Healthy Snack: Raw Almonds + Peaches. In a snack-time rut? Click through for food "pairings" that will spice things up!

Photos and text by Gabrielle. Sponsored by Blue Diamond.

I can’t pretend we’re healthy eaters every single day, but I do try hard to keep healthy snacks around the house, so that when the kids reach for something, the options are weighted heavily toward real food and away from junk food. The tricky thing is, we tend to find ourselves in snack-time ruts — the food that was once a perfect mid-day treat becomes boring because we’ve eaten it too many times.

So I thought it would be fun to work with the kids and use a “pairings” theme to come up with some snack ideas. I’m working with Blue Diamond on this post, so we used four of our favorite almond varieties as the base for the snacks.

One of our goals was to use items that are easy to keep stocked in the pantry — most of the options I’m suggesting below have a long shelf-life. Another goal was to avoid junk food, though I realize, “junk food” means different things to different people. We also wanted to come up with ideas that are really simple. Nothing to mix or measure. The hope is that these could be set out quickly with little to no prep.

June, Betty and Maude helped me experiment with flavors as we came up with the pairings, and it was a really happy way to spend an afternoon. Though I didn’t predict this, I can imagine us holding a “pairing” activity whenever we’re getting bored of our current snacks. The kids ended up feeling ownership of the ideas, and for the sake of the experiment, they tried foods that they previously thought they didn’t like. So if your kids are bored, I definitely recommend using the “pairing” theme to come up with new flavor combinations and snack ideas. It’s super fun!

Now, on to the pairings!

Healthy Snack: Raw Almonds + Raisins. In a snack-time rut? Click through for food "pairings" that will spice things up!

Pairing #1: Whole Natural Almonds + Raisins

It doesn’t get simpler than that! This is definitely a favorite go-to snack for several reasons. First, it’s literally two ingredients — raisins and almonds. There isn’t even added salt! Second, this requires zero prep. Pour the raisins and almonds in a bowl and you’re done. Third, even though it’s simple, it’s super satisfying. I have a huge sweet tooth, so the raisins help with that, and the almonds really satiate my hunger quickly. Lastly, this combo works anytime. As an after school snack, in my handbag on-the-go, or even as something to snack on during dinner prep.

Healthy Snack: Raw Almonds + Raisins. In a snack-time rut? Click through for food "pairings" that will spice things up!

A variation on this? If peaches or nectarines are in season, they pair wonderfully with Whole, Natural Almonds as well (as pictured at the top). The flavors are perfect together.

Healthy Snack: Smokehouse Almonds + Savory Treats: Swiss Gruyere; Dried, Salted Green Beans; and Salami. In a snack-time rut? Click through for food "pairings" that will spice things up!

Pairing #2: Smokehouse Almonds + Savory Treats: Swiss Gruyere; Dried, Salted Green Beans; and Salami

It’s hard to beat classic Smokehouse Almonds. They might be the perfect flavor. They’re wonderful on their own, but to beat snack boredom, they’re great for pairing as well.

Healthy Snack: Smokehouse Almonds + Savory Treats: Swiss Gruyere; Dried, Salted Green Beans; and Salami. In a snack-time rut? Click through for food "pairings" that will spice things up!

This particular grouping has a lot of good food going on. You could practically make a meal of this “snack” — it would be ideal on a road trip or hike, or for a simple picnic. We paired the Smokehouse almonds with slices of salami, slices of Gruyere cheese (though any favorite cheese would work), and something new to us: dried, salted, green beans.

Beyond snacking, I thought this combination might also be fun as dinner party hor d’oeuvres.

More pairings ahead!

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

By Gabrielle.

At some point during the process of preparing these tours for publication, I usually ask our tour guides for just one more photo or just one more story or just a few more sentences about that sweet thing they mentioned in passing. Or “Where did you get those vases, because they’re super chic?” In Shelly’s case, I simply asked for a few more close-ups of her stunning gallery wall plus maybe a bookshelf.

And this is when she told me she was in the process of moving out of this home, away from her stunning gallery wall plus definitely her bookshelf! I still wanted to show you her home and share her words, because she has a lot to say about following our gut instincts and being brave and tackling DIY even if it scares the heck out of us. Also, there’s that gallery wall.

Please welcome Shelley as she takes us on one final tour of her home! She’s been in her new state for a day as of this writing, and so far, so good.

Hello! I’m Shelly and I’m living in Illinois with my best friend, lil bean, and pup. I could gush about my family all day.

My husband, Jeffrey, and I met at Purdue where I fell head over heels for him and his pet bunny. My mood is VERY much affected by his, which is good because he is the yin (calm/quiet/thoughtful/patient) to my yang (anxious/loud/quick to speak/impatient). He is a curious learner who can figure out how to do/build/navigate just about anything, but most of all, he makes me laugh.

My daughter makes us both laugh. Constantly. She is almost two years old, and such an empathetic, kind-hearted child. She’s great for a pat on the back, share of her cookie, or silly face to make you laugh. My husband has instilled his love of books while I have instilled my love of dancing in her.

And the pretty continues! Straight ahead.


The Treehouse - a wordless picture book

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I think you’ll love this month’s round up of books! There are knock out illustrations, really good stories, and a non-fiction selection as well. First up, let’s talk about The Tree House, by Marije and Ronald Tolman. This is a wordless book — which means the images have to work even harder. But they totally do!

The Treehouse — a wordless picture book The Treehouse — a wordless picture book

A polar bear rides a whale to a tree that’s growing out of the water. How’s that for a magical opener? And it just gets more fabulous from there. Polar Bear isn’t alone for long — as the water recedes, more and more animals join him. Some by land, some by air. Your kids will want to study every image.

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Remember Iggy Peck, Architect? Well, today I’m happy to introduce you to Rosie Revere, Engineer. It’s written by Andrea Beaty, with gloriously detailed illustrations by David Roberts. Jessie Arora, the founder of Embark Labs, sent me this book to welcome our family to the Bay Area. Such a sweet gift!

Rosie Revere, Engineer Rosie Revere, Engineer

Though Rosie may seem a bit quiet during the day, her nights are filled with visions of inventions. Not every invention is a hit, and Rosie is tempted to give up her dream of becoming an engineer. But maybe her invention “flops” aren’t as bad as they seem.  The whole book is written in memorable rhyme, and the message of the book is so encouraging, it appeals to kids and adults alike.

Keep reading for two more books!


A Few Things

July 24, 2015

Apple Jacks

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness I CAN NOT WAIT to have my family back today!!! Ben Blair and the 5 youngest get home from Cousins Week this afternoon, and Ralph gets home from Scout Camp tomorrow. Hallelujah! I was having fun for the first few days, I went to a couple of movies, read like crazy, did some exploring around town, and ate some of my favorite treats (like sugar cereal!). But after that I was like a ridiculous combination of lonely and couch potato. Hah! I’m clearly not very skilled at living alone. : )

I’m going to sign off so I can think of something fun to welcome everyone home (have any ideas?). But before I say goodbye, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

- For Seinfeld fans. Comedians in cars featuring Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

- An open call for essays about childhood.

- The prettiest paper blooms.

- Where are all the aliens? It’s long, but I loved reading all the theories.

- So much beauty! A G0Pro camera attached to a sea turtle.

- A new theory about addiction.

- This shower curtain kicks you out after 4 minutes.

- Is that really an opinion? Or are you just wrong.

Edible Sprinkle Bowls.

- The trolls are winning.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.


P.S. — Thanks for chiming in with your thoughts on Monday’s school post. I LOVE your comments.


By Gabrielle.

If I ever feel like my day is overflowing with challenges, I’m going to re-read Maggie’s account of her day. She’s a Peace Corps volunteer currently serving in Ethiopia, and her daily life is probably very different from yours or mine. For example, it might take her 15 minutes to properly and politely greet everyone on her way to work in adherence to local customs; there is no casual smile and wave allowed, even when sour moods are in the air! The internet is unreliable and slow. Also, her house has no indoor plumbing.

It all kind of makes me a little sheepish when I’m stressed about wrangling traffic or tackling a super long must-do list!

I’ve repeated one of Maggie’s thoughts to myself more than a few times since I interviewed her: “You can’t think about things you can’t have if you want to survive in the Peace Corps.” I guess that applies to all of us in some way or another, don’t you think? Please help me welcome Maggie! You’ll want to hear about her bedtime rituals; they’re quite lovely.

Maggie’s unique Ethiopian day, just ahead!


Homemade and All-Natural Skin Care Recipes - made from ingredients you already have at home!

Photo and intro by Gabrielle. Expert advice by Rachael Weesjes. 

My new friend, Rachael, is an esthetician. In April, she generously shared her best skin care tips, and lucky for us, she also offered to share her fabulous at-home concoctions to solve our skin concerns. These are natural, food-based, creams and cleansers — I’m betting you’ve got all the ingredients you’ll need in your kitchen right now. So let’s get started! Glowing skin, straight ahead!

A lot of people avoid the word oil when it comes to buying products for their skin. They think they have oily skin already and that’s a bad thing, so adding more oil to it will make it worse. But I wish everyone would throw that mindset out the window today and never let it back in!

Oil dissolves oil. Say it with me: Oil dissolves oil. Cleansers for oily skin tend to be drying, so your sebaceous glands, which are microscopic glands in the skin that secrete the oil, are going to go into overdrive because they are getting the message that all the oil is gone and they then produce even more oil than before. That leads to more blocked pores, more blemishes, more oil, more cleansing, and round and round it goes.

Let’s start with a cleansing option. You’ll need two oils for this part. First is castor oil. This is your base oil and you will not be using a lot of it. For oily skin you will use 30% castor oil to 70% of your secondary oil choice. You might want to tweak the amounts depending on your own personal results. You know those travel-sized shampoo bottles? Perfect size in which to mix your cleanser.

Your secondary oil will be a vegetable oil or sunflower seed oil or sweet almond oil. I like extra virgin olive oil. Castor oil will remove the impurities in your skin, has anti-inflammatory properties, and will heal your skin as well. The EVOO prevents dryness. Remember, if you use too much castor oil you will end up with super dry skin.

Once it’s mixed, pour a puddle into the palm of your hand, rub your hands together to warm it, and start to massage your face. For the castor oil to do its job properly, massage for five minutes. I say five because everyone always does three! Then, take a hot washcloth and lay it over your face, leaving it there until it’s cool. Wipe away the oil with the washcloth. You will probably have to repeat this step two or three times to make sure you’ve removed all the oil. This is actually where many people stop because they find that their skin is moisturized enough just from the cleansing. And you can stop here if this is how you cleanse your skin frequently, but if you want that little extra treat of a facial you can continue with the next steps. I will add that if you start to do the oil cleansing method, you really should do it only at night before bed;  if you are washing your face at night, there is no need to wash it in the morning. And bonus! A lot of people don’t find the need to cleanse every night once they start with this method.

Next is toner. Mix two teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar – it must be organic – and two teaspoons of tap water. Dip a cotton ball into the mix and wipe your face. If you find the vinegar too strong of a smell, wait five minutes after toning and then rinse with water. Otherwise, continue on with the facial. If you find your skin reacts to the vinegar, dilute it more with the water.

On to exfoliating! Grind one tablespoon of oats, add one tablespoon of honey, apply to your face, and rub in gentle circles for three to five minutes. Rinse off with water.

And now for the mask, which is my favorite step because you get to be a scientist and mix up ingredients any way you want! This one is a lemon and egg-white mask. Lemon is rich in Vitamin C, it’s great for getting rid of sun spots and uneven skin tone, and it will help exfoliate. You will notice tightness once you apply the egg whites, but that will go away once you remove the mask.

Beat one egg-white until it’s frothy. Add lemon juice (the equivalent of half of a lemon) to the egg-white, apply it to your face avoiding the eye area, leave on for 15 minutes up to 30 minutes, and rinse off with warm water.

I like to use coconut oil as a finishing cream. Choose the organic, unrefined kind. It is a hard white substance when cold, but at 24 degrees Celsius it melts and becomes oil. Melt about half a tablespoon in your hands, and massage your face with it.

You may find that your skin will get a bit worse before it gets better. Apple cider vinegar will definitely open up blockages and a lot of oil will be released, which can cause more breakouts. But be patient: it will subside once your skin adjusts to how nicely you are treating it!

Solutions for dry and aging skin, just ahead!


By Gabrielle.

When we last visited Meghann in Amsterdam, I made her promise to show us around her new home once she moved to Saba. (Quick geography primer: Saba is a Caribbean island and the smallest special municipality of the Netherlands. It consists largely of the potentially active volcano, Mount Scenery, which at 2,910 feet, is the highest point within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. There is no crime, little traffic, and a close-knit local community. It sounds like Heaven, doesn’t it?)

I couldn’t wait to hear all about how they adjusted, get a first-hand peek into what homes look like on the island, and how it feels to live on a volcano! With 2,000 other people! (Are the city dwellers out there choking right now?! Hah!)

I’m so excited to share Meghann with you all again. Welcome, Meghann!

Except for my family — my husband, Koen, and our kids Tipp and Loula — just about everything has changed from my last appearance on Design Mom!

We went from city living in a densely populated, super flat country where there were more bikes than people and where sweaters are worn for more than half the year, to a sparsely populated volcano in the Caribbean particularly known for diving in its underwater world. Everything in life feels pretty new right now.

Even before we got married, we’d always thought we’d move abroad for our jobs for some time. We had travelled a lot, both before we met, together as a couple and also with our kids. In 2012, we even had the opportunity to live abroad for my job for six months. While I was starting to think that maybe I was fine just staying in Amsterdam for the rest of our lives, Koen was starting to get the itch to go. He was also ready for a new professional challenge.

I love the reason behind their decision to move. Just ahead!


Back to School1

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I get emails about this topic all the time, and I’ve had a draft of this post written up for a full year! But I’ve hesitated to publish this because it’s such a stressful topic for so many people, and I don’t want to inadvertently add to anyone’s stress. Please, if you start reading this and you’re not into it, just skip it and move on. I promise, this is not a directive on how to pick a school, and I don’t claim to know where your particular child should go to school. This is just my thoughts on the topic for my own family.

For me, realizing that I wasn’t willing to stress about school, started when we lived in New York. People that live in New York are crazy when it comes to schools. I’m not sure that statement is even up for argument. And I don’t blame them. It’s intense. Our oldest turned 4 the month we moved there and school started a few weeks afterward. As we settled in, every time we met someone new the big question was: Where is Ralph going to preschool? And the stress wasn’t because we lived in Manhattan. We were in a little town just north of the Bronx, called Tuckahoe.

Since Ben Blair was starting his graduate work at Columbia, and I had baby number 3 a few weeks after we moved in, money was tight, and our only considerations for pre-school were essentially that it be cheap or free. You can imagine my shock when I found out that it wasn’t uncommon in our area for people to pay $20,000 or more per year for pre-school tuition. And these weren’t imaginary people with private jets. These were my friends and neighbors who didn’t drive fancy cars or take exotic vacations.

Lots more discussion ahead.


A Few Things

July 17, 2015

San Francisco at Dusk

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello Friends. How are you? Was it a good week? We’ve had a busy one. Ralph tackled his Eagle project this week! He’s making a video for the non-profit group that created Slavery Footprint. The organization helps companies certify that their supply lines don’t use slave labor. And then tomorrow, Ralph is off to Scout Camp. His last one ever!

Yesterday, Ben Blair and the kids started the drive to Utah so that Maude, Olive, Oscar and Betty can attend our annual Cousins Week. June went with them too — she’s too young to officially attend Cousins Weeks but can’t wait to see her grandparents. Which means, I’m going to be at home solo next week. For the first time ever! (At least I think it’s the first time.)

I have high hopes of tackling a long list of tasks, but there’s a chance I might just read a ton instead. We’ll see. Have you ever stayed home while your family traveled? Do you give it a thumbs up or a thumbs down? I told Ben that if I’m miserable, I’ll fly out and join them. : )

Before I start my solo week, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Is it time for Jews to leave France? So troubling!

- The trickiest extra credit question ever.

- If male actors were described the way female actors are.

- Wow! Have you seen this new line of clothing for kids with autism? No fronts, no backs, no tags, no zippers or buttons. So cool!

- Have you ever heard of ghosting?

- Crystal clear solar panels for windows.

A eulogy for Twitter. Do you agree it’s fading? I’m not so sure. Black Twitter seems to be incredibly active.

- Apparently, Amazon Prime Day was not that great. Did you find any deals that day?

- 800 songs from the 90′s in order of date. That’s 55 hours of music!

- Hah! Strawberry-rhubarb is one of my favorites.

I hope you have a marvelous weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.


P.S. — One of the tasks on my list is to make an appointment at the Apple Store so that they can help me figure out why my laptop storage disk is full. I keep almost nothing stored on here, and am a minimalist as far as apps go. So I can’t figure out what’s taking up all the space. Have you ever had this happen?


By Gabrielle.

When Mat told me he’d read all of my Living With Kids tours from the column’s inception, it made me smile. He said loved seeing the homes and being inspired by all the ways different families accommodated their kids. It made me so happy, I read his note twice.

Truly, that is all I’ve ever wanted these tours to accomplish! I am overjoyed at the idea that each peek might impart a dose or two of “Let’s try it this way!” or “Whoa, I never thought of that.” or even “Honey, we’re painting a wall of flowers and it’s going to be amazing!”

Also, he and his wife own a soda and cookie shop (in Meridian, Idaho if you’re close by!),  and he discusses finding balance and making time and going to bed a little later than they should and waking up a little earlier than they’d like…but his parenting philosophy is based on a story that might make you misty. I want you to read it, and I hope you’re inspired by it like I was.

Welcome, Mat!

We are Gigi, Mat, Chloe, Cameron, and Maisie.

Chloe is going into fifth grade and is our oldest. She is thoughtful and, when you first meet her, a little quiet. You might never guess the girl who is always reading heads directly to the steepest slopes when she skis and wants to lead out on any hike no matter how long. She has a tendency towards perfectionism, which we discourage at home because living with a perfectionist makes you want to tear your hair out.

Cameron is going into third grade and is the happiest kid I have ever seen. It takes him 30 seconds to bounce back from any trouble. I don’t know if that stems from inborn resilience or if he intuitively understands that a seven-year-old’s problems aren’t too serious, but in either case it simplifies things. When school is in session he strength trains every day with friends so they can one day defeat The Pokemon. He is generous in the way that children can be, happy to share or give away whatever he has.

Maisie is 16 months but already has very firm opinions about what she does and does not like. She is by far our most stubborn child, and we are on the edge of our seats wondering what life is going to be like when she is a teenager. Happily she is also very affectionate, toddling over to give hugs and kisses to whomever is closest.

Gigi and I met in law school 15 years ago and have been together ever since. She is smart and beautiful and hard working. She was, is, and always will be my ideal girl. I knew I wanted to marry her when she loved our first backpacking trip despite having never been camping. We both continue to work as attorneys – Gigi is in-house at a university and I have my own practice – and take turns running kids around. Planning and organization are Gigi’s strong suit,  and I’m constantly amazed how much she can get done in a day. I’m more of the wild man in our relationship, always thinking up something, which can both excite and stress Gigi out.

If you read nothing else, read Mat’s final thoughts! Just ahead.



July 13, 2015

Cassette Tapes

Image and text by Gabrielle.

You know that scene in The Incredibles, where Mrs. Incredible calls her husband at work and tells him that after 3 years, they are officially moved in? Because she finally managed to unpack the last few moving boxes? Well, we are totally living that same scenario at the moment. Wednesday will mark 2 years since our move to Oakland, and I have a handful of boxes that need unpacking and that I’ve been ignoring since we arrived here. I’m determined to finish tackling them this week.

Probably the smart thing to do is just throw them all out, since I can’t remember what the contents are, and since we clearly haven’t needed whatever is in those boxes for 2 years. (Actually, they’ve been boxed up for almost 5 years, because they were packed before we moved to France). But alas, I can’t help myself. I want to go through each one and make sure there’s nothing we will miss, before I eventually toss the rest.

I started last Friday and look what I found: Cassette Tapes!!

Now despite what those unpacked boxes are communicating, I’m actually decent at purging. And I don’t have a full tape collection in all its glory. I downsized many years ago. In fact, I only saved 5 cassettes — each one kept for sentimental value. There’s the first cassette I ever owned, a gift to me from my dad for my 11th birthday, Starship: Knee Deep in the Hoopla. (I listened to We Built This City approximately 1 million times while choreographing dances with my 6th grade bestie, Renae Gardner.)

Then, there are 3 tapes from local bands — including my brother’s band, Fumbling Planets. And there’s also 1 mix tape I saved, a Christmas gift from a high school boyfriend. I remembering saving it, thinking it would be fun to be able to show my kids a glimpse of what it was like when I was a teenager. (I kept a few issues of Seventeen and Sassy magazines for the same reason.)

But I’ve never actually shown the kids, because they were a little too young to care when these tapes were packed up years ago. Which means, finding these felt like striking gold! And in a further stroke of good luck, we actually own a cassette player at the moment — something that has not been true for most of our marriage.

Anyway, I couldn’t wait for my kids to hear their Uncle Josh’s first album. I threw the tape to 17-year-old Ralph and said with a big grin, “Go turn it on!” And then saw the expression on his face and immediately realized: he has no idea how to work a cassette tape. None. He’s never put one in a tape player. He doesn’t know about rewinding and fast-forwarding, and that you just have to sort of guess when to stop if you’re rewinding in search of a specific song. He doesn’t know about turning the tape over so you can listen to side 2. None of my kids know any of this!

It was such a trip showing them how it works. It was for sure the oldest I’ve ever felt.

And of course, the whole time I was getting a major dose of nostalgia. Those songs I hadn’t heard in so many years, but that I know by heart! I started wondering what the last time I listened to a cassette tape was and I couldn’t remember. I bought my first CD player during my sophomore year of college — 1993 — ushering in the end of my cassette tape collection and the beginning of my CD collection. And these days, I only have a handful of CDs. Like a lot of people, my music collection is mostly mp3s.

It made me wonder: do any of you still have cassettes? Your whole collection, or just a few? And if yes, do you have a way to play them? For readers in their twenties or early thirties, have you ever used a cassette tape? Have any of you ever introduced them to your kids? I’d love to hear your stories!

P.S. — I found myself trying to explain to my kids how important music was to me and my friends as a teenager. That we would memorize whole albums. There was no Youtube. No Snapchat. Music was everything. You too?


A Few Things

July 10, 2015

Blairs and Clarks

By Gabrielle. Photo by Ben Blair.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I hope well. I was traveling yesterday for a funeral and arrived home late last night — and then, this morning, I opened my laptop and started reading the amazing comments you wrote on my blog anniversary post. I am so touched! I can’t even tell you. I’ve been getting weepy all morning at your sweet words. As soon as I finish this post, I’ll respond to as many as I can.

And while I work on that, here are a few things that I thought you might find interesting:

- Colorado’s effort against teen pregnancies is a startling success.

- I totally have an obsession with tiny houses, but this article still made me laugh (warning: some cussing).

- “The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry.” Do you agree?

- Since we’re staying closer to home this summer, this guide of 30 places every California Kid needs to see is inspiring us.

You don’t have to hate anyone to be a bigot.

- Compelling new ideas about how to discipline children.

- Three kickstarters I bookmarked:  We Brave Women, and the LooGun. And this one I’m especially excited about. It’s called Everyword. It’s a crowd-sourced, really visually compelling site, that my nephew and niece are starting, where every single scripture in the Bible will get its own page, and then anything ever written about that individual scripture (both academic comments and more casual comments), or art inspired by that scripture, will be referenced on the page — it can incorporate all types of media. Free to use and completely non-denominational. And they only want $10 max donations.

- So fascinating. The mixed up brothers of Bogotá.

- Three cheers for this Malawi Chief! He annulled 330 teen marriages and enrolled the girls back in school.

- Famous films re-edited to highlight Hollywood’s race problem.

I hope you have a totally relaxing weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already!


P.S. — The photo at top is from Wednesday. We spent the day in the city with the Topher & Lisa Clark family. In the photo, we had just picked up ice cream at Ghiradelli Square. Topher is one of Ben Blair’s earliest childhood friends, and they both married just a few months apart from each other. They are one of our favorite families. After hitting all the tourist sites, we came back to our house and ended up letting all the kids stay up watching movies waaaayy too late, so we could talk into the wee hours of the morning. Made me super happy.


By Gabrielle. Illustration by the super talented Erin Jang.

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you’ve likely agonized over taking any sort of medication that could potentially carry risks. “Will it hurt the baby?” is a phrase probably uttered many, many times over that nine-month period, right? And usually, if our doctor assures us it’s all good, then it is.

But what if our doctor is wrong? What if the worst of nightmares comes true and suddenly the medication we took that was most assuredly fine was most definitely not fine? What if it does hurt the baby?

This is a story about that nightmare come true. Almost. Please join me in welcoming Sara Gillis. I hope the lessons she learned will help you get through your own moment when you feel like you’ve just let down the world around you. We’ve all had one or two of those, haven’t we?

Sara’s story, straight ahead.


Nine Years

July 8, 2015

Muir Woods

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Friends. It’s my blogging anniversary! Nine years ago today, I started Design Mom (here’s a link to my very first post).

Nine Years!

Over 6000 published posts. And another 60+ in drafts from over the years that may or may not ever see the light of day.

There are all sorts of related things I want to talk to you about. Things like the awesome phone call I had this morning concerning a super cool new series for the blog. I want to tell you about the insanely talented designer I reached out to for a blog redesign. I want to tell you about the podcast on parenting that Ben Blair and I are thinking about starting. (Sidenote: Would that interest any of you?). I want to to discuss blogging in general; how it’s changed, how it’s remained the same.

I would love to reminisce too! I want to remember when I used to have “guest moms”. I want to think about the first house tour (there have since been 195!), the long-running Secrets to Living Well column, the DIY posts. I want to ponder 2013 — the year I had a ton of regular contributors. I want to make a list of significant blog moments (things like the first giveaway, and the first award). I want to think about all of the different people who have helped make this website grow and thrive.

And I want to hear how long you’ve been reading! Are you new to Design Mom? Have you been reading since New York? Do you remember when Flora June was born in Colorado? Did you start reading when we lived in France? Do any of you remember the Ask Design Mom posts?

I’m fully aware that this blog would be nothing without YOU, the readers. And I’m forever grateful. I mean it from the bottom of my heart (and understand how cheesy that sounds, but it’s true). Thank you for reading!

P.S. — One of our favorite families is visiting from Utah, and we’re spending the day in San Francisco, but I’ll be thinking of the remarkable Design Mom Community all day, and promise to jump into the conversation as soon as I’m back at my desk.


By Gabrielle.

We are catching Flora just prior to her family’s embarkment on a fabulous adventure. If you’re dreaming of packing it all up and stealing your kids away for a year abroad, you’ve landed on the perfect post to inspire you. If you’re trying to choose between a city hustle and bustle existence or a slower paced life, Flora’s words will be a comfort. If you’ve been hoping for a wake-up call to push you in your right direction, there is a paragraph or two just for you. And if you’re trying to find the courage to paint a boldly blue kitchen nook, this is also the place to be.

One more thing. Flora apologized for her writing skills when she sent me her interview. I forgot to tell her that commas don’t really matter when you’ve written something that makes others smile and feel like they can accomplish just about anything, and suddenly realize that our dreams aren’t so far out of reach. There. I just did.

Please enjoy Flora as much as I have!

Hello, everyone! We are Chris, Flora, three-year-old Zoe Jane, and one-year-old Leo.

Chris is a freelance motion designer, an artist at heart since he was little. He has drawn, painted, and loves all things creative, and so to say he is passionate about his career is an understatement! His head is constantly solving design problems or coming up with new looks for clients.

I am also a freelance designer and mama, born in Mexico City. Design is something that comes second on my list of priorities. Most of my days consist of being a mother and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have been obsessed with pregnancy and newborns since I can remember, so becoming a mama has been the ultimate dream come true. Being a mom is everything I hoped for and more.

More wisdom and wonderful views, just ahead!


Santa Cruz Boardwalk Swings

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

I woke up this morning with all sorts of little things I wanted to talk to you about:

1) Crowds are on my mind today. We did a few big things over the weekend (you can see photos here). On Saturday morning, we went to a parade, and then we spent the afternoon in Santa Cruz. The night before, we went to the A’s game and stayed for fireworks (which is maybe my favorite summer tradition — if you get a chance, DO IT!). In all 3 cases, there were big crowds.

I inherited a trait from my father — an intense craving to be where all the action is. So I feel like I’m always the first to sign up for whatever exciting thing is happening. But oh man, in actuality, it completely wipes me out! It’s like, I can’t wait to get there, and then I can’t wait to leave. Hah! How about you?

2) We met with an architect! We are finally ready to move forward with our master bedroom/bath renovation, and we’re making some big changes to how the current space is used, so we wanted to talk with a pro. The architect’s name is Erin Conner, she ‘s the mother of one of the kids at our elementary school, and she is fantastic. We love her work! Lots of modern, clean lines — her style would be perfect for this house.

We also loved how honest she was with us. I’ve spent two years imagining this space and feel like I have a solid plan. She could see that. She said we didn’t necessarily need an architect for this project and then she spelled out exactly what she would be bringing to the table, so we could clearly see the benefits and associated costs. She also offered to consult on an hourly basis, which I was delighted to hear, because sometimes I can really use an architect’s opinion.

We’re speaking with some contractors too, and then we’ll need to decide if we want to go directly with a contractor or work through an architect first. Either way, we’re super excited about getting started on this renovation!

I’m prepping a post where I share the current floor plan of the master bedroom & bath so I can explain what our plans are and show the before pictures. We’ve done some big projects in this house, but I think this is the biggest by far. I’m in the stage right now where none of it can happen fast enough — once I get the vision, I want to start demolition immediately. (Did I tell you I was excited about this project? I’m so excited!)

3) Is there such a thing as a cold where the only symptom is being tired? I took two different naps yesterday, plus I slept in! I didn’t feel sick, but I was pretty darn worn out. Hah! I’m feeling much better today.

4) Funerals are on my mind. Ben Blair and I will be in Utah on Thursday to attend one. It’s my second trip to Utah for a funeral in the last 2 months. When my dad died, it meant a ton to me that people came to his funeral. I was 22 years old, and it was the first time I understood that the funeral is for the living, not for the dead. My father didn’t care if anyone came to his funeral. He was dead. But it was such a comfort to me and my siblings and my mother.

Ben Blair and I both have big families and can’t attend everything — we miss baptisms and new babies and all sorts of events. But since my father died, we’ve tried hard to attend funerals — at least, the ones that affect the people we love. We can’t always make it work. In France it was often too difficult to take a last minute trip like that. But we try.

It makes me wonder. Do you have a policy on funerals? I know everyone is different. I have friends who really can’t bear to attend them at all.

5) Last summer, we traveled quite a bit. We took an epic road trip, touring around National Parks with our exchange students. And Ben and I took an amazing  trip to Sweden as well. But this summer, we’re barely traveling at all! Instead, we’re mostly staying close to home, and working on the house.

There are some exceptions. The older girls went to Girls Camp. Ralph is going to scout camp. And 4 of the kids will attend Cousins Week in St. George. But we don’t have a big family trip on the schedule.

I’m a little worried I’ll regret it. I’m wondering about fitting in some weekend trips here in California, or even just exploring the Bay Area. And I’m also trying to figure out if Ben and I can fit in a trip for our anniversary next month. We’ll see.

What about you? Do you have any big trips this summer? Or are you staying local?

6) Have you seen Me and Earl and the Dying Girl? Ben and I saw it last night. I hadn’t heard of it before, but I thought it was really good! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

Anyway. Lots of random things. Feel free to discuss anything above. Or, consider this an open post — if there’s something you want to chat about, even if it doesn’t relate to anything above, feel free!


A Few Things

July 3, 2015

Betty and Flags

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. Happy Independence Day Weekend! Any fun plans? We’re heading to an Oakland A’s game tonight. After the game they invite everyone down on the field to watch fireworks. It’s pretty magical! It always happens on July 3rd and it’s an Oakland tradition.

On Saturday, we’ve got a hike in the redwoods and a family picnic back at our house. Then on Sunday, I hope we get to sing a bunch of the patriotic hymns. They’re some of my favorites! Don’t you feel like America the Beautiful has some truly epic lyrics? I mean verse 2 and verse 3? So good!

I’m signing off early this morning, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- I met the author of this essay, Clementine Wamariya, at the AYA summit last year. She is young and remarkable. The article is long form, so set aside a little time, because it will blow you away.

- The trailer for the cyber-seniors documentary looks super sweet.

- Feeling like you want to give up? I found this self-care printable really calming.

- My friend, Jane, sent me these Soludos slip-ons in gold and I’m in love! I’ve been wearing them like crazy.

- If you’re still feeling troubled by last week’s ruling on marriage, you may find these two links helpful. 1) A talk from an orthodox Rabbi on moving forward. And 2) this sincere offer from my friend Laurie. (I think it’s a public post, but if you can’t see it, let me know.)

- A world of languages (embarrassingly, I hadn’t even heard of several in the Top 23).

- The keynote presentation videos from Alt Summer are live!

- I keep thinking about this essay — ”Something I Wrote Once About Dating When You’re Plus-Sized.”

- A new contract made for writers/bloggers/designers/illustrators or anyone else who gets asked to work for free.

- Summer reading recommendations from an author.

- A conversation with white people on race (part of a series of mini-docs made by the NYT). If you’re feeling like it’s awkward to talk about race you might relate to this. Thanks, Jessie.

Father daughter beatbox battle. (I love how happy the dad is when she clearly outdoes him.)

- Will you be grilling tomorrow? Here are some awesome tips!

I hope you have a festive, happy weekend! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.



Personality Tests

July 2, 2015


By Gabrielle.

Yesterday, a friend shared this link to a free 10-minute Meyers-Briggs personality test. Do you know your Meyers-Briggs classification? Apparently there are 16 options. And until I took the test yesterday, I didn’t know mine. I remember taking a similar test years ago — it must have been when we lived in New York — though I wasn’t paying much attention to the results and don’t recall what they were. But I come across Meyers-Briggs references frequently, and sometimes wish I had a better understanding of the whole thing, so when I saw the 10 minute test link, I thought, why not?

Well, I took the test and the image above is a screengrab of the results. Turns out I’m an ENFJ. Immediately upon reading the results, I had about a million questions. Here are a few:

1) How accurate do these tests tend to be? Meaning, if people take a test like this once a year, do they always get the same result? Does it tend to be a permanent designation, or do personalities change over time?

2) Of course, it’s a total vanity feeder to find yourself sharing a personality with Bono, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Sheryl Sandburg. But obviously, admirable people are included with every personality designation. If you’ve taken the test, did you like the people listed who shared your personality? (I can’t imagine they ever list someone that is historically hated — like, hey, you share a personality with Stalin!)

3) If you’re someone who has taken the test, have you studied the description of your personality type? Do you know the personality types of your spouse or kids?

4) Do you consider yourself an advocate or fan of Meyers-Briggs tests? Do you take your results seriously? If yes, have you ever figured out how to improve a relationship based on what you learned from Meyers-Briggs descriptions? Has it ever helped you as a spouse or parent?

5) If you do counseling professionally, what’s your take on Meyers-Briggs? Do you find the tests accurate or valuable?

6) According to the test website, ENFJs “are a rare personality type and make up only 2% of the population”. But I was discussing my results on Facebook and there were a whole bunch of commenters that were also ENFJs. Certainly more than 2%! Does that mean I’m drawn to fellow ENFJs and have a higher percentage among my Facebook Friends?

So many questions! I would love to hear your Meyers-Briggs stories. I’m super curious. If you already know your personality type, I hope you’ll jump right in to the discussion. And if you don’t know your personality type, feel free to take the test, it’s super fast, I promise.


The (FREE) trick to stopping poison oak and poison ivy rash before it starts!

By Gabrielle. Poison Ivy botanical print found here.

Oh my goodness. At the moment, there is a major portion of my brain fixated on poison oak and poison ivy. Turns out I’m highly allergic! And I’ve been battling some intense poison oak rashes for months. I’ve had shots, used up dozens of tubes of prescription cream, and taken one million showers to ease the itch. (Oh the drama! Hah!) Remember the red dress I wore to the Iris Awards? It was chosen because it covered my poison oak rash all over my arms and legs.

Happily I think I’ve finally got it under control. So three cheers for that! But while it’s still on my mind, I thought I’d jot down the most helpful things I’ve learned about it in case anyone else out there is dealing with it too. Here are 10 things I’ve learned about poison oak and poison ivy since we moved to California:

1) Poison Ivy is found in the East. Poison Oak is found in the West. There’s Poison Sumac too, but I don’t know where it’s found.

2) Not everyone is allergic to these plants, but most people are — 85% of people have some sort of reaction. I seem to be on the highly allergic end. I swear, even if I don’t touch any plants at all, if it’s nearby I seem to break out in a poison oak rash. Luckily, no one else in the family (Ben Blair or the kids) seems to be quite as affected as I am.

3) The rash is intense. It goes deep and gets these nasty weeping blisters. So gross! For me, it doesn’t seem to improve at all on it’s own. I have to get medical help before I see improvement.

4) To ease the pain, someone recommended taking a super hot shower and putting the rash under the shower stream. She said to hold it there until it’s like a “good” pain. I followed the advice and found it totally works for me. Doing this can relieve my pain and itching for up to an hour. Though I should also note, no doctor has ever mentioned this to me, so I don’t claim it’s an official treatment. : )

5) Once it clears, you can see the scars of the rash for months and months — I had some on my leg that lasted a full year.

6) The thing that causes the rash (and that both poison oak and poison ivy have in common) is urushiol oil. It’s invisible, but it can rub off from the plant onto clothes or shoes or skin, or onto gardening tools or pretty much any surface.

7) Apparently, the urushiol oil stays toxic indefinitely. So if your garden rake comes in contact with poison oak, and then you put the rake away for the winter and don’t touch it again for 6 months, the oil would still give you a rash when you pick up the rake again.

8) Washing with soap and water doesn’t necessarily remove the oil. It’s intense stuff!

9) The rash doesn’t show up instantly. It can take 8 hours or more. So again, you may not even know you’ve come into contact with any of the plants or oil until the next day — at which point it’s too late to wash the oil off before it does damage.

10) Because you can’t see the oil, it can come into your life without you knowing it. Perhaps on your kids’ shoes, or on something like bike tires. Which means, it’s possible to get the rash even if you haven’t left the house!

Turns out number 10 is real the nightmare part for me. Our yard is like a bit of forest, and in the wild parts, poison oak thrives. We’ve removed as much of it as we can — and hired professionals to help too — but sometimes it grows back faster then we can keep up with it. So when the kids go exploring (which we want to encourage), they might run into some by accident, and then bring it home on their clothes or shoes. Or maybe the soccer ball gets kicked through a patch, and then picked up so the oil transfers to hands, and then the hands pick up the mail as they come inside, and then I open the mail, and then I end up covered in a rash.

But yesterday, I feel like I had a breakthrough in my poison oak battle. My friend Laurie shared this video on Facebook and I found it so helpful! Apparently the trick to getting the oil off is using a washcloth instead of plain soap and water. Take a peek:

Pretty awesome, right? I feel so much more confident about keeping the rash at bay now. Hopefully, some of you find it helpful too!

Tell me, friends: Have you ever had a poison ivy/oak rash? How about your kids? Do you have any tips that worked for you? Or any other pieces of info you’d add to my list? I’d love to hear.

P.S. — I hear there is a scientist working on a specific light bulb that will make urushiol oil visible. That would be amazing!



Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Minted. Don’t miss the $700 Minted Giveaway at the bottom of this post!

I’m super excited to show you today what we’ve done in the entry! Let’s start with some background: When we first moved in, the area right inside the front door was floored with tile, which transitioned to rug. (You can see a peek of the tile in this post.)

Entryway Styled 3 Different Ways (plus "before" pics too!)

The entry is an open area, with no front closet or storage, and it’s separated from the living room by the brick fireplace. To the left, as you enter the home, there is a hallway — and you may remember, that we transformed that hallway with cubbies and hooks to help with the non-storage in the entry. We also replaced/refinished the floors in the whole area, and whitewashed the brick fireplace with milk paint.

At that point the entry was bright and clean and simple and we’ve kept it that way pretty much ever since. But it’s a big enough space that I knew I wanted to do something more with it. So from time to time I’ve experimented. At one point, I tried a little love seat in front of the bricks, and when I wanted a holiday display in the entry, I would roll the hallway cubbies in and cover them with a tablecloth to act as a temporary console table. Though, really, it’s mostly been empty and waiting patiently for some attention.

Entryway Styled 3 Different Ways (plus "before" pics too!)

So over the last couple of weeks, I tackled the space and I’m delighted with how it turned out. Here’s a description of my design process:

First, I added a rug. It’s a rug that my sister Jordan picked up on a trip to Morocco and used in her apartment in Paris. I’ve tried the rug in the girls room too. I don’t know if it’s quite the right thing for this space, but I’m testing it out. I like the look here, but may need something more durable with all the foot traffic — I’m thinking I might want to go with a Dash & Albert indoor/outdoor rope rug — they can be scrubbed and hosed down!

Entryway Styled 3 Different Ways (plus "before" pics too!)

For a table, I wanted something versatile that could display holiday or seasonal decor sometimes, but also function as a desk when needed. I chose this one from West Elm. It has a marble top, but you can also get it with a wood top or a glass top. I though the marble would be a nice mirror of the marble coffee table that resides on the other side of the fireplace.

Entryway Styled 3 Different Ways (plus "before" pics too!)

Once the table and rug were in place, I turned my attention to artwork. I wanted something neutral that would fit well with the other pale surfaces we have going on in this space, and that I could put other colors nearby or in front of without causing problems.

I love using Minted for artwork, because they source all their prints from independent artists! (In fact, if you’re an artist, you can totally try one of their design challenges.) Many of the prints they offer are limited edition, and everything is available in lots of sizes — so you can go BIG or small. You can also choose a frame right when you’re ordering, which means your artwork will arrive ready to hang in about a week.

Entryway Styled 3 Different Ways (plus "before" pics too!)

The Minted artwork collection is quite big. There are so many good options, it can be hard to choose! So this is how I did it. I first started favoriting everything I liked that was in a neutral palette. If it spoke to me at all, I favorited it. After awhile, I took a look at my collection of favorites and realized I had saved several circles. That gave me an idea — I thought it would be fun to do six prints, two rows of three. And I decided to use circles as a theme. I measured the space and determined what size artwork would work best (I chose the 11″ option).

At that point, I started using search filters (Minted has tons of filters — you can search by editors’ picks, by color, by shape, by artist, etc.) and found all the possible neutral-colored artwork that featured a circle shape in a square. There were 15!

Next, I narrowed down those to my favorite 6 — I had the kids voice their opinions too so that everyone felt invested. We ended up choosing Natural, Mineral 03, Surround Me, Moon Rock, Fox Shadow, and Under The Microscope (in gold foil!). To finish things off, I chose a natural wood frame to mesh with our “treehouse” vibe.

Keep reading to see this space styled in two other ways. Oh! And you’ll find the Minted Giveaway at the bottom of the post.

Related Posts with Thumbnails