted a mouse running along the skirting board! Never mind, we kept calm, drank our consolation bottle of champagne, and carried on! Another special Paris memory and hopefully les souris will find a new home during the renovations!

P.S. Don't forget there's still time to enter my Blogiversary Giveaway. You have until the end of the week.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bon Blogiversaire!


It's one year ago today since I started this blog. I'd been following craft and mothering blogs for a few years before and always fancied having a go at writing one myself. Then just as I was about to pack up our home and move the family to another country I finally decided that was the time to take the plunge! I set up a Blogger account, got my first choice of blog name (which I took as a good sign), wrote a post and nervously hit the publish button for the first time.

Over seventy posts later and countless imaginary posts that will never make it out of my head onto the screen (so much material, so little time!) I feel it has been one of the best spur of the moment decisions I ever made. First and foremost we now have a journal of our time here to share with friends and family which I know I would have never kept up without the perceived pressure of all of you out there anxiously awaiting another update! My photography has improved and most surprising to me, I have relished the challenge of writing. It's like my own personal homeschool!

The greatest benefit to me, however has been my unforseen entry into the community of ex-pat bloggers. Just like our real life community of ex-pat friends who I hadn't met this time last year, but who now mean so much to me, I also had no idea there was this blogging sub-genre until I started writing about living and travelling abroad. This community has not only brought wonderful blog friendships, but reading the comments left on so many of the Paris and Life in France blogs from readers who can only dream of visiting this country has really made me appreciate how lucky we are to live here. It's hard to take your children away from the only country, school and friends they have ever known and it's hard to set up life in bureaucratic, don't do it today if you can do it tomorrow France, but it's also amazing to have some of the most famous sights in the world on your doorstep, baguettes on tap from the local bakery, and your children in a class where fifteen nationalities are included and accepted.

I don't have a huge audience, and a tiny band of very loyal followers, but that rather reflects my life and I quite like it that way. I blog for our family and if anyone else stops by to read that's a much appreciated bonus.

Anyway, this is all a long winded way of getting round to announcing my first ever giveaway! A small thank you to everyone who comes here to read. I am offering one of my Liberty Paris Pillows to one lucky reader, just like the one above which I made last week for Georgia & Savannah's Girl Scout Leader who is moving back to the States at the end of term. If you would like to win one of these, simply leave a comment on this post telling me which of my posts made you come back for a second look. If you've never left a comment before, don't be shy, it's easy, just be sure your account is set up to show your email so I can let you know if you won! I'll announce the winner at the end of next week which will also be the end of the girls' first school year here - how time flies!

Bonne chance!

Sunday, June 3, 2012


We took a cruise on the Seine last night, partying again with all those American friends who are about to leave Paris.

It was such a fun night that we needed a quiet day in front of the TV today! Perfect for taking in some more river action - the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames. Sadly the Queen wasn't as lucky with the weather as we were, but it was still an amazing event. My favourite part - church bells being rung from a barge sailing down the river!

House Hoop
It was also Fête des Mères (Mother's Day) in France today. We are totally confused as to when to celebrate Mother's Day as British Mothering Sunday is on the fourth Sunday in Lent, America (and most of the rest of the world) celebrate on the second Sunday in May and France marks the day on the last Sunday in May - except when Pentecost falls on that day which it did this year, then it's moved to the first Sunday in June. Phew! Suffice to say we kind of missed them all but this lovely felt hoop was a sort of present to myself made by the talented Melissa Crowe one of my favourite Etsy sellers. It arrived all the way from Portland, Maine this week and I love it!

So this weekend, I was proud to be British, honoured to be adopted by America and loving living in France!

If this was your special day, I hope it was a good one!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

This Moment. Partager

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Joining in with Amanda and friends at SouleMama

At 6 o'clock last night the grey skies cleared and the sun shone down on us
as we set out on our way to a picnic that lasted until midnight.
A wonderful evening shared with so many friends for life
who we hadn't even met this time last year.
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