Armchair Travel

Armchair Travel

Sasha and I have been stuck at home this week. The poor thing has pneumonia! No fun whatsoever. She’s a sweet and cuddly patient, but I miss the old Sasha.

Neither of us have enjoyed the forced down time. We both like to do things – go places, exercise and see friends. Instead, we spent the week sitting on the couch, playing board games and watching TV.

It was fun the first day. Not so much on Day 8.

What do you do when you can’t go anywhere?  Read books? Watch movies? I do both. But mostly I start planning for the next trip. We’re thinking seriously about a Paris séjour next summer… what do you think?

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Here are a few fun distractions…

I love this book: Book Lust To Go – Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds and Dreamers

Good Reads List of Armchair Travel Books

I love this idea: Murder, They Wrote

This post made me smile and reminded me of our Provence séjour.

I devoured every single syllable word of this article! Hint: Walnut Grove

I’m reading/listening to The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters. Which inspired me to learn more about the Cockney Accent.

I was mesmerized by this video with Marion Cotillard.

Cool map of world events, festivals and celebrations.

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Have a great weekend and stay warm!

Travel Photography

One of the many gorgeous photos on MimiThorisson.com

One of the many gorgeous photos on MimiThorisson.com

I’m obsessed with the photographs on Mimi Thorisson’s website. How does she do it? The woman has six children and a dozen dogs. And just look at the tranquility and beauty in these photos. Her husband is a professional photographer (duh) and his talent is humbling. He also has châteaux in rural France, a drop-dead gorgeous wife and endless supply of stylish children and french villagers.

But still. Wow.

My life is not that photogenic. But I do occasionally go to interesting places and I want need to improve my photography skills. Last week, I took a field trip to Chinatown and came home without a single useable photo! It was so frustrating. In my own defense, it was pouring down rain. But as my husband would say, “sounds like a development opportunity.” (That’s Amazon speak for get your shit together.)

So next week I’m taking a 2-hour seminar entitled “How to Use the Manual Settings on Your DSLR.” I’m so excited! I hope it will give me the confidence to experiment with all those settings…

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Some fun links on travel and photography -

5 Secrets to Better Travel Photos

This post covers some basic photographic principles

How to shop for souvenirs like a local

You have a travel itinerary. How about a travel eatinerary? I love this idea!

Paris Restaurant Recommendations from Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat.

Of all the books I read in October, this one was my favorite! So hauntingly good.

I dare you to watch just one episode of this show without getting completely hooked.

Pretty Faces: The Story of a Skier Girl. This movie was so inspiring to the girls. When we got home, Sasha made a poster for her wall that says ALASKA.

Have a great weekend!

Happy Halloween! (and links)

A Pop Star Minion and a Rockstar

A Pop Star Minion and a Rock Star

Happy Halloween! Are you dressing up? This used to be my least favorite holiday, but over the years, I’ve come around. The girls love it SO MUCH and their enthusiasm is contagious.

Over breakfast, I asked Sasha: “What’s your favorite part about Halloween?”

It was a rhetorical question. I knew she’d say candy.

But she thought for a minute and then said, “ I just love that you can express yourself any way you want.”

Oh man! How sweet is that?

This year, Sasha is expressing herself as a Pop Star Minion. Sophia is a Rock Star.

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Here are a few fun links. Below that, 9 years of Halloween photos!

Eerily Beautiful Abandoned Places

Medoc, France never looked so beautiful. I absolutely love her blog.

10 Reasons to Visit Paris in the Fall

Love this new service! It’s a great way to add experiences on your next trip.

12 Treasures – What to buy in 12 European cities.

Photographic evidence: the death of conversation.

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Have a great weekend!

The Best of Fall Break (and Links)

My running trail, Bellevue, WA

My running trail, Bellevue, WA

The girls were on Fall Break this week – which, as we all know, is not really a “break” for moms! But we did have a great time. Remember how I said I was going to take full advantage of the beautiful places in the PNW? Well… we didn’t do any of that. :/ The girls still had all their evening activities, so there wasn’t time for an overnight trip, or even a day trip. But we did manage to stay in our pajamas until noon and eat lots of chocolate cake. That’s pretty awesome, right?

Here’s something even more awesome: My mom spent the week in New York City with her girlfriends. And let me tell you, those ladies are crazy! They hit every major tourist site in town – including a Broadway musical and dinner with my father-in-law.  Plus, they managed to get on camera at The Today Show! I loved hearing about her daily adventures. She’s an inspiration!

Here are a few fun links I found while eating cake –

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This blog post from Elephantine made me want to collect leaves with the girls.

Enjoy skiing in the french and swiss alps? Me too. Here’s what’s new.

Our favorite (non-alcoholic) fall drinks: Chocolat Chaud and this Cinnamon Sunset Tea.

I’m lucky to have a good babysitter right now, but I’m sure these questions will come in handy someday!

How to sound more french.

It’s like they know us. Some of these are hilarious!

Updating my fall uniform on pinterest.

Great advice for stocking your pantry. I love Mark Bittman!

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See you next week!

How to Take Kids to the Museum

Being silly at the Maeght Foundation

Being silly at the Maeght Foundation, Saint-Paul-De-Vence, France

Do you take your kids to museums? I don’t mean children’s museums – which are great, but different – but actual art and history museums. That adults enjoy. I used to be intimidated by this activity, but over the years I’ve stumbled onto some good strategies for keeping everyone happy…

Know before you go

Research the museum websites before you go – but look beyond the opening hours. Many museums offer children’s tours and art activities during certain parts of the day. Plan your visit accordingly.

Also, some museums have great interactive websites for kids. One summer in Paris, Sophia got hooked on obsessed with Le Louvre’s Tales of the Museum. When we finally visited the museum, she was dying to see all the pieces she had learned about.

Le Louvre has a great interactive website for kids.

Le Louvre has a great interactive website for kids.

Create a scavenger hunt

Like the tip above – this is all about getting kids excited to look for their favorite pieces. It sounds counterintuitive, but go to the gift shop first. Have everyone pick out a few postcards of the art/sculptures they want to go find. Then get a museum map and go on a scavenger hunt! It’s not the most logical way of appreciating art, but it keeps things fun.

Or you could get a few families together and contact Watson Adventures. They will create an organized scavenger hunt for you!

Super-special sketch book

My girlfriend swears by this tip. She buys “fancy” art supplies for each kid, which they are allowed to use only on museum days.  She says that her girls look so cute sprawled out on the museum floor sketching, that strangers stop to take pictures of them!

sketching at the museum

sketching at the museum

End on a high note

In other words: Get in, get out, get ice cream.

You don’t have to spend all day just because you paid an entrance fee. Better to leave happy after 1 hour than have your kids hate museums altogether after 4 hours. Get out of there before everyone crumbles. Go get some ice cream and talk about your favorites.

P.S.

Best kid-friendly art museums in the US

Best Museums for Kids in Paris

Top 10 Museum Websites

 

Seattle Art Museum (and Links)

Valay Shende, Scooter, 2007

Valay Shende, Scooter, 2007

When’s the last time you were a tourist in your own city? I have a feeling our months in Seattle are numbered, so I’m trying to take full advantage of everything our region has to offer…. Today I visited one of my favorite places downtown – The Seattle Art Museum. The new exhibitions are super fun and colorful: Pop Departures (Warhol, Lichtenstein and the like) and City Dwellers (contemporary art from India).

And of course, a trip to SAM isn’t complete without a ladies lunch at TASTE. The sparkling rosé and seafood risotto were good, but the conversation was better. Thanks Anna! I almost didn’t notice the torrential rain outside…

Have a great weekend! Here’s how I procrastinated this week….

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I used this great app as my museum guide. They also offer “stories” of other cities and museums.

Art makes you smarter.

Slowing down art appreciation.

Ooh, I love this: color thesaurus.

I fell down a rabbit hole and can’t find my way out. Fascinating, but addictive.

I’ve had just about enough of these $10 readers. I think it’s time to find a real pair of glasses.

On my wish list: this Pacific Northwest cookbook, written by Renee Erickson (of Boat Street bread pudding fame).

I just finished (and loved) The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Here’s the rest of my booklist.

And here are a few more photos from SAM…

Debanjan Roy -India Shining V, Gandhi with iPod, 2008

Debanjan Roy -India Shining V, Gandhi with iPod, 2008

Include Me Out II, 2011, Vivek Vilasini

Include Me Out II, 2011, Vivek Vilasini

Reassurance, Nandini Valli Muthiah

Reassurance, Nandini Valli Muthiah

Cervinia, Italy

Saint Hubertus Resort -Cervinia, Italy

Saint Hubertus Resort -Cervinia, Italy

I’m what some (my husband) might call a fair-weather skier. At best.

In my own defense, I’m from Indiana. Until recently, when someone asked “Do you ski?” I assumed they meant water ski. Sliding uncontrollably down an icy hill seems wholly unnatural to me. And not in a hey isn’t this a thrilling challenge? sort of way.

Nonetheless, if the sun is shining, the snow is good (and I’m not in the middle of a good book, or the sunday times or have a spa appointment), I might ski a few runs. Mostly to justify a nice lunch with a glass of wine at the lodge.

My husband and kids are the real skiers in the family. Each one of them is on a downhill racing team. Not only that – Dan is wrapping up a full year of Ski the 12, wherein he finds a glacier/mountain/hill/patch of snow to ski down – every single month of the year. Even in August.

Which is what brought us to Cervinia, Italy. A glacier to ski on – and a spa for mama… :)

The backyard of the Saint Hubertus Resort with first class views of the Klein Matterhorn

The backyard of the Saint Hubertus Resort – with first class views The Klein Matterhorn

The Matterhorn (Italian side)

The Matterhorn (view from Italian side)

The Saint Hubertus Spa. Hotel guests receive a free welcome message or facial. Lovely!

The Saint Hubertus Spa. Hotel guests receive a free welcome message or facial. Lovely!

My girls skiing the glacier: Plateau Rosa, Cervinia, Italy

My girls skiing the glacier: Plateau Rosa, Cervinia, Italy

horseback riding in the mountains

Horseback riding in the mountains.

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Gorgeous day horseback riding in the mountains.

What a gorgeous day for a ride!

Links and Contacts:

The Saint Hubertus Resort and Spa

Skiing in Cervinia, Italy

Horseback Riding: Maneggio estivo a Breuil-Cervinia (Lucia 3497767002 or Barbara 3396474958)

Boat Street Café (and Links)

Just me and my girls... Bridgehampton, NY

Just me and my girls -Bridgehampton, NY

Happy Friday! What was the highlight of your week? Mine was a super fun and yummy lunch with my girlfriends at Boat Street Café. It’s amazing how quickly two hours (and a bottle of rosé) can disappear!

As a side note – if calories and cream were of no consequence, I would eat Boat Street’s bread pudding before bed every single night. Without fail. Until the day I died. It’s that good.

Here are some fun links I found this week…

Yes! This is a great idea!

Trea of Life. So cool!

I love to find stores like this one, especially when I travel. It’s a great way to pick up souvenirs that you’ll actually use!

I read this column every week. Looking for other fun columns to follow…

I found a new way to enjoy music. Love love love this app!

Have a great weekend!

My Favorites Places on Vashon Island

You gotta love an island who’s unofficial slogan is “Keep Vashon Weird.” Locals are an eclectic group of artists, writers, organic farmers and ex-hippies. The island has a decidedly rural feel, but still manages to support a few upscale restaurants and loads of artists collectives. Here are a few of my favorite places and spaces…

Taking the Ferry
Ferry from Fauntleroy/West Seattle to Vashon.

Ferry from Fauntleroy/West Seattle to Vashon.

WSDOT Ferry Schedule: Crossing time ~ 20 minutes.

One of my favorite things about living in Seattle is the ability to hop on a ferry and get away for the day. And bonus! Ferries don’t make me seasick, like nearly every other boat on the planet. In fact, it’s quite the opposite – I love standing on the deck and smelling the salty air. The views of Seattle and the surrounding mountains are gorgeous – particularly on a sunny day. 

Coffee
coffee shop vashon island

Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie

Vashon Island Coffiee Roasterie: 19529 Vashon Hwy., S.W.

Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie is something of an island institution. Just for fun, see how many “Keep Vashon Weird” bumper stickers you can spot in the parking lot. Order a coffee and a Rosemary Croissant with Sea Salt and ask them to lightly toast it for you. Take your coffee outside, sit on the long red bench and watch the world go by.

Point Robinson Park
a path to the beach, Vashon Island

A path to the beach, Vashon Island

Point Robinson Beach

Point Robinson Beach

The Lighthouse at Point Robinson Park

The Lighthouse at Point Robinson Park

Once you’re properly caffeinated, it’s time to head to Point Robinson Park for a stroll along the beach. The lighthouse is the big draw here, but I think the drift wood is much more interesting. Visitors have built little driftwood forts along the beach that my girls would LOVE. (more pictures below)

Shopping
Giraffe Boutique on Vashon Island

Giraffe Boutique on Vashon Island

There are few cute shops in town, but my favorite is Giraffe, which has carefully chosen kitchen linens and household treasures from around the world. The Vashon Bookshop is also worth a visit, as is Country Store and Farm (if you’re into that sorta thing).

Eat
The Hardware Store - Vashon Island

The Hardware Store – Vashon Island

I’m told that the best Thai food in the Pacific Northwest is Vashon’s own May Kitchen. The store front is so low-key that I walked past it twice before realizing they were closed for lunch. I ended up at The Hardware Store and could not have been happier. Bustling lunch crowd and yummy healthy food.

So hop the ferry and head on over to Vashon for the day! But don’t be in a rush: take your time, slow down and wander. Because, as another popular bumper sticker says, “This ain’t the mainland.”

a beach hideout

A Beach Hideout – Point Robinson

driftwood fort

A driftwood fort with a view…

Keeping Vashon Weird

Keeping Vashon Weird

Sample Séjour: Christmas in The Alps

This post is part of a series on how to plan a séjour (a long stay in France). You might also enjoy school séjours, summer camps in France and monthly vacation rentals in France.

Mont Blanc lies in a range called the Graian Alps, between the regions of Aosta Valley, Italy, and Haute-Savoie, France.

Mont Blanc lies in a range called the Graian Alps, between the regions of Aosta Valley, Italy, and Haute-Savoie, France.

Most families plan séjours in the spring or summer -- but why not take advantage of the school break and plan a month-long séjour during the Christmas holidays? Your kids might need to miss a few weeks of school, but I bet you could get a "hall pass" from your children's teachers....  

Legendary Chamonix

Mountaineers from all over the world make their way to Chamonix to experience the largest mountain in Europe. Mont Blanc is 4,810 meters of rock, snow and ice. The enormity and beauty is breathtaking - whether you are skiing down one of the pistes or shopping in the village. Chamonix is one of the most beautiful ski resorts in the world. Stay in the village for easy access to shops and restaurants.

Chamonix - photo by Monica Gumm

Chamonix restaurants and shops - photo by Monica Gumm


Family Friendly Les Houches

Located about 10 minutes drive from Chamonix, Les Houches is decidedly more traditional and family friendly. A string of hamlets offers a variety of ski-in, ski-out chalets. Imagine waking up on Christmas morning and heading out for a quick ski!

Les Houches - family friendly chateaus in the heart of Mont Blanc massif

Les Houches - family friendly chateaux in the heart of Mont Blanc massif

A few properties...

3 Bedroom Luxury Apartment -- 5 minutes walk to Chamonix Center

Luxury Apartment -- 5 minutes walk to Chamonix Center

4 Bedroom Chalet on the Piste at Les Houches

4 Bedroom Chalet on the Piste at Les Houches

Dazzling Chalet - 5 Minutes Walk to Chamonix Center

Dazzling Chalet - 5 Minutes Walk to Chamonix Center

ski-in ski-out Les Houches Chalet

Les Houches Chalet (ski-in, ski-out)

Activities for the whole family!

Chamonix for Non Skiers

Chamonix for Non Skiers

Ski Schools in Chamonix

Ski Schools in Chamonix

Ski Schools in les Houches

Ski Schools in les Houches

Happy and silly: Chamonix on YouTube

Happy and silly: Chamonix on YouTube