Win a stay at the most beautiful little cottage in France!

Some readers may remember that back in April 2011, my husband and I took two glorious weeks of vacation in France. We spent the first week seeing the obligatory sights of Paris, but the second week we ventured a little further from the typical tourist track: we journeyed south to the Dordogne River Valley, where we stayed in a gorgeous little cottage called La Maisonnette du Couteau in the beautiful village of Beynac.

What made us choose this little out-of-the-way corner of France for a week-long stay? Why, La Maisonnette itself! It’s a historic 400-year old cottage just a stone’s throw from an honest-to-goodness Medieval castle, and I made up my mind years ago that I would stay there someday after following the progress of its amazing renovation on Stephmodo, a favorite blog of mine. The woman behind Stephmodo is the lovely Stephanie Brubaker, who has been kind enough to feature my home and my photography on her blog on several occasions (here, here, and here, for starters) and with whom—through the magic of the Internet—I’ve become friends. She and her husband (both Americans!) purchased La Maisonnette on a whim while vacationing in the Dordogne back in 2009 and then undertook a full-scale transatlantic renovation of the property, the results of which were spectacular. I knew from the moment I saw those “after” photos that I wanted to spend a week there myself.

When we finally did, it exceeded even my sky-high expectations. La Maisonnette itself is perfection, with its original limestone walls and wood beams, its carefully restrained decor, the sublime juxtaposition of old and modern—and that to-die-for clawfoot tub in the master suite with the amazing view of the castle and River valley! (I had a long soak and watched the sunset there almost every evening. But I digress….) La Maisonnette’s home, the village of Beynac, is just as beautiful. It’s been featured in films like “Chocolat” and “Ever After,” but there’s more to do there than simply enjoy the views. We explored three different Medieval castles, canoed the Dordogne river, hiked to the top of a bluff for more incredible vantage points, visited a foie gras farm, ate amazing local food (strawberries, cheeses, duck confit, anything with walnuts), and shopped at the outdoor markets—the very same ones the locals have been visiting for centuries. It was a week full of fun and relaxation that my husband and I still talk about all the time. We’ve even vowed to take our kids there someday.

But now that someday could perhaps be coming sooner than we thought, because this week Stephmodo is giving away a free week’s stay at La Maisonnette. Did you catch that?? A FREE WEEK’S STAY at the most beautiful cottage in France! I cannot tell you how lucky you would be to win this generous prize. There are five ways to enter—some as easy as commenting on her blog post or liking Stephmodo’s Facebook page. Check out Stephmodo for all the entry details and get entered pronto—the deadline is midnight tonight! You can bet I’m entered every way possible, and my husband better be too….

Now, because I never managed to get my act together to post my photos of La Maisonnette last year, here are a few to show you where you could be vacationing if you win. GO ENTER NOW!

 

My blog, reborn

It’s been many, many months since I last blogged. Almost six, in fact. And so much has happened in those six months! My son, Quinn, was born. Then came the colic and the sleepless nights. Then we sold our beloved home in Dallas and relocated sixty miles west, to a small town called Weatherford where most of my husband’s family lives. Then, after a soul-crushing house hunt, we finally moved into our new home. And I then left my ridiculously grueling job at a big private law firm to stay home with Quinn full time.

I am so incredibly grateful that I am able to spend every day with Quinn—even the hard days. I have truly never been happier than I am now. But it’s been quite a big change going from eighty-hour work weeks to being at home all day, every day. So as the last few months have passed and our lives have settled down a bit, I’ve realized a couple of important things:

First, I have a lot to say. (This will come as no surprise to my parents.) But most of the time there’s no one older than seven months around to say it to! In any event, Quinn just really isn’t that interested in my efforts to spruce up our outdated bathroom, my search for affordable artwork, or my nostalgic attempts to recreate the glorious holiday decorations of my childhood. (Shocking, but true.)

Second (and this realization was a bit more surprising)—I actually miss writing. Most of my days as a practicing attorney were spent drafting some kind of document or other. So in the past, when it came time to post on this blog, I would find myself out of words and usually just slap up a few photos and call it a day. And that was generally fine for a photography blog. But now that I no longer spend virtually all of my waking hours writing and rewriting legal nonsense under impossible deadlines for unreasonable clients, I’ve discovered that writing, in its essence, is in fact something that I enjoy. And want to do more of.

So I want to talk to people about the things I’m up to. And I want to write again. Hm, maybe I should BLOG OR SOMETHING??

The good news is that I already have a blog! Where I can write about anything I want! And thus, a plan was born: turn this sadly neglected photography blog into a personal blog about the million-and-one things I want to share. I’ve spent the last couple months jotting down ideas for posts, just to make sure I would have enough content to make this worthwhile. I then spent the last week or so redesigning the website, and after a lot of late, frustrating nights, the end result is what you see here. There are still a few bugs and some other cool features I’d like to implement, but as my husband tells me, I have to stop letting the perfect be the enemy of the good (a phrase I hate, by the way) and omigosh get on with it already!

So here I am, ready or not, launching EmilyMcCall.com v.2.0.

As far as the site design, here’s what’s new:

  • At the top of the new sidebar on the right side of the page are links to my many Internet footprints. Check them all out, but most importantly, you should click on that little orange radio button and subscribe to my RSS feed so you never miss one of my new posts on this blog.
  • At the end of each blog entry are buttons that will allow you to share that particular post on Facebook, tweet it on Twitter, pin it on Pinterest, e-mail it to someone who might enjoy it, or—once again—subscribe to my RSS feed.
  • The sidebar also displays four hand-selected “feature posts”—usually those that have been popular or that I think readers will find particularly interesting.
  • I’ve recategorized all of my old blog entries, so now the “topics” list in the sidebar will hopefully help you find what’s of interest to you more easily.
  • There’s a new About Me page, with a few fun facts I’m sure you’ve been dying to learn.
  • And take a look at my new blog header. It’s pretty!
So that’s about it for style. Here’s what you can expect to find on the blog in substance:
  • Talk about homes. My new home, others’ inspiring homes, DIY projects…you get the idea.
  • Posts about photography. Not just about my clients, but photography tips and tricks you can use to improve your own photos as well.
  • Parenting talk, because I’m new to this game and need all the help I can get.
  • Reviews of products, recipes, books, and music I like that I think you might like too.
  • Features on local Weatherford and Fort Worth attractions that I visit as I get to know my new neighborhood.
  • And, let’s face it: a whole lotta posts about Quinn. In part because he’s the most important and interesting thing in my life, and in part because my family, who lives far away, deserves to keep up with how freakishly fast he seems to be growing.

So that’s an overview of what’s in store. Maybe I’ll even convince a few of my extremely talented friends to share some of their expertise on fitness, nutrition, and arts and crafts here as well.

How frequently can you expect the blog to be updated? That’s something I’ll have to experiment with. I struggle mightily with finding an appropriate work/life balance, so I’ll probably start with just a post or two a week and see how it goes from there. But I hope you’ll stick with me and let me know what you’d like to see more and less of. While it’s true that I like talking and writing for my own sake, it’s much more rewarding when there’s an interactive and appreciative audience on the receiving end.

So thanks for hanging in there through this lengthy introductory post! I’ll leave you with a photo of my favorite little dude taken earlier today and hope to see you back here very soon. Have a great weekend!

Our baby has arrived!

I’m a little late getting the word out — he’s six weeks old already(!) — but . . . meet our little peanut, Quinn!

The gorgeous photos are by Zoe D Photography. I’ll be sharing more of his beautiful newborn session very soon!