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By Gabrielle. Photos by Amy Christie for Design Mom.

Oh my goodness you guys. This is the cutest little project! I’m basically in love with it. And even if you are not crafty, this is doable, I promise. Can you print things out? Can you buy chocolate? Do you have scissors and tape? Then you can make these! You’ll love writing sweet messages with them, and so will your kids.

As you can guess with the timing of this post, these wraps were originally brainstormed as a Valentine’s Day project. But once the chocolates starting getting wrapped, it became clear that these wraps would be adorable any time of year! Write messages for Mother’s Day, for birthdays, for book club, for a baby shower. Wrap up initials as place markers at a dinner party. Drop off a sweet chocolate note for a friends who is having a hard day.

You simply can’t go wrong with these happy little wraps!

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Amy Christie led out on this project and here’s what she says:

This project is probably one of my favorites ever. It’s the colors, the cuteness, all the possibilities of messages to write and it’s chocolate!! #winning to the max. And while this week is all about Valentine’s Day, like Gabrielle said, these sweet treats can be used for any occasion throughout the year! New babies, dad’s day, kid’s day, after-surgery day, teacher gifts, a treat for the mail carrier. Even a ho-hum date night. Everyone, EVERYONE, will love this.

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We picked fab colors and all you have to do is print, cut and wrap. If you sneak a few chocolates while you’re working, that’s okay too.

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Brush up on your proofreading skills and let’s get going.

Click here for instructions and the free printables!


By Gabrielle.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live and raise kids on the world’s only island city-state? Me, too. And so…welcome to Singapore! Today, we’re visiting the home of Justina and her family who reside in a high-rise apartment — think 40 to 50 stories high! — and homeschool from way up there, too.

Her life, to me, is pretty normal and yet so fascinating at the same time. I want to visit! I want to smell the aromas of Singapore, walk through the streets around her house, look out from her balcony, ride public transportation… Oh, today is one of those days I wish my home tours could be videotaped and watched over and over, like an episode on HGTV!

Please help me welcome Justina and her boys, plus one little girl who is set to make her arrival very, very soon. (UPDATE! She was born yesterday, on Chinese New Year! Congratulations, Teys!)

Hello, I’m Justina, hailing from sunny Singapore! I’m married to John, and we have three little boys: Jude, Jamie, and Josh, who are seven, four, and two. We’re also expecting a little girl, who will be joining the family really soon, probably by the time this tour goes live!

Come see Singapore! Many views, just ahead!


Creating a Bathroom Pantry

February 8, 2016

Ikea Bathroom Refresh04

Photos and text by Gabrielle. Photos of me were shot by Maude Blair. This post is brought to you by IKEA.

So I’m totally into this project! I can’t wait to tell you all about it. IKEA issued the Daily Creativity Challenge: Take one area of your home, and organize it or make it more efficient, so that it frees up a few minutes of your day. Then take those minutes and use them to focus on a creative pursuit. Awesome, right?

I love this, because I’m always up for making the house run more smoothly, and because making the most of small chunks of time is something that has been on my mind. I have a lot of very different projects I want to take on this year, and I’ve been thinking about how to divide my day into small segments — each segment dedicated to a different project — in order to move them all forward. So this challenge really came at a perfect time.

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I thought about this challenge for awhile, and decided that at our house, something that could really help free up some brain space, and keep our mornings running smoothly, would be to create a “bathroom pantry” for the kids. If we don’t stay on top of our supplies, it totally causes preventable stress — like having Olive realize mid-shower there’s no more conditioner, or hearing Oscar report that we’re on the last role of TP and wondering if it will last until I can get to the store that evening.

Historically, we’ve been pretty good about staying stocked up on bathroom supplies, but in this house, we don’t have much in the way of cupboard space in the kids’ bathroom, and it’s been more challenging. So I figured we could use some blank wall space to add some shelving and create a bathroom pantry.

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Yes, it’s out in the open, which is tricky, because bathroom supplies aren’t necessarily handsome, but IKEA is actually perfect for that sort of challenge — they’re all about affordable storage solutions! That fantastic red shelf? It’s called VITTSJÖ and it’s $49 bucks! That green rubber laundry basket? It’s called TORKIS and it’s $4.99!

And it turns out there’s actually a big benefit to having everything out in the open: It’s much easier to stay aware of our stockpile. I’ve instructed the older kids to text me whenever they see any bathroom supply hit the 50% mark. Then I just copy the text to my ongoing grocery list and — tada! — we’re doing a much better job of staying on top of our supplies.

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If you’d like to use this idea, here are the products we’ve found most helpful. The VARIERA bins. We used these for the TP, and for general supplies. I like the red and blue interiors combined with the high gloss white — such a fun way to add a color accent. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but they coordinate really well with these GESSAN boxes. Plus I really like the nesting blue PALLRA boxes. These are great for storing things like first aid items and ointments that call for more privacy.

More product links, before and after photos, plus the project I’m working on with my newly free minutes — click here!


You Light Up My World, A Finger Light Valentine | Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos by Amy Christie for Design Mom.

First of all, are you familiar with fingerlights? Basically, they are a tiny colored light with an on/off switch and an elastic band so you can wear it on your finger. A couple of Octobers ago, a neighbor gave them out to trick-or-treaters and I made a mental note of their awesomeness. I know they are just tiny little lights, but I find them quite irresistible and thought they would make wonderful candy-free valentines!

You Light Up My World, A Finger Light Valentine | Design Mom You Light Up My World, A Finger Light Valentine | Design Mom

Happily, fingerlights are easy to find. I ordered these on Amazon, and asked Amy Christie to put together a happy little printable to go with them.

You Light Up My World, A Finger Light Valentine | Design Mom You Light Up My World, A Finger Light Valentine | Design Mom

All you need to do is order finger lights, print out the cards, and pop on a glue dot! Done and done. Let’s get to it!

Click here for the simple instructions and the printable link.


A Few Things

February 5, 2016

roses at the treehouse

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? I woke up today with the It’s Friday song going through my head. Hah! It wasn’t a particularly challenging week, but nevertheless, I couldn’t be happier that the weekend has arrived! You too?

Compared to last weekend, we barely have anything on our schedule, which is fine by me. I think the biggest thing I’d like to do this weekend is sketch out built in shelf options for the family room and office. How about you? What are your plans? Will you be watching the big game on Sunday? It’s happening just across the Bay!

Also, I really appreciate all the contractor advice from yesterday’s post. After I sign off here, I’m going to make a bunch of phone calls and see if I can figure something out. But before I do that, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Oh wow! This made me catch my breath. Can you imagine the joy in the room?

- Something new. The DuVernay Test is like the Bechdel Test, but for race.

- In Oakland, this big-hearted and super-inspiring man is building tiny houses for the homeless.

- Save this link. A searchable catalog of the best kids’ books from the last 8 years.

- What it was like when women were not allowed to have their own credit cards.

- America’s oldest mall was turned into 48 charming, low-cost, micro apartments. Does your town have an empty mall?

- What Frida Kahlo wore.

- I came across this short history of Japan on Twitter, and now I want to watch one for every country in the world.

- Cool DIY laundry folding tool for kids (or adults!).

- Do our schools lack joy?

- My friend Kristen Howerton, has been the target of white supremacists over the last few weeks. The brutality is hard to comprehend. We like to think this doesn’t happen in our “post racial” society, but that’s not true. She writes about the experience here.

- Related, I’ve been thinking about this article putting forth the idea we need to make publishers more accountable for the comments on their sites. And this is where I also need to say HIGH FIVE to Design Mom Readers, because you manage to have big discussions and share diverse opinions, while also being both civil and responsible. Having to delete a comment is a rare thing for me. Thank you!

- Lastly, turns out trees have social networks too.

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



Schnitzel Recipe from renowned chef Markus Glocker. You can make this!

Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Blue Apron — get 2 free meals with your first order!

So cool! Blue Apron has a new Guest Chef Series that I just tried. I think it’s an awesome concept, and I can tell you it tastes awesome in reality. Essentially, Blue Apron partners with a renowned chef who shares a special recipe. Then, customers can order the featured recipe as part of their regular Blue Apron delivery! This makes it possible for home chefs across the country (like me!) to make one-of-a-kind meals.

farm fresh ingredients chopping chives Schnitzel Recipe from renowned chef Markus Glocker. You can make this!

Blue Apron has partnered with chefs in California, New York, Dallas, and more, including Chef Melissa Perello and Chef Johnathan Adler. This year, they are working with Markus Glocker, an Austrian-born chef and restaurant owner. He recently won Best New Restaurant from the James Beard Foundation for his restaurant, Batard. Such an honor!

The best part? Last night, I got to make Chef Glocker’s Schnitzel recipe — and so can you! If you want to try the Schnitzel, order within the next week, and it will come with your Blue Apron delivery on February 18th. Plus, the first 100 Design Mom Readers to sign up will get 2 free meals off their first order. Schnitzel for everybody!

teens cooking together chopping onions

Chef Markus mentions this in the video below, but the schnitzel recipe is a classic Austrian dish that he had all the time growing up. It’s not officially on the menu at Batard, but he started making it for his Austrian friends when they would visit the restaurant and it’s become a crowd favorite. In fact, Pete Wells, the food critic for the New York Times, reviewed Batard, giving it 3 stars (an amazing rating!), and when he visited the restaurant, he specifically requested the schnitzel.

I think we can all consider ourselves lucky, because now we all know that Glocker serves this recipe off the menu, and we can request it if we ever get to dine there. Happily, in the meantime, Blue Apron will deliver it to our doors.

use a pot to flatten chicken when cooking schnitzel Making Schnitzel: flour then egg then breadcrumbs

If you’d like more from Chef Glocker, I’ve got good news. In addition to creating a video about the recipe, Blue Apron also created two “chef tip” videos that share Glocker’s secret tips to the perfect schnitzel and the perfect potato salad. These are really authentic tips, and I love that they give us a peek into the kitchen of a New York City icon!

peeling fingerling potatoes Schnitzel Recipe from renowned chef Markus Glocker. You can make this! Schnitzel Recipe from renowned chef Markus Glocker. You can make this!

I’ve written about Blue Apron before, so I know most of you are familiar, but just in case it’s new to you, here’s a quick summary: Blue Apron delivers all the farm-fresh ingredients you need, right to your doorstep, in exactly the right proportions, to make chef-designed recipes at home. No trips to the grocery store and no waste from unused ingredients. Everything arrives in a refrigerated box so ingredients stay fresh even if you’re not at home when your package arrives. I find it super convenient, especially on busy weeks.

Potato Salad Recipe from renowned chef Markus Glocker. You can make this! Schnitzel Recipe from renowned chef Markus Glocker. You can make this!

My conclusion? The schnitzel was delicious and so was the potato salad! Maude and Olive both said it was their favorite Blue Apron recipe so far. If you get a chance to try it, I want to hear what you think! I mentioned it above, but in case you missed it, next week is your big chance to order the schnitzel, and you can find the discount code here.

Now I’m curious. Do you follow any world-renowned chefs? Do you try their recipes? If you had the chance to choose which chef Blue Apron partners with next, who would it be?



Photo and text by Gabrielle.

I just realized I skipped January’s post, but here’s February’s installment of random thoughts just for you. Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments!

1) It seems to be spider season at our house. I have a long-standing deep fear of many types of spiders. In France, some of the spiders were massive, especially in the fall, and I did not deal well with the situation at all. And growing up in St. George, wolf spiders were both gross and terrifying to me (they still are!). But these Oakland spiders don’t really scare me. They’re often tiny, and they’re daddy-long-leg types, so there’s not much mass to them.

The thing that bugs me is the constant battling of cobwebs. I vacuum them all up, and the next day they are back in full force. I’ve heard that wiping down surfaces with lemon juice can keep them away. Apparently, their taste buds are in their feet and they don’t like the taste of lemon. Any one out there tried this? Other tips?

2) Not sure what to do about this, but we’re having a really hard time finding a contractor for our master bedroom remodel. I was not expecting this and and am feeling stuck. I’m wondering what the story is. Last time we hired a contractor, we had 3 bids within a week. This time, it’s hard to get anyone to return a phone call. Maybe there’s some sort of building boom going on that I’m not aware of?

I could have sworn we’d be done by now and we haven’t even started the demolition. Very frustrating! I usually try to hire people on recommendation, but at this point, I feel like I”m going to need to start cold-calling every contractor in the area and see who has time. I’m happy to take any advice! I’m really, really excited to get going on this. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning.

3) Our whole house is buzzing with excitement over the launch of Teachur. I’m super proud of Ben Blair and my brother Josh. The kids are proud too — they check in and give me updates on the Kickstarter page throughout the day. Cousins call and cheer Ben on. My siblings share the post and pledge support. The response has been really wonderful and I love any time Ben Blair gets to shine.

I also LOVE the responses you gave on the post I wrote about it. I can’t thank you enough. The feedback and questions are incredibly helpful to Ben and Josh. Feel free to keep them coming. If you’re interested in following the progress of Teachur, a pledge of even $1 is awesome! It helps them gauge interest and makes it easy to update people with Teachur news.

4) Both of my boys are growing their hair out. They’ve worn their hair short for so many years, that I think we’d forgotten how curly it is! They haven’t needed it before, but I bought some mousse and gel for them to try out as they figure out which sort of curl they like best.

Betty and Olive don’t have much curl, but Maude and June definitely have some. In fact, June used to have a ton! A whole head full of ringlets. But her curls have relaxed in a big way over the last 2 years. I have no idea why. Age? Humidity levels? It’s always fascinating to see my kids grow and change. I love seeing who they are becoming.

5) A few months after we moved here, we hired a woman named Natalie as our housekeeper. She was excellent! An artist who wanted flexible work so she could paint in her spare time. She would come about 10 hours per week to clean house and run errands. But she took a full-time office job last fall (awesome for her!) and we haven’t replaced her yet. I think it’s time to hire someone again, but I keep putting it off. It feels like asking someone to join the family and I want to make sure I’m hiring the right person.

What’s your take on hiring help in the home? Have you ever hired someone? A house keeper? A nanny? A personal assistant? I know some people love hiring help, and others find it stressful to have non-family members in their home on a regular basis. As for me, I truly love the help, but at the same time, having a break for a few months has also been good. Yes, it has meant more of my time spent cleaning, but if I’m honest, I’m also more relaxed when I don’t have workers in my house. How about you?

6) Sometimes I get the urge to do a video — probably a Periscope — where I can talk about random stuff like this. I haven’t tried something like that before. Pretty much every video I’ve created has had a specific purpose or even a script. So I don’t know if the randomness would work. I’m sure there must be You-tubers that do something similar — random chatty videos that are unedited. But I haven’t come across any, so maybe they’re not aimed at my demographic. Who knows.

Really what I want is a conversation. I want to talk about random stuff with another person. I want the back and forth. If you have any thoughts on this idea, let me know.

7) I’m feeling really lucky today. It’s one of those days where I’m having a moment of clarity, and can clearly see that I’m surrounded by good people and good things. If I started making a gratitude list right this minute, I’m quite sure I would get to bedtime and not be finished yet. Little things like the unexpected fresh flowers a thoughtful friend sent. And big things like the fact that I really like my kids, not just because they’re mine, but because they are as human beings. Have you ever had one of those days? It feels good.

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

 P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.


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By Gabrielle. Photos by Liz Berget for Design Mom

Woo hoo! The next installment of Dessert for Two is ready to share. And as usual, my mouth is watering at the photos. I’m officially dedicating this post to everyone out there burning the midnight oil on a project — from science fair displays and purging your closet, to term papers, taxes, and building a startup. When you and your kid/partner/spouse/bestie need a late night boost, this recipe will be waiting for you.

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Alternatively, I’m also going to give this a big thumbs up for your Valentine’s Day celebrations. In case you need a reminder, Valentine’s Day is Sunday after next, and if you are looking for a way to add a little romance to the day, dessert for two is pretty much perfect.

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Liz came up with this month’s recipe, and she had me at salted caramel. Doesn’t it look amazing?

Before we jump into the recipe, I just wanted to mention that I LOVE the enthusiastic response to this new column. Feel free to keep the ideas coming. If you have particular dessert cravings, I want to know about it!

Click here for the recipe and notes!


By Gabrielle. Photos by Revival Photography.

I love how Alison describes her small town: “My family moved here when I was ten years old, and I remember pulling into town and noticing that there was a McDonalds…and not much else. The town has grown only a bit in the 26 years I have lived here, and I both love and hate that about it.”

I’m sure a lot of us share this dichotomy between a deep appreciation for comfort and an equally deep craving for change. It’s always a toss-up on which will win the contest, right? Either way, one look at her home and reading of her thoughts and I get the impression she’s living an inspired life in her one McDonald’s town. I hope you enjoy this peek into how she’s living with kids. (And who just searched for a wall-sized, roll-up map for their living area? Me, too.)

Hi, everyone! I’m Alison. I am a wife and stay-at-home mother of four young children, including a two year old set of twins. My husband, Scott, is a hard-working, incredibly talented designer. A couple years after graduating high school, I saw Scott (who was two years younger than me in school) out with some mutual friends. We talked for a few minutes and then parted ways. I remember saying to the friend I was with, “That Scott Little is hot. I would marry him.” A few months later we ran into each other again, and the rest, as they say, is history. I knew right away he was the one, as cliché as that sounds!

Our boys are eight and six. Jackson, our oldest, is smart and tender hearted. He has a quirky little personality and has always kept us on our toes. I always said there was no one in the whole world who loved me the way Jackson did, until our daughter Charlotte came along. She is so much like he was at her age, and shows love and affection much the same as he did. It’s fun to see the similarities between them.

Grayson, our six year old, is his own little person. He is independent, and has a unique style that I love so much. He gives absolutely no thought or worry to what others might think of him. It is my very favorite trait of his, and I hope he carries it with him always.

In the Fall of 2012 we found our we were expecting our third baby, and at our six week ultrasound found out we were actually expecting our third and fourth babies! Having twins was the most shocking and most wonderful surprise. Juliet and Charlotte were born in the summer of 2013. I barely remember those first four months. I never knew I could be so tired, or love coffee so much.

They are now two-and-a-half, and I’m convinced this is the very best age. They are sweet and funny and the cutest (of course!), and I just feel so lucky to be their mama.

More goodness, straight ahead!


Teachur Screengrab

By Gabrielle.

I’m SO EXCITED to share this post with you. I know I haven’t written an update in ages on what Ben Blair has been up to. And today, I finally get to tell you! He’s been building a brand new company with my brother Josh Stanley, called Teachur. And it’s such a cool thing — it has the potential to transform higher education in a major way.

Teachur is a new online platform where students can earn an accredited college degree for the flat price of $1000.


Intrigued? Well you can learn all the details on the Kickstarter page that launched today. There is a short video packed with info, and the story on the Kickstarter page has even more info. If you’re not in the mood to click over, here is Teachur as I understand it:

The cost of higher education has increased from $40,o00 (in today’s dollars) in 1982, to $128,000 today. Which is insane! People used to be able to work a summer job and then pay for tuition. But now it’s a student loan model. The average student graduates with a 4-year degree and $32,000 in debt. Yikes!

And the thing is, the increase in price hasn’t made the curriculum and teaching significantly better. They’ve stayed pretty much the same. Instead, the new costs are tied to things like massive stadiums and a huge increase in the number of people in administration.

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Josh and Ben wondered: could they separate the actual learning that takes place when earning a college degree, from the inflated costs of a high-end campus? And if they could separate it, how much would the actual learning cost a student? Turns out: they think they can do it for $1000. So amazing!!! Currently, the least expensive degrees out there are $20,000. So $1000 is revolutionary!

So what is Teachur going to offer? Well if you’ve ever taken an online class, you might be picturing something like that, but Teachur isn’t planning to offer online classes. Instead, they will give students Objectives and Assessments. What are Objectives? When a teacher is building curriculum, they come up with a set of objectives that students need to master for any particular class, and then they might align the objectives to guidelines for their specific discipline. Objectives are basically a list of everything a student needs to learn in a class. So for a U.S. History course, there might be 20-200 objectives (depending on how detailed the objectives are), including something like: student understands significant causes and consequences of the Revolutionary War.

What are Assessments? They are tests and reviews. They are a way a student and assessor can see if they’ve mastered the objectives. I’m sure you remember these very well from your own schooling. Sometimes they are written, sometimes they are multiple choice, sometimes they are oral reviews.

With Teachur, students will receive a set a objectives for their desired degree. It’s basically a path: learn this, then this, then this…. with assessments along the way… till you get to the accredited degree. Students will master the objectives in any way they like — watching online videos or tutorials, reading books or essays, talking with an expert. Then, Teachur will provide the assessments. When the student passes all the assessments? They’ve earned their degree!!

One more note on Assessments. The big question with these, is how to make them secure. And this is an awesome part: Teachur will be tying assessments to the Blockchain. I’m no Blockchain expert, but essentially it’s the security system that Bitcoin was built on, and it’s actually much more secure than the current testing systems that happen at real-life universities. If you’re curious, you can read about it here. The whole thing is so dang cool!

At the same time that the cost of education has gone up, up up, the internet has made it possible to learn pretty much anything you can think of at no cost. And Teachur will help people take advantage of that fact by giving them an accredited path of what to learn and in which order. If you want to learn to be a rocket scientist, the knowledge to become one is freely available. You just need to know what it is you’re looking for (objectives), and you need to prove that you’ve actually learned it (assessments).

Clearly, Teachur won’t be appealing to everybody, and I don’t imagine for a minute that it will replace our university system. Certainly, there is something valuable and wonderful about the experience of attending real-life classes on a campus, something that goes beyond simply learning the offered curriculum. And yes, there are lots of people that learn best that way. But not everyone does, and not everyone makes use of what a campus has to offer, and not everyone can afford a traditional university education. Some people really just want the learning and the degree.

How’s this for a metaphor: It’s like if you went to the hardware store to buy a hammer, but you can’t just get a hammer. In order to get the hammer, you have to buy a whole deluxe 50-piece tool kit. The deluxe tool kit is awesome! Filled with high quality tools. There’s a drill, a tape measure, a screwdriver set and tons of useful objects. But the thing is, you own some of those tools already, and when you look closely, you know you won’t use about half of what’s in the kit — even though the tools are excellent. You really just need the hammer. And you only have a budget for the hammer. Why do you have to buy the whole deluxe tool kit?

Josh and Ben are perfectly trained to build Teachur, and they’ve already been working on it for months and months. Ben Blair’s PhD is in Educational Philosophy from Columbia and the bulk of his professional life has been building curriculum and aligning objectives. Josh also studied at Columbia — with a focus on Educational Technology, and he’s spent his career thus far working as an instructional technologist, building educational tools and directing college faculty on how to incorporate technology in their teaching. As you know, Ben Blair has 6 kids, and my brother Josh has 5, so they are both keenly aware of the realties of college and what it costs.

Why Kickstarter? Well, like I mentioned, they have already put months and months into building Teachur, but they’ve reached a point where they need a bigger team to make this happen in an impactful way — they want to offer 130+ degrees! And they can’t do it on their own. Kickstarter is an awesome way to gauge interest. Sure, I’m totally into it. But I’m the wife of Ben and the sister of Josh. Are other people interested? That’s what the Kickstarter will tell them.

So I hope you go check it out! I’d love to discuss it with you and I’d love to hear what you think of it. Is there anything confusing? Anything you especially like? And what are your thoughts on the rewards – you can have a campus building named after you! Hah!

I’d also love your thoughts on higher education in general. We’ve talked about paying for college before, but what’s your current thinking on it? Does it stress you out? Would something like Teachur offer hope? Chime in!


Edible Monogram Cookies for Your Valentine! | Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos by Amy Christie for Design Mom.

Happy February! Pull out your red construction paper and your pink glitter and your heart stamps, because for the next two weeks it’s all about Valentine’s Day. Are you excited? Neutral on the subject? No interested at all?

Well, wherever you fall on the Valentine’s Day spectrum, you’ll like this project. It’s all about how to print out and fold this handy little wrap-style envelope. Yes, this envelope is perfect for gently wrapping up a Valentine sweet, but it’s also useable any week of the year, and can be printed on any colored or patterned paper you like.

Edible Monogram Cookies for Your Valentine | Design Mom Edible Monogram Cookies for Your Valentine | Design Mom Edible Monogram Cookies for Your Valentine | Design Mom

Use these simple envelopes to wrap up a note, the pony bead necklace your son made for his aunt, cookies or chocolates, a set of coasters, friendship bracelets — really, anything that’s small and relatively flat. These are so simple and so useful! You’ll want to make a stack to have at the ready.

Bonus: Amy Christie shot the photos for this project and made awesome initial cookies from font printouts. So you can learn how to do that in this post too!

Edible Monogram Cookies for Your Valentine | Design Mom Edible Monogram Cookies for Your Valentine | Design Mom

Before we jump to the how-to, I’m curious. When prepping for Valentine’s Day, do you make valentines for your friends? And have you ever heard of Gal-antines Day gatherings? The idea is to celebrate your gal-friends on February 14th instead of focusing on who does or doesn’t have a love interest at the moment. I’m thinking these little wraps are perfect for cookie deliveries to your circle of friends.

Okay. On to the instructions!

Click here for the tutorial, recipe and notes!


A Few Things

January 29, 2016

June Blair Kindergartener

Photo and text by Gabrielle. That’s my kindergartener!

Hello, Friends! Happy Friday! How are you? Our school district is having a teacher prep day, so the kids have off school, and I must say, skipping the morning routine today felt like the ultimate luxury. Hah!

We’re looking forward to a full and exciting weekend. Birthday parties to go to, Winter Ball at the high school, a conference on Saturday and a lecture on Sunday night. A friend is coming to stay, and Maude is hosting a sleepover too. All good things. How about you? Anything you’re looking forward to? I’d love to hear!

I think that’s it for today, but before I sign off for the weekend, I have a few things to share with you. Lots of great links this week:

- Finally! And hallelujah! A new call for Depression Screenings during and after pregnancy.

- Turns out the English language is sexist and helps form our currently sexist society.

- Related, a disturbing chart of sexist tweets Trump supporters sent to reporter, Megan Kelly.

- But sexism be damned, because after the blizzard, only women showed up to run the Senate!

- One step closer to artificial intelligence, a computer beat the reigning champion in a game called Go. I had never heard of Go, but apparently it’s considered the most challenging game humans have ever created.

- Did you see the announcement about the new Barbies? New skin tones, new curvy shapes, short versions and tall versions. What do you think? Is it awesome news or too little too late?

- Science! The organ shortage could be solved by a technique called decellularization. So cool.

- I had no idea this was happening. The numbers behind America’s heroin epidemic.

- An 11-year-old girl, sick of reading books about white boys and dogs, launches #1000BlackGirlBooks.

- Something  fun — Jane Maynard interviewed me on her new podcast!

- I’ve read Cool Mom Picks and Cool Mom Tech for years, but somehow I missed the launch of Cool Mom Eats! Really fantastic content — like this post on kid-friendly, non-meat sources of protein, or this one on healthy Valentine Day treats. I highly recommend.

- Lastly, here’s a silly one that made me laugh. Watch with sound.

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



Forty One and a Half

January 28, 2016


By Gabrielle. Photo by Brooke Dennis for Alt Summit.

Let’s talk about ageing for a bit. I feel like I age in spurts — as if I look and feel the same for 6 or 8 years, and then suddenly, over 1 month, I can see and feel big differences in my body. I was sort of expecting to feel an aging spurt at 40, but it didn’t happen. Instead, it came at forty-one-and-a-half. Suddenly, I’m feeling it. Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject. And I’d love to hear yours!

On Hair:
I know I’ve already talked about this one at length, so there’s not much to say. The short version in case you missed the hair post: I am now 75% grey. Which is a lot, and it’s early (I found my first grey hairs at age 13). In fact, most of my peers are just getting a few grays here and there, or a specific streak of grey. And I’m not sure if and when I’m going to stop dyeing my hair. Sometimes I watch my older sisters to gauge how their grey is coming in, thinking it will help me decide.

I should also note, it’s not just a change of color — the texture of my grey hair is different than the brown hair I grew up with. The grey is more wiry.

On Eyesight:
I’ve mentioned this before, but I have awful eyesight. And it’s been awful since I was a kid. I’m extremely near-sighted — I have 20/800 vision, which I’ve been told qualifies as legally blind. Though I remember my father going blind from diabetes and I can’t pretend that I’ve ever had to face that sort of challenge.

But I definitely can’t function without glasses or contacts. That’s not new. The new thing is that I’m now becoming farsighted too! Very exciting! Hah! It’s just barely started. And it’s not bad enough to need help with yet, but I think this means some sort of bi-focals or progressive lenses are in my very near future.

Skin, food, exercise, grooming and lots more ahead!


spray-snow-paint 9

By Gabrielle. Photos by Amy Christie for Design Mom.

Facing another snow day? Well I’ve got the perfect activity to keep the kids active and happy — and the main thing you need is old markers. Emphasis on the old! Before you throw away that set of neglected/mostly-dried out markers, give them one more shot at artistic glory. Use them to make snow paint!

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As you can imagine, Oakland is not snowed in at the moment (or ever), so I asked Minnesota-based Amy Christie, to help us out with this DIY.

The photo turned out so wonderfully! They make me want to load up the car and head to Tahoe so we can have a snow day too — snow painting, sledding, making a snowman. Hmmm. We don’t have school tomorrow because of a teacher prep day, so maybe we can really make this happen!

how-to-make-snow-paint 1

Before we jump into this very easy DIY, I’d love to hear the snow situation in your part of the world. Are you snowed in? Stuck at home? Or are you seeing all the snow photos on social media and wishing you had an excuse to pull out your mittens and snow boots?

Click here for the simple tutorial!


thai-curry-soup 7

By Gabrielle. Photos by Liz Berget for Design Mom

Oh my goodness. There’s been so much snow across the U.S. in the last week! Is everybody staying warm out there? The photos of buried cars, and a snowy, car-free Times Square are filling my social media feeds, and watching from sunny California makes it all seem pretty magical.

But of course, if we were going on day 3 of cancelled school, and my back was sore from clearly a path to my door, I know I wouldn’t feel so cheerful about things. I’ve experienced plenty of snow days in my parenting life and know full well that sometimes they are awesome, and other times they are exhausting.

So for any of us stuck at home, or just feeling chilly today, I thought it would be fun to share a stick-to-your-ribs recipe. Something that is warm and hearty and delicious, but doesn’t feel like the same old, same old.

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I asked Liz for some ideas and she had just the thing. A soup that spoons up like a thick casserole! And it’s packed with tons of interesting flavors.

And speaking of flavors, you may remember my aversion to cilantro (it tastes like soap!). My girls seem to have inherited my taste buds and they aren’t fans either, but my boys, and Ben Blair, all love cilantro. Whatever your take on cilantro is, it’s used here as an optional garnish, so you can pile it high and deep, or avoid it altogether. No worries!

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Alrighty. Let’s see how to make this warm and cozy feast!

Click here for the recipe and notes!


After Alt

January 26, 2016


Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I know it’s only been a few days, but it seems like ages since I’ve had a chance to connect with you. Blogging has been such a big part of my life for almost a decade now, that if I miss a day of posting, I feel off-centered till I check back in. Hah!

Here’s what’s been up with me in the last few days. I arrived home from Alt Summit late on Saturday night. It was a really good conference. So many people emailed me or texted me: Best Conference Ever!!! And that always brings a smile to my face. I have no idea if it’s actually true, but the thought that it gets a little better each year is more than I could hope for!

Since I arrived home, I’ve done essentially 3 things: slept, ate, and hung out with the family. Alt Summit doesn’t always wipe me out, but this time it did for sure! I’m craving a week-long recovery period, while simultaneously feeling homesick for my usual work schedule.

There are so many posts and topics I want to share with you these days — my editorial calendar is currently packed! — so I don’t think I’m going to do a full Alt Summit recap. And instead, I’ll share highlights here and there. But if you’d like to get a picture of what the conference was like for me, take a look at Instagram. I didn’t manage to post much during the actual conference, but yesterday I shared 15 photos from my week!! Including one of me and Sarah Michelle Gellar, and a whole bunch that show my new haircut.

It was so many photos in one day, that I definitely annoyed people, but I wanted to share while all the memories were fresh. You can also see all the professional photos from the event on the Alt Summit Flickr page.

Hooray for Alt! And mostly, I’m glad to be back!!


By Gabrielle.

Here’s what I know after spending some time with Jenni’s tour: I enjoy people who meet their spouse at a Japanese night class in Scotland, people who wholeheartedly love the setting in which they are raising their children, and cactus caretakers. (I think it takes a perfectly balanced mix of concentration and forgetfulness to raise a cactus, don’t you?) Turns out, I also enjoy people who take their kitchen shelves seriously! Jenni’s sure are cute!

And I can’t forget to add people who smile when it’s raining to my list!

If you’d like to see how she and her husband are living with kids in a Berlin rental, please stay awhile. There’s a ton of fabulous ideas that can be achieved with very little investment, whether you’re currently in a restricted rental or simply on a decorating or time budget. I hope you enjoy her as much as I do. Welcome, Jenni!

Hello, my name is Jenni. I live in Berlin with my husband and two sons: Oskar is five and Alfred is one. We moved here from Scotland almost four-and-a-half years ago due to my husband’s work. I am originally from Germany but I grew up in Scotland, so we speak English with each other at home and I speak German with the kids when we’re out and about.

My husband and I met in Edinburgh at Japanese night class — as you do — over ten years ago, and we have been married for just over six years. I have to admit, I have forgotten most of my Japanese, but I always say I gained a husband so the classes were a worthwhile investment!

He is a software architect and I am a museologist, though currently still on maternity leave with the little one. The safety net for families — parental leave, maternity pay, child benefits, subsidized child care — is very generous here in Germany, and we count ourselves lucky to benefit from it.

Oskar will start primary school this year, after the summer, and he is already super excited. He’s a very free spirited boy with a compassionate heart, who knows what he likes and will put people in their place if they tell him he looks like a girl because he has shoulder-length hair or likes wearing pink. His favorite things include cars, dinosaurs, and flowers, and you’re as likely to find him wearing a Spider-man costume as you are butterfly wings.

Alfred is just finding his feet, literally, and will start at kindergarden after Easter. He is a jolly little fellow, who loves to laugh at everything — he even laughs in his sleep — and tries to copy everything his big brother does, whom he absolutely adores. He’s also really into music; if you put any on, he’ll immediately start clapping his hands and jumping around on his knees.

We live to the north of a district called Schöneberg, which is in central Berlin, in a third floor rental apartment. We only moved here six months ago. Initially, we were actually going to leave Berlin altogether, but then things worked out differently.

More cute shelves and cacti, just ahead!


Wood You Be My Valentine? | Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos by Amy Christie for Design Mom.

It’s been a whole year since I pulled out my wood burner/etcher. But I’m feeling the burn once again! So I was brainstorming possible wood-etched crafts with Amy, and she happened to mention there are metal initials you can use with your wood burner. They attach to the wood burner, heat up, and then “brand” the wood.

Well, that pretty much blew my mind, because trying to write with a wood burner is super hard and I generally avoid it, but now that I know about wood burning letters, it opens up all sorts of awesome possibilities!

wood-you-be-my-valentine 1 Wood You Be My Valentine? | Design Mom Wood You Be My Valentine? | Design Mom

Awesome possibilities like these wooden initial pins! We’re calling them heart flair. (Did you ever see Office Space?) And the concept is pretty simple. Take pre-cut wooden hearts, burn in the initials of your true love (or all your 3rd grader’s classmates), and then glue a brooch pin on the back.

Wood You Be My Valentine? | Design Mom Wood You Be My Valentine? | Design Mom Wood You Be My Valentine? | Design Mom

You’ll find links to all the supplies below. Plus! There’s a super cute FREE printable to go with the pins!! Wood you be my valentine?

Get your etching tool plugged in and let’s get started.

Full tutorial straight ahead!


By Gabrielle. Anthony Burrill’s upbeat artwork is lovely, isn’t it?

Steered by Flannery O’Connor’s own raison d’être — “I write to discover what I know.” — Carrie Willard’s writing normally centers around exactly that, which means her topics range from minimalism, healthy food and wellness, homeschooling, the science of happiness, frugality, and the economics of a large family. Large family meaning seven children, by the way.

It is the story of her seventh that brings her here with us today. She had stopped writing about parenting for the most part until she gave birth to a 27-week preemie. I’ll let her tell you the rest of the story. It’s pretty remarkable. Welcome, Carrie!

Carrie’s beautiful words, just ahead.


healthy baked salmon with kale salad

By Gabrielle. Photos by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.

In the winter months, I’m all about soups, and chili, and slow cooked, hearty meals. They taste like cozy comfort and I find them so satisfying. But I’ve noticed that by mid-January, I’ll hit a saturation point on the heavy food, and then all of sudden, I’ll crave a meal that’s light and simple and fresh.

It’s like I need a clarifying break in the menu.

baked salmon with kale salad kale salad ingredients

I figured I’m not the only one that might be on winter-food overload, so I asked Lindsey to come up with a meal that would fit the fresh and light category, and she came up with this gorgeous salad, served alongside baked salmon.

Oh my goodness. I want a giant bowl of the salad right this minute! Don’t the ingredients look amazing?

blood orange and mint kale ribbons and ingredients for salad salmon with garlic lemon pepper oil

I also want to say, I loved reading Lindsey’s thoughts on this meal (see below). She’s all about getting as much nutrition from her food as possible. I love that thinking and want to be more intentional about the nutrition I’m getting from my own food. This meal seems like a good place to start.

Before we jump into the recipe, I’d love to hear: Is anyone else out there ready for a break from soups and stews? Do you get fresh food cravings mid-winter? If yes, what do you like to eat when those cravings hit?

Click here for the recipe and notes!

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