2017 Blogger Recognition Award

I was pretty excited to recently find out I’d received the Blogger Recognition Award from a fellow blogger, Mandi, who pens the brilliant blog Big Tiny Steps. She’s newer to the blogging game, but how awesome for her to find time to encourage and acknowledge other bloggers she loves?! Thank you!

The requirement for this award is that I write up why I started my blog. If you’ve been following along the past few years, you’ll know that the reason I started this whole crazy ball of wax was because I accepted a job working as an au pair in France.

Throughout my pre-au pair experience I blogged about how anxious I was about moving to another country, and then that grew to the pride and struggles and joys and tears of living 5,000 miles from my home city. France was difficult, but having a platform to write down my hopes and fears, and all 7 million emotions I was feeling, made it so much easier. This also became a platform where I could rely on beautiful people to encourage and make me laugh, even on the bad days. It’s always been an interactive experience for me, and I love that. More than anything, travel is something I want to share with those around me. It’s not about me. It was never about me. It’s about sharing experiences so much bigger than myself with a global community.

2 Pieces of Advice:

1. It’s gonna hurt

It’s so hard to keep writing consistently, because life happens and shit (sorry mom) goes down, and you forget to write (or just don’t want to). Do it anyway. If you started a blog because your heart was screaming for you to write (which I’ve found is often the case) then it’s your obligation to yourself, and the universe, to put pen to paper…or fingers to type keys. Set up a schedule. For instance, when I first started off I blogged twice per week NO MATTER WHAT. It took me a while to figure out what day was best for my audience, but once I got the hang of it, things went better. I’d say it took me about 6 months to get “comfortable” about blogging consistently, and to be honest I still struggle with it, occasionally.

2. HAVE FUN!

Finished is better than done. Your blog posts do not need to be perfect. Not saying you should throw unedited work up on your blog, necessarily, but you don’t need to wait until you’re “ready” to post. Especially if you’re a perfectionist, like me, you’ll probably never reach that point. Just hit the publish button. More than likely people reading just really want to hear from you.

Nominations

Here are my nominations for blogs that I think exemplify this award, whether that be because I admire their bravery in what they write, love their style of writing/blogging, or just can’t wait to see what they post next!

  1. Samantha Deubel Photography
  2. Rise Up Mamas
  3. Samantha Farquharson
  4. Joy Filled Wander
  5. Traveling The World Solo
  6. Very Hungary Explorer
  7. Celeste Noche
  8. 22 Stars
  9. The Wandering Ginger
  10. The Bearded Genderqueer
  11. Katie Geluso
  12. Camino Casamel
  13. Life of Fairy Tales
  14. Mikayla Jane Travels
  15. Madison McGhee 

Now that you’ve been nominated— pay it forward, and spread the love to your favorite bloggers!

  • Include who nominated you and a link to their blog.
  • Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award.
  • Write a story about how and why you started your blog.
  • Give new bloggers two pieces of advice.
  • Provide a comment on each nominees blog to tell them about the award with a link to this post.

6 of the Best Style Tips I Learned from France

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A little known fact about me is that I have a degree in fashion design. I don’t usually talk about it because in the professional world I don’t use those skills as much, but I grew up making clothes and sewing and I’ve always loved style. I also grew up watching entirely too many black and white movies, so I have a soft spot for classy clothing and pearl earrings. 1950’s Paris *sigh*. When I lived in France one of the parts that I loved was seeing all of the beautiful European style. I would have loved it more if I was making any amount of money close to a salary so I could buy any of these clothes, but not having the income to splurge made me vastly more aware of the trends and how I would apply them to my own life, once I got back into a position to. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

shoppingSimplicity is Queen
One of the most beautiful things about living in France was how simple the style and lifestyle is. Now it’s important to note that we’re not talking Scandinavian minimalism (although I’m sure there are houses that follow that) but the French have a clean, yet intricate, attention to detail that I absolutely adore. I love the minimalism, mixed with color and patterns and my heart was won over by the beautiful patterns that you can find in so many homes.

Pearls Solve a Multitude of Sins
Having a bad day? Not feeling like feeling you’re usual classy self? Throw on some pearl stud earrings! This is one of my favorite style hacks because it makes me feel like Audrey Hepburn on days when I’m feeling more like Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. And who doesn’t want to look like Audrey? No hands? I didn’t think so. Not ready to throw down on real pearls? I’ve found some really great pairs of studs at Nordstrom that do the trick, while on a budget.

Mix and Max

You’re probably thinking that the French spend millions each year on clothing. And, of course, for some you’re probably right. But some of the classiest women I ever met taught me the very important lesson to mixing where you shop. This means you may have a designer wool peacoat, but your t-shirt is from Abercrombie. This lesson taught me that it’s not just about what you’re wearing, it’s about how you’re wearing it. And another key is to buy quality, over quantity. When you do splurge, splurge on statement pieces that are going to last you years. There’s a really great book I have called Paris Chic that does a great job of outlining Parisian and French fashion. Your wardrobe will thank you for the $1.99 you spent buying it.

Treat Yourself
The French know how to pamper themselves, and I don’t mean going out and coming back with a carload of clothes charged on their credit card. I mean lotions, bubble baths and perfumes. I mean those things that make you feel like gold – even with nothing on. Spending the extra dollars to buy quality skin care products is worth it. Treat yourself, and your body, by investing in some bath salts or some soothing lotions. You’ll be surprised how lovely you feel without even needing to spend money on clothes.

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Scarves
If there’s one style tip that I’m so glad I learned when living in France, it’s the beauty of scarves. From light and airy to bulky and bold, scarves aren’t really something I invested in before I lived in Europe. But I’m definitely now riding the scarf train! A great scarf can not only double your options on a simple sweater, they’re a lot less expensive than buying a whole new wardrobe. And they’re warm. I’m all about the warm. I’ve found some of my favorites at Nordstrom (because, despite popular opinion, Nordstrom isn’t always crazy expensive, if you know the right places to look), but I also love to buy them at World Market.

Kids Wear
One of the cutest things about living in France was definitely the children. The child style goals I now have are insanely high. Like, I kind of want to fly to France yearly so that I can dress my future children. Yeah, that bad. The cute little animals, the cute little patterns. All of it. If you’re looking to replicate all the cuteness (or just see what I’m talking about), you can type in “French kids clothing” in Pintrest and envy away, or hop over to Petit Bateau which has a U.S. website but totally French kids style. J’adore.

Review: Pilbara Au Pair Service

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Let’s talk becoming an au pair.

I get a lot of people telling me how amazing the whole au pair journey sounds, and I’m always a little bit hesitant to allow them to romanticize my experience. When I was an au pair I signed up using an online service that was great for connecting with a family, but offered about the same amount of the security that a Craigslist purchase does.

After a mess with my first host family, and a less than ideal experience with my second, I would have loved to have worked with an agency that had supported me.

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I don’t write very many posts reviewing services, but this comes from one that a close friends has used, and which, I feel, represents a business that cares as much about the well being of their au pairs as they do their host families.

The service specializes in western Australia, so unfortunately they’re not global, but if you’re thinking about going down the path of becoming an au pair, I can definitely recommend them!

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The best part? If you’ve already gone through other avenues to find an au pair position, this service will also help you work out agreements, contracts or just having support in your current position! Click HERE for more information! Or check out this FAQ Sheet !

You can also check out Pilbara Au Pair Services on social media: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook

An American In Paris

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( This is a post I actually wrote a couple of months ago, but never shared. I still think it’s pretty applicable to how I feel about the city.)

The first time I stepped off the train in Paris I noticed several distinctive things. First off were the smells: cigarette smoke, bread and industry. The French have an air all their own. They walk the streets as though they’ve already figured out the secrets of life, and some might argue that they have.

The first time I came to Paris I had no idea I would be moving to the city a week later, and I could only stand in awe at the grandeur that was around me. Paris knows how to impress a lady, and she knows it.

I am not from a small town, I’ve lived in cities or city suburbs my entire life and I love the busyness of my surroundings. The sound of car horns, men walking by with briefcases and beautifully tailored suits; buildings which stretch so high you have to align the back of your head with the pavement. These are the things that take my breath away.

Oh, and gold.

The amount of gold you can find on the structures, and inside and outside the historical buildings of Paris is ridiculous. Yesterday, while walking through the Louvre, it was amazing to think that the items that are now there, archived, used to be part of everyday life for the select few of France. What must life have been like to hold onto such an extravagant idea for everyday existence?

The rumors of Paris are true, when you walk the streets you can practically hear the stories of artist, writers, poets and intellectuals ricocheting from the sides of buildings and the pavement you walk on. The Seine whispers secrets to you as you walk its banks. This is Paris. And if there’s one thing that’s definitively French, it’s reminding you of where you are.

In Paris an American, or any other non-French nationality simply becomes someone who is not French. There are millions of us here. Drawn by stories, essays and works of art, which pointed us to this Mecca for finding ourselves. But who knows if anyone ever does. Perhaps it’s only after you return from the enchantment of Paris that you can once again resume, having been touched by the magic the city holds.

For now, though, we sit and eat crêpes.

We laugh at never knowing the beauty of eating a baguette sandwich, before we walked through the city of lights. We sit on metros, listening to the movie-esque live music of the accordion players. And, even if just for a moment, we wish this was our culture; a culture rich with wine and cheese, that makes you feel like you should be wearing a beret and eating more crêpes.

When did this become life? The lazy mentality of late weekend mornings and glowing nights that stretch into darkness is addictive. It’s like a trance placed over the city that cannot be broken, even by the bravest of liberators; mainly because no one wants it to be. While Los Vegas might be the fast and furious “Sin City”, Paris is the city that cradles you in luxury, blinding you to the realities of life, slowly suffocating the desire for anything beyond it’s clutches.

They say a person can be ruined by the mystique of Paris. You’ll never want to go back to the mundane reality of your prior existence, but I don’t think that’s true for me. Because, as an avid reader I know that struggling in the real world will always trump living a surreal dream of a reality.

While living in a trance may seem like a glorious substitute for real life, the reality is – life is still in motion outside this capsule of extravagant numbness. And while it could seem relevant, even suggested, to marinate in my own parisienne nirvana, I would prefer the grit of turmoil and hard work any day.

But I’ve never been one for the white gloved existence.

Because it’s when you’re hands are dirty, back feels broken and your feet are sore from wandering, that you really truly, deeply and completely find yourself.

And maybe that’s the real lesson Paris has to teach.

That perfection is never as it seems. And all the gold plated bridges in the world can’t help you on your journey to finding yourself.

Even Heroes Get Homesick

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Paris, France

“But all night he dreamed of his own house and wandered in his sleep into all his different rooms looking for something that he could not find, nor remember what it looked like.”

Right now I’m making my way through the forever-favorite book, The Hobbit. I know, I know, all the rest of you read it in 7th grade when you were sporting rainbow braces, but I was off busy doing something else, and never had the chance. With the movies coming out, though, I decided to make it my book for the summer (one of a few).

Obviously it isn’t summer anymore. So I guess I didn’t quite make my deadline…but I’m still determined to finish the book, and I couldn’t be more happy with my decision.

One of my favorite things about J.R.R Tolkein is that, when he writes, he doesn’t romanticize the struggles of the adventures (which, personally, I think kind of makes it more romanticized, in a way). Throughout The Hobbit, again and again and again, he writes that Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit longing for home. No matter where he is, how good or bad things seem to be going; he remembers the tranquility of his hobbit hole and longs for it.

I don’t know about you guys, but I often find myself reading books that seem to coincide exactly with the kind of encouragement that I need. Or maybe, I find the encouragement in the books I read, because I need it.

Regardless, if there’s one thing you should know about me it’s that: I love adventures. I love living them, I love writing them and I love hearing stories about them. I love holding my breath while watching adventure movies, getting caught up in narratives and being on the edge of my seat – eyes wide and ready for the grand conclusion.

This hasn’t changed from when I was a kid and I’d spend weeks reading stacks of books about people who took their circumstances and turned them into stories worthy of being passed down through generations. That’s what I wanted then, and what I live for now. I want my life to be a story I can read back to my children; something that will have them on the edge of their seats, anticipating the part when mom _________________ (fill in the blank).

Adventures aren’t just something I think are necessary, but essential for my life. I need to travel, explore and see new things. I need to have my breath taken away by landscapes and oceans, to meet incredible people and take my place among the millions of experiences the world has to offer.

But the perspective of an adventure can be pretty different when you’re in the middle of it vs. when you’re hearing it second hand. Hungry wolves chasing after you might sound exciting from the security of your living room, but while you’re actually running from them– breath staggering, panic stricken eyes wild with fear, it’s probably not quite the same feeling (although, I’ve never been chased by wolves, so correct me if I’m wrong).

As humans, it’s in our nature to romanticize the past. We tell embellished stories (especially in my family) of what happened, who was there and how many obstacles there were; a foot long puddle turns into a raging river, a 10-inch trout becomes a 60-foot whale.

The stories get passed down from one person to another and then to another and another, until nobody even knows, for sure, what the facts are. As the details trickle down, from one person to the next, details get lost and scrambled in translation – especially emotions such as fear or uncertainty; finally, we’re left simply with the grand tales of bravery – unaware that the hero or heroine was having panic attacks before they made their brave, life altering, world saving decision.

I know personally, when I look back, I have a habit of romanticizing my past.

Somehow things always seem better when they’re not in the present. Life seems so much more exciting in the future; so much more secure and certain in the past. But if I’m honest, I realize that just isn’t the case.

Right now, I’m struggling with a Bilbo Baggins mentality.

Maybe I don’t live in Middle Earth, but I would consider my life an adventure right now. I’m in a strange place, with a strange culture and language surrounding me. I have no idea what the next year of my life will entail. But, all in all, life is pretty great right now.

So why am I still longing for the past?

I love the family I’m working with, I couldn’t have asked for a better match in personalities, tastes, hobbies and general atmosphere.

BUT…here it comes: I’m homesick.

I don’t really want to admit it, because I thought maybe I would miraculously overcome nostalgia (and I did for about month) but this week the homesickness has been hitting pretty hard.

It’s not saying that I don’t love the adventure that I’m on. I’m making awesome friends, getting to try new experiences and generally loving life – but there’s still a part of me longing for my hobbit hole (aka Seattle).

I miss friends, I miss my routine, I miss my bike, being able to call people up to go watch the sunset at Golden Gardens, or to WOW to drink bubble tea; I miss speaking and hearing English, and I miss being able to effortlessly talk to random people when I go out.

It’s expected and normal for us to want what we had before, whether it was bad or good, it was known. And who wouldn’t want to be somewhere they know over somewhere uncertain?

But right now, I’m reminding myself of the beauty in learning to love something I’m uncomfortable with. And let me tell you – sometimes it is VERY UNCOMFORTABLE to be living in a country that is so different.

But that’s part of the adventure, right!?

I’m so thankful for all of you who have encouraged me, sent me mail (which seriously makes my week) and have generally uplifted me during this transition. I feel so lucky to have such an amazing community around me, and I’m excited for what’s up and coming in my life – even if it means missing my city a little in the meantime.

Seattle will always have my heart. And striking out into the unknown can be extremely intimidating at times. But I’m learning to accept the fact that even the greatest heroes and heroines sometimes find themselves longing for home.

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I found a beret at a Paris street fair. Needless to say: J’adore.

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I Have Confidence In Me

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Life has been pretty hectic, lately, so I’ve decided to put all my would be little updates together in one post. Being an au pair is about as difficult as I thought it would be (and I’m a pessimist, so…). I’m just so glad that I have a couple of years of nannying under my belt so I know that this is normal. Never was there a child and nanny who immediately became best friends with the stranger their parents suddenly tell them to obey. There’s always a transition period, and unfortunately that’s what I’m going through right now.

That being said, I love the little town I’m living in. I wish there were more people my age, since it seems like everyone here is over 50 years old, but the city itself is absolutely beautiful. I’m kind of ok with it being more quiet here, even though I’m used to living in the city. That being said, I miss Seattle with all my heart. But, here’s to making the most out of the relatively short amount of time I’m going to be in France. Can’t wait for this to become the best year, ever!

1. We got a puppy!!

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Meet our new Sussex Spaniel, Joplin! (Yes, the same as Janice) He’s such a sweet boy!

10590491_10203956793293590_6712465464439155762_nYes he’s the cutest, but he’s also a bit of a brat. This makes the grand total of dogs in this house four, and I’m hoping that will be the last of them. Even though I love dogs, having four running around all day is a bit draining, especially with a howling pup.

2. I visited a castle a couple weeks ago! 

This is a video I found that shows the castle I went to the weekend before last. I loved taking pictures, but (of course) video is always so much better. Enjoy!

3. Artists I’m currently in LOVE with:

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This is my next book purchase. It’s called “Parissiene” and is by Dominique Corbasson. It’s a bit pricey, ringing  up at almost $40, but the illustrations in it are to die for (and, it’s only sold in Europe). Basically it’s going to either be my birthday (which is coming up! September 19th!) or Christmas present to myself. I can’t wait!

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I saw this book reviewed online and decided to give it a try! It was originally written in French and is illustrated by one of my new favorites, Isabelle Arsenault. The story was beautiful, and I am absolutely in love with the illustrative style. This book was also my first experience with free 24 hour shipping via French Amazon. It was a win all around 🙂

4. Every time I get nervous about my job…

^^This is the song I started singing in the airport on my way to France (completely subconsciously), but, of course, there is also the original which I was first inspired by. This song is running through my mind again and again. Spirit of Julie Andrews, help me. (Original version below)

5. We started school! 

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The first day of school was yesterday and I don’t think any of us could have been more excited. The past week and a half I’ve been with the kids 7am-8pm, which has been brutal. But, I’m glad with the school schedule, I now have some free time to get things done during the middle of the day. Hurray for freedom!

6. Phrases for the day: 

You’re in trouble = Tu es en difficulté

If you don’t sleep, there will be no chocolate with snack = Si vous ne dormez pas , il n’y aura pas de goût de chocolat avec le snack.

Why is she crying? = Pourquoi elle pleurait?

Play nice or don’t play at all = Joue gentil ou ne pas joue du tout.

Calm down = Calmes-tu.

How was your day? = Ta journée s’est bien passée? or Comment était ta journée?

Where does it hurt? = Où est-ce que vous avez mal ?

Don’t hit your sister (brother) = Ne frappes pas voter soeur (frére)!

My French is not very good because I’m American = Mon français n’est pas très bon parce que je suis Américaine.

Let’s Play A Game Called:

Whats in my kitchen

French food is great, but there have been a few times when I’ve seen things pop up and I wondered what the hell they were. This is the first installment of (probably) many questionable items. Ready, set – here we go. 

1. Warm milk: I don’t really understand this, as an American. I don’t think I’ve ever seen milk kept warm, sealed and packaged like this before. Of course, I’ve seen it done with Rice and Soy milk, and the such, but never cow milk…this really surprised me – but who am I to judge? 

2. Mayo in a toothpaste tube: Can’t get much better than that, huh? It’s a little bit odd to see this in the fridge, or even being used at the dinner table, but I guess we do have squeezable mayo in the US…it’s just not normally in a tube like this where you literally use it exactly like toothpaste (rolling the end and all). 

3. I’m not really sure what’s in the top of this bad boy (maybe honey??) but the bottom is vinegar. There are several bottles like this one in the kitchen, and although you can’t see it – they come apart when you use them individually, and then fit perfectly back together to create (what looks like) a solid bottle. 

4. I was a bit concerned with this one when I first saw it squirted into a cup. I’m still not sure what it is entirely, but it’s an add water kind of solution that you then drink. The kids love it! 

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Somehow I don’t think this would fly in the US…

5. Every morning the kids eat bread, cereal, warm milk and this. Basically it’s like Nestle chocolate milk, but what was the most shocking (obviously I’ve seen chocolate milk powder, before) was the artwork on it…Behold: ———->

6. Little crackers from heaven: Ok, so these little biscuits are the best thing to ever happen on earth. The first time I tried one I almost grabbed the whole package and ate the entire thing. In fact, when I FINALLY go grocery shopping on Saturday I’m going to be grabbing a couple of packets, for sure. Basically they’re like graham crackers/a square of animal cracker like taste with chocolate in between. Because let’s be real – if there’s one thing the French love, it’s their chocolate.