A Few Things

January 30, 2015

Gabrielle Blair Design Mom Diamonds

By Gabrielle

Hello, Friends. How was your week? And how are YOU? I loved being back at my desk this week, with no travel on the immediate calendar for me or Ben Blair or any of our kids. I definitely feel like I’ve been in recovery mode since Sunday — January offered up some particularly crazy weeks! I find that all I’m craving this weekend is some extra sleep and a few hours to make some headway on my inbox. Sounds glamorous, right? Hah!

How about you? Anything fun on your weekend schedule? Let me know so I can live vicariously through you!

I’ve got a decent to-do list to tackle today so that I can welcome the weekend, but before I turn my attention to tackling, there are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- #ThisGirlCan! No surprise this video has gone viral.

- An article from a writer who says she’s “sponsored” by her husband.

- Whistling at your Mom.

- A Blog About Love is posting again! I’ve missed their voices. I especially noted their posts about small breasts, the experience at Vipassana, and one key to developing compassion.

- An anti-domestic violence SuperBowl commercial. (I feel like I may have shared this before. My apologies if it’s a repeat. But then again, it bears repeating.)

- Check this out: Happy Handmade Book.

- Are you following this Humans of New York story about the school and the amazing principal?

- Chart of dresses worn by Best Actress Oscar Winners.

- Made me smile. Licia Ronzulli of European Parliament has been taking her daughter to sessions for 2 years.

- If Frodo had Google maps.

- Remind me to show this to Oscar. I am dying to get him into a dance class!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Will you be watching the SuperBowl on Sunday? (If yes, try making this dip for your snacks!) I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — The picture of me at top was snapped at Alt Summit, and I’m dying to tell you about the conference! I’ve been working on a report — and a what-I-wore post. I think I may combine the two together. Anyway, watch for the post next week, and other fun stuff too!

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A shared bedroom for FOUR sisters.

By Gabrielle. Photos by Kristen Loken for Design Mom.

Would you like to see my daughters’ bedroom? If yes, this is the post for you. I have tons of photos and lots of details to share. This room came together slowly. There was lots of sketching of floor plans, moving of walls, trying furniture in different configurations, and pondering about closet space. We eventually took it down to a 14.5′ x 22.5′ blank canvas and created from there.

But all the work and patience paid off. The room is terrific! The girls love it. It meets their needs easily and it looks fabulous as well.

A shared bedroom for FOUR sisters. A shared bedroom for FOUR sisters.

As you may remember, all four of our daughters share the same room. That wasn’t the original plan when we moved in. But we hadn’t actually seen this house in person until after we’d purchased it, so we didn’t really have a true sense of the dimensions of the rooms and the best way to use the space.

I receive quite a bit of email asking me about this shared room situation, so I thought I would start this post with a few FAQs, then, you can click through if you want to see all the details and the thinking behind the design decisions. At the end of the post, I included four shots of the room taken from each corner, so that you can get a good sense of the overall space.

A shared bedroom for FOUR sisters.

Why Four Kids in One Room?
While doing renovations on this space, we could see that the bedroom in question was originally two bedrooms, and we weren’t surprised at all. Without knowing the history of the house, we considered doing the same thing — splitting the bedroom into two.

Interestingly, Maude, who has the strongest feelings among our kids about room-sharing, much preferred the idea of four people in one room, instead of two people in two rooms. When I thought about it, I felt like I understood where she was coming from. When there are two of you sharing a room, and you’re irritated about something, it’s easy to direct that irritation at your roommate. And those recurring negative experiences can make for a tense relationship. But if there are four of you in the room, the irritation gets dissipated. It’s easier to see that 3 people aren’t intentionally bugging you, that you are simply bugged and it has nothing to do with the people in the room.

That’s an oversimplification, but hopefully you understand what I mean. : )

A shared bedroom for FOUR sisters. Including freestanding closets.

Anyway, that’s how we ended up putting all 4 girls in one room, instead of splitting the room into two or trying some other household configuration. We also tested it out for many months before we jumped in and started renovating. By that time, it was easy to see the four-sister-in-one-room situation was working well for everybody.

A shared bedroom for FOUR sisters.

But how does it work? Do the different ages make bedtime difficult?

Good question. So far, bedtime hasn’t been an issue at all. The younger two go to bed around 8:00. They go through their bedtime routines (bath, pjs, etc.), we read a book, and then they’re off to dream land. By the time the older kids come into the room the younger ones are already fast asleep.

I would say it also works for us, because we have a specific theory about kid bedrooms. We set aside bedrooms for sleeping and dressing only. We have other spaces in the house for homework and toys — even other places for reading. It’s not a strict rule — we do keep a shelf of books in the bedrooms, and the youngest ones like to have a stuffed animal or two around. But in general, our bedrooms are only used for sleeping and getting dressed/ready for the day. I realize that not every house works like this — if you have a tiny apartment, the bedroom and playroom are likely the same room!

A shared bedroom for FOUR sisters. Freestanding closets create a dressing area.

Don’t kids need their own space as they get older?

Yes. I think they do. And we work hard to make sure the kids have personal time as needed. But I don’t think that means every child needs their own room. For most families in the world, the idea of each person getting their own space is simply not possible, and for big families like ours, sharing bedrooms is a no-brainer. In fact, I’ve shared a bedroom my whole life — with siblings, with college roommates, and with my husband. But I always figured out ways to get alone time when I craved it.

For our girls, since the bedrooms are generally empty of people during waking hours, if someone wants to be solo, their bedroom is usually the go-to option. But they can also use the reading loft, or one of our decks, or the family office, or even the master bedroom.

A shared bedroom for FOUR sisters. Freestanding closets separate the sleeping and dressing areas.

I suppose sharing a room is not for everyone, but it’s also not out of the ordinary in any way. And I’m confident the alternative, a sprawling house with 7 or 8 bedrooms, would not be a good fit for our family at all.

So if the idea of 4 kids in a bedroom is stressing you out, just know that you don’t have to do it. Hah! Also know that it’s working for us, and that if it stops working for us, we’ll try another solution. Simple as that.

Ready for the design tour now? Keep reading!

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By Gabrielle.

Do you remember Meg? How could we forget? Hers was one of my most popular, most interesting tours I’ve shared, mostly because it was this close to being the tour that never was! See, Meg and her husband Zach didn’t even want kids. And when they did add one to their mix, they did so in such a wonderfully open and honest way that their story still sits somewhere in my head, filed under A Well-Lived Life.

Well, there’s a been a change in their family, and Zelda is getting a sibling! Hooray! But there’s so much more to the story – and so much more to learn from this sweet family – and so I’ll let Meg tell it. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, and enjoy it some more.

Welcome, Meg!

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Baby Cravings

January 28, 2015

Image and text by Gabrielle.

I realize the title of this post implies otherwise, but I’m not pregnant. I promise. And I have zero plans to have another baby. I really, truly feel like our little family is complete.

So what’s with all the baby cravings I’ve been having lately?

I see babies and have to stop myself from picking them up without permission. I see pregnant friends and my hand instinctively goes to my belly to acknowledge my own (non-existent) pregnancy. I find myself listening in on conversations about the latest baby gear and making mental notes for future purchases that aren’t going to happen.

All that, and yet I assure you with complete confidence that I don’t actually want to have another baby. I am 100% uninterested in being pregnant.

It occurs to me that it might be my biological clock. These baby cravings may be a simple reminder from my body: Hey. Want to have a baby? You should go for it asap. This offer won’t last forever!

And if that’s true, it has caught me off guard. I guess it never occurred to me that after six babies, my biological clock would still be nagging me. Or perhaps my assumptions are wrong, and it has nothing to do with my biology. Maybe there’s just something in the air.

Tell me, friends, has this ever happened to you? Are you done growing your family (or maybe content not growing a family at all), but still having baby pangs? If yes, does it go away at some point, or does it continue until grandkids arrive? Hah! I’d love to hear your experiences.

P.S. — Remember Baby June?

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EASY Citrus Sugar Recipe. Make Lemon, Lime, or Orange sugar and add some flavor to your baked goods. Free printable!

By Gabrielle. Photos & styling by Amy Christie.

Hey Sugar! Here’s something to sweeten your day. As you know, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, so I’m trying to share a few projects while you still have time to make use of them. : ) This one is a good one! Flavored sugar recipes are popping up everywhere and since they are so simple to make, I thought they would make sweet gifts for neighbors and friends (pun intended). Sugars infused with flavors help elevate the taste of the recipes they are added to.

EASY Citrus Sugar Recipe. Make Lemon, Lime, or Orange sugar and add some flavor to your baked goods. Free printable!

I’m not kidding about how easy these flavored sugars are to make. All it takes to make citrusy sugars is sugar and zest. Amounts can be adjusted so you can make just the right amount.

EASY Citrus Sugar Recipe. Make Lemon, Lime, or Orange sugar and add some flavor to your baked goods. Free printable!

I even made a tag (free printable!) for you to tie on so this treat is as adorable as it is easy to make.

Let’s make something sweet!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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Almond Feta Dip - Healthy + Yummy. You will want to eat it on EVERYTHING!

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom. // This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds

We’ve been making a wholesome walnut feta dip from The Moosewood Cookbook for almost two decades. It’s one of the Blair Family favorites! But the last few times we made it, I could see we needed to change it up a bit — its popularity was waining.

Almond Feta Dip - Healthy + Yummy. You will want to eat it on EVERYTHING! Almond Feta Dip - Healthy + Yummy. You will want to eat it on EVERYTHING!

So I switched out the walnuts for something spicier — I used Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds instead.

Results? Holy cow. This dip is SO GOOD! I mean it. You are going to want to skip the veggies and the crackers and just spoon this in your mouth like it’s porridge. You will love it.

And if you have any game day gatherings on your schedule, this dip would be perfect!

Almond Feta Dip - Healthy + Yummy. You will want to eat it on EVERYTHING! Almond Feta Dip - Healthy + Yummy. You will want to eat it on EVERYTHING! Almond Feta Dip - Healthy + Yummy. You will want to eat it on EVERYTHING!

It’s a super easy recipe, and I’m betting it will become one of your family favorites as well. Let’s get started.

Click for the recipe and tips!

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By Gabrielle.

We caught Meghann just before her family moves from Amsterdam to the island of Saba. (So that you don’t have to disappear to look up Saba, it 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. Thank you, Wikipedia!) I was instantly intrigued when she described her life in her 700 sq. ft. home, using terms like “micro dwelling” and “huge bathroom to fit even tall Dutch men” and “big love” during our correspondence.

Her enthusiasm is infectious. And I hope it’s the best thing you catch all day. Welcome, Meghann!

Q: Tell us all about the family who lives here!

A: I live in this cosy home with my husband Koen, my six year old son Tipp, and my four year old daughter Loula.

Tipp and Loula are only 20 months apart. For the most part, they are super sweet and loving with each other. They are both quite sensitive little creatures, but at the same time very tough. Tipp says he wants to marry Loula when they grow up. That always melts my heart. They often walk to school hand-in-hand, and are a force to be reckoned with at the playground – which does not always bode well for the other kids, much to my embarrassment!

Tipp is a sweet little boy who is super excited about learning to read and write. He calls me mooie mama, which means beautiful mama, and asks me for one extra big kiss as I walk out of his bedroom at night. Tipp’s favourite band is Kiss, he break-dances, plays a mean air guitar, and loves running and playing soccer. He is nearly certain that he is the real Spiderman, which is something he can discuss at some length. Tipp wants to be a flying doctor who knits when he gets older. He says this does not conflict at all with being the real Spiderman.

Loula is my big-eyed, independent little lady. She wants to try and do everything herself! Loula is analytical and asks amazing questions. She dances ballet, and prefers dresses “because you can’t skip as well in pants.” She makes up her own songs and sometimes sings them with a sort of soprano opera voice, which is hilarious! She calls children “kids” and adults “people” and often asks, “When will I become a person?” I love this question because, when trying to reason with momentarily unreasonable children, I sometimes wonder when these little monsters will become people!

700 square feet of love, just ahead!

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A Few Things

January 23, 2015

www.justinhackworth.com

By Gabrielle. Image by Justin Hackworth for Alt Summit.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I’m writing from Alt Summit in Salt Lake City. It’s been a great conference so far — Lisa Congdon’s opening keynote yesterday was standing-ovation amazing. And I’m equally excited about today. At noon, I’ll be moderating the Keynote Session about Entrepreneurship with Susan Petersen of Freshly Picked and Jess Lee of Polyvore. I’m reviewing questions and I think it’s going to be a terrific discussion. Plus, all 3 of the keynote sessions are being videoed, so I can share links once the videos are ready, in case you want to see them, but couldn’t make it to Alt.

I have to tell you about the outfit I’m wearing today. Last May, when I was in Atlanta for the Mom 2.0 conference, I went shopping at these vintage stores called Labels with Rachel of Handmade Charlotte and Rebecca of Girls Gone Child. They are both fashionistas and helped me pick out some really amazing pieces. One of the things I bought was a vintage red velvet Gucci tuxedo! I’ve been waiting and waiting for a good winter-y event I could wear it to. And today’s the day! I have to say, all that red is really confidence bringing and I’m feeling awesome!! I’ll be sure to have some photos snapped so I can do a “what I wore to Alt Summit” post in the next week or so.

Speaking of which, if you’d like to follow along with the conference, the #altsummit hashtag on Instagram has tons of great photos. I’m off to prep some more for the day, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- So cool! Warka Water collected useable water from thin air and provides it villages with no current water access.

- Before there were cell phones, there was boredom. (And that was a good thing!)

-  I didn’t know there were paragliding competitions. This photo is WOW!

Benevolent sexism — when someone tells you you are too special to do something.

100 Years of Beauty.

- Have you read this? Do you agree? — To fall in love with anyone, do this.

- I’m sure I’m the last person to see this Nicole Kidman interview on Jimmy Fallon, but so funny!

- Gigapixels of Andromeda. This made me cry in wonder. Thanks, Jared.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — I fly home tomorrow evening with Maude & Olive (Ralph was going to come, but had some deadlines he needed to attend to instead). It’s been so fun to have them here! But we’re all excited to go back to California and to be altogether as a family. What a full month it’s been!

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Bombas Socks!

January 22, 2015

Bombas Socks + Design Mom2

Images and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Bombas Socks. Get 20% off your purchase with code DESIGNMOM20.

Ever since Maude became serious about running, socks have become a frequent topic of conversation at our house. Mostly the conversation goes like: Mom, I need more socks! : )

She runs miles each day and goes through socks at lightning speed, and she has strong opinions on sock features, colors, lengths, and thicknesses. Somewhere along the lines, she also discovered she loves socks in general, and the one thing on her Christmas wish list was socks. Not kidding! She received 18 pairs. Hah!

Bombas Socks + Design Mom3

Anyway, my friends at Bombas emailed me about their brand new socks and swore they are revolutionary. So of course, I was curious and did a little research. Conclusion: I’m impressed! The history of the company is really fantastic. When the founders heard that socks are the #1 requested clothing item at shelters here in the U.S., they knew they could do something about that.

Bombas Socks + Design Mom4 Bombas Socks + Design Mom5

They decided they wanted to make the world’s best socks and create a business based on a buy-one-give-one model — every time a pair is purchased, another pair goes to a shelter (they’ve donated over 300,000 pairs already!). And they weren’t kidding about developing the best possible socks. They spent two years and created socks with features that the other socks in your drawer only dream about.

Features like: Stay up technology. Y-stitched heel. Blister tab (this one is my favorite feature — it’s a little cushion on their ankle socks that prevents chafing). Invisitoe. And the honeycomb support system (this is Maude’s favorite feature — it gives extra support and tightness in the arch). Wondering what all those are? I learned about each one in this video (if you want to skip the video, you can read about the features too):

I was impressed enough that I ordered a pair for everyone in the family. And it is pretty dang adorable to see the kids padding around the house in their Bombas. Maude loves them for running. Ben Blair uses his at the gym. Ralph likes his for everyday casual wear. I use my almost like slippers. If your family members wear sneakers as a default, I’m betting they’d love Bombas socks. They’re cool looking, comfortable and really high quality.

Want to give them a try? You can get 20% off your purchase using code DESIGNMOM20. If you don’t like them, no stress — they have a 100% happiness guarantee.

Bombas Socks + Design Mom6

Hooray for Bombas! Hooray for companies that give back!

P.S. — In case you’re curious, the Bombas donation socks are just like the ones you and I order, but with the addition of a few key details: they receive an antimicrobial treatment, reinforced seams, and they come in darker neutral colors to prevent visible wear.

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Cutest, Easiest DIY: Make these Kid-Size Paper Pom Poms for Game Day!

By Gabrielle. Photos & styling by Amy Christie.

TWO! FOUR! SIX! EIGHT! WHO DO WE APPRECIATE?!!

Over the holidays, Amy Christie sent me the sweetest little care package, and instead of using packing peanuts to cushion the goodies in the box, she used homemade kid-size pom poms instead. Such a fantastic idea! My 3 youngest went nuts for them immediately. Cheers were chanted. High kicks were attempted. Imaginary teams rallied for the win!

My kids loved the little pom poms so much, that I begged Amy for instructions so I could make some more. My kids played with them for hours and hours that first day, and the pom poms practically disintegrated. : ) I thought you might like to make some for your kids as well. And if you’re hosting a Superbowl party this year, these would make a fun addition to the gathering.

So Amy whipped up a quick DIY. Made with tissue paper and a line of stitching, these pom poms are one of the simplest projects I’ve shared here. They might be made with children in mind but I dare you not to smile while you shake them.

Cutest, Easiest DIY: Make these Kid-Size Paper Pom Poms for Game Day!

The good thing is, you probably already have tissue paper — which is the key supply for this project — in the house. In fact, if you aren’t particular about team colors, then any color will do (rainbow ones would be fantastic!). Scissors and either a sewing machine, thread and needle, or stapler round out your supplies.

Cutest, Easiest DIY: Make these Kid-Size Paper Pom Poms for Game Day!

Ready to make something super easy? Let’s go!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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By Gabrielle.

Barbara Rucci’s house is full of lovely clutter. I look over the scenes she’s shared with us, and I can’t help but think that all her keepsakes on display are nowhere near a haphazard situation, and way more of an ever-changing collection of memories made…as well as those still in the making. Yes, Barbara does clutter right!

Also, if any of you are in the throes of comparing your parenting styles or values or incomes to those families around you, please read on. It seems that living in an affluent community brings with it a wonderful yet problematic set of challenges – maybe you’ve experienced the same dilemmas that Barbara worries over while printing out gratitude quotes from Pinterest! (Barbara, I giggled at the realization of how Pinterest can save us at our most frantic parenting moments!)

All this to tell you that you’re going to love more than the gorgeous photos this week; there’s a lot of wisdom and knowledge well-earned over time in this one. Please enjoy it.

Q: Tell us about the family who lives here!

A: We are a family of five. My husband and I have two daughters who are 15 and 12, and an eight-year old son. My kids are very fun, but really loud. My son plays hockey in a room that was originally the formal dining room. Now we call it the hockey room. It has hardwood floors and is in the center of the house. He commentates every move and shot on goal. His imaginary hockey games are literally the soundtrack to our lives.

The girls love to sing and act, so they usually have something loud going on upstairs. When they were little, they would put on nightly shows. I have hours of video footage that we actually dig up and watch from time to time. It is amazing to see that their passions when they were really young are the same as they are now.

Pure goodness, just ahead!

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The Family Dinner Project

January 19, 2015

FDP-infographic-3-givingtips

By Gabrielle.

Last week, my friend, Christine of Boston Mamas, told me about The Family Dinner Project. I loved (still love!) the idea and am excited to share it with you. Since today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, this post is especially timely.

The idea behind the Family Dinner Project is to get families — parents and their kids — talking about challenging issues facing the world, like race, civil rights, and current events. They want families to enjoy food, fun and conversation together, and they know that dinnertime is a great place for good conversations to happen. Everyone is relaxed at the end of the day. Hunger pangs have died down as the mashed potatoes are passed around. The pressure is off.

At our house, we put a ton of value on these types of conversations. Two weeks ago, I shared a photo of our family prepping for dinner, and when I think of these discussions, an image like that comes to mind. Instead of gathering everyone on the couch and making the situation feel formal or serious, we like tackling topics while we set the table, chop vegetables, and eat. When everyone is working together, the conversation doesn’t come across as a lecture. It feels casual. It gets interrupted. It lets people think about what they’re hearing, and gives them time to process without having to come up with a response on demand.

If you’ve had discussions about race or sexism or poverty or inequality with your kids, you already know how impactful they can be. But if you haven’t tackled some of the tricky topics yet, you’re not alone. Sometimes it’s really hard for families to bring up negative stuff — not everyone knows how to start the conversation, at what ages they should share certain details, or what words are the most effective. But don’t despair! The Family Dinner Project has all sorts of excellent resources (including the infographics I’m sharing in this post) designed to help.

FDP-infographic-convobyage

For example, for families with older kids, at dinner tonight you could share and discuss this article called White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack. Or during dinner preparation or cleanup , these videos from Frederick Goodall and Denene Millner could start the conversation and prompt questions.

And it’s not just about discussing the world’s problems, it’s really about figuring out how to help solve them. These sorts of conversations tend to get kids excited about getting involved and serving in their communities. Perhaps they can collect canned food for a food drive, or serve dinner at a homeless shelter. Ask your kids what kind of service projects they’d most like to participate in and why. It’s a good conversation topic that gives kids agency in making philanthropic decisions.

Tonight’s dinner is the perfect time to start! You could talk about Martin Luther King, Jr. and why there’s a day we celebrate in his honor. You could share some of his quotes and see if they’ve been learning about him at school. You could use this MLK Toolkit for Kids. It’s specifically designed for school-aged kids to engage them in the topic of service. And if you do have a good conversation at dinner tonight, let your friends and family know with the #familydinnerforward hashtag. In January, The Family Dinner Project is using the hashtag to encourage people to share a meal and discuss issues that affect their communities, to increase racial and cultural understanding, and promote unity.

If it’s a great conversation tonight, why not make a habit of it? You’ve heard of Taco Tuesday. How about Current Events Monday? On Monday nights over dinner, you could make it a regular thing to go over some of the big headlines and how they are affecting your family’s world.

Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear if you’ve ever discussed challenging topics with your kids. Did you discuss the verdicts that came out of Ferguson and New York? Did you talk about #likeagirl or #yesallwomen? Do you teach your kids about race and racism? Chime in with what has worked best!

———

Official Disclosure: I partnered with The Family Dinner Project to share this post.

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Video and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! Are your kids out of school? Are you doing anything good or fun to commemorate the day?

Hey. I know I never published my Friday links post. I fully intended to! But this has been an unusually busy January. I mean, January is Alt Summit, so it’s always quite full schedule-wise. But this month, there is Alt plus a whole bunch more. For example, on Friday, I was touring around D.C. with Maude for #action15, my book went to the printer (HOLY COW!!), all the Alt Summit printed materials went to the printer as well, and we flew back to Oakland that evening. It was a little nuts. But good nuts!

This week will likely be a little nuts too. Ben Blair and Ralph returned from Haiti on Saturday night. We enjoyed the loveliest of Sunday mornings altogether as a family, and then I flew to Salt Lake City Sunday afternoon.

Yep. I’m writing this from Salt Lake City! I arrived last night, and I’ll be here all week for Alt Summit. And this year, my oldest three — Ralph, Maude & Olive — will be coming to the conference too! They’ll join me on Wednesday afternoon. When I unpacked last night, it hit me that maybe this month has been a little too busy, when I realized I forgot to pack my coat, my hat, and my glasses. Hah!

Despite the full schedule, I’ve got some really good posts ready to go this week. In one of my first posts of the year, I mentioned I wanted to do more with video, and this is my first attempt! Years ago I was speaking at the Mom 2.0 Summit and I talked about an idea I had to make videos of shopping at Target. I would share my shopping list, then walk through the aisles and talk about why I chose one product over another — sort of shopping through a graphic designer’s eyes. But I never made the videos happen.

Design Mom Target Accordian Folder

Then, my daughter Olive introduced me to “haul” videos. It’s the same idea, but filmed at home instead of in store. Essentially, vloggers will go shopping at whatever store (or multiple stores) they like, and then share their finds on video. Pretty straightforward. So I thought I’d try one. Olive coached me, and Ralph filmed+edited. Take a look and let me know what you think!

I realize some of you are not into video, so feel free to skip it. But if you do watch it, and want to see more, I’d love feedback! Are there stores you’d like to me to shop? Should I stick to a regular series of Target hauls? Or maybe go with a theme (like natural beauty products, or pre-conference wardrobe shopping). How often would you like to see something like this?

P.S. — Though I work with Target regularly, this is not a sponsored post. It’s just me as a regular Target shopper. I promise, I will always make it clear when I’m sharing a sponsored post.

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#Action2015

January 15, 2015

By Gabrielle. Photos by godgrrl, cc_chapmansavethechildren.

Such a BIG day! I’m waving hello from Washington D.C.!! My daughter Maude was invited to come here with a group of fellow 15-year-olds to take part in #action2015. That’s right. 15-year-olds, meeting up on January 15th, 2015 to discuss policy that will affect the world for the next 15 years.

action2015

The movement is called action/2015, and there are groups meeting all over the world. Here in D.C., this group started the day early with a photo in front of The White House, then they heard from Tom Hart, Executive Director of the ONE Campaign, and Mark Shriver, President of Save the Children‘s Action Network over breakfast.

Maude White House

Next was a trip to The State Department where the met with Heather Higgenbottom, Deputy Secretary of State, and Dr. RAj Shah, from USAID. Many of the kids also got a chance to be interviewed by NBC!

Maude interview NBC

During lunch, the kids heard from Michael Elliot, CEO of the ONE Campaign, and Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children. Then it was off to The World Bank to meet with Cyril Muller, Vice President of External and Corporate Relations. And right this minute, they are on a bus tour of the Washington Monuments.

I’m writing this from the hotel room, waiting for Maude to get back and knowing she’ll be happily exhausted. : )

With my work, I get to attend special events frequently, but this one wasn’t about me, or any of the grownups, we’re just here as chaperones. Action/2015 is focused on the kids, and what a treat it was for us as parents to get to see our children shine, and to use their words for good. If you’d like to get involved with action/2015, you can sign the pledge here — ONE never asks for your money, they just need your voice.

P.S. — With Maude advocating in D.C., and Ralph volunteering in Haiti this week, you can imagine I’m feeling like a very proud mother!

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DIY: Lacey Clay Containers

January 14, 2015

Gorgeous DIY containers with lace imprints. Made with air-dry clay they are easy as can be!  |  Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos & styling by Amy Christie.

I could tell you that this project came about because I wanted to organize my makeup drawer (and I do need to organize that drawer), but the truth is, I got the idea to imprint lace into clay, and wanted good excuse to try it. Hah!

A few months ago, I came across a plate that had a crocheted doily imprinted onto it, and I wondered if lace would work just as well. So I combined some lace samples from the fabric store with air-dry clay, and tada!, now I have the cutest little set of containers in world. I’m using them here for makeup brushes, cotton balls, and jewelry, but I’m sure they would work fabulously on a desk as well.

Gorgeous DIY containers with lace imprints. Made with air-dry clay they are easy as can be!  |  Design Mom

Air-dry clay is so easy to work with. Just sculpt and allow to fully dry. It is easy to manipulate and holds texture well. Oh. And did you know air-dry clay can be tinted any color you like? I’m kind of into the ceramic look of the plain white, but if you’re craving color, the skies the limit with this project.

Gorgeous DIY containers with lace imprints. Made with air-dry clay they are easy as can be!  |  Design Mom

Let’s begin!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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Bathroom Refresh2

Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Target. Shop Home Décor for modern luxury made easy.

Target reached out about working on a “refresh” project to celebrate the new year, something simple that I could do in a day. I thought and thought about different projects and was narrowing down my ideas, but then I saw my sister’s bathroom refresh and I had one of the OF COURSE! moments. Outside of cleaning them, I have systematically ignored our bathrooms since we moved in, and they definitely need attention.

Oh the bathrooms! They are truly due for a full overhaul. If you’ve been following along on our Treehouse renovations, you know we’ve been going room by room, moving walls, updating flooring and electricity, and giving the walls a fresh coat of paint. But we’ve been here for a year and a half, and until this little refresh, we hadn’t touched the bathrooms at all! I’m totally intimidated by the bathrooms. I feel like there are a million options, and that the budget for a project like a bathroom overhaul can skyrocket super fast. Plus, knowing our big family will be without access to one of the bathrooms while it’s being renovated is not something I’m looking forward to.

So it’s no surprise the bathrooms keep falling to the bottom of my list of home projects. Who knows, it probably won’t be that big of a deal, but as you can see, I’ve built it up in my head as a super hard project, and I’ve completely put it off.

That said, when I saw my sister’s mini-update, I knew I wanted to do something to improve the kids’ bathroom as it stands right now. So I gave myself a budget of $100, and I made a trip to Target. It was fast and easy and the little changes made a big difference. I wish I had done it the week we moved in!

The biggest thing I did was go all-white with anything I had control of, meaning anything not permanently installed. It went a long way in making the bathroom feel more intentional. The kids’ bathroom has white counter tile, a cream colored ceramic sink, an off-white bathtub, and bath tile leaning toward light tan. Nothing about the surfaces is unified at all. So my goal was to use white to make the space feel a little less hodge podge. And it worked!

Bathroom Refresh1

We started with fresh towels in all-white. This made the biggest difference by far. With six kids sharing the bathroom, we use a whole bunch of towels, and whether they’re stacked or hanging on hooks, they take up a lot of visual space. The kids had been using a random set of towels that came with the house in various colors and patterns, so switching them out for all-matching, all-white made a big impact. Plus, fresh, fluffy towels are wonderful no matter what — I would say switching out towels is for sure the easiest way to refresh a bathroom.

Bathroom Refresh6

Next, I updated the soap dispenser. I went with this good-looking “oil-can” version. Our soap dispensers get used so frequently that they tend to get grimy — old soap residue gets caked on the spout and the label starts to flake off. Even after a good-scrubbing, they can look tired and a bit depressing. So replacing the soap dispenser was an instant refresh for sure. Plus, because the dispenser is clear and label-less, it keeps the bathroom visually simpler — which was my goal.

Bathroom Refresh7

I also added some handsome glass containers — this short one, and this tall one. These did a good job of adding something pretty to the room, plus they’re practical. They opened up precious drawer space by moving the cotton rounds and q-tips to the counter.

Bathroom Refresh3

Then, I added a basket to hold the towels. This one is lined with canvas, and the inside of the canvas has a wax-like coating that makes it ideal for dealing with wet stuff. So smart for the bathroom! Though I intended this basket to hold fresh towels, I think I might turn it into a bathroom hamper instead — a place to throw used washcloths and hand towels. We’ll see. Whatever we end up using it for, it makes a good-looking addition to the space.

Lastly, I got rid of the horrible, grimy wastebasket which was in the room since we moved in, and which I had been meaning to replace from the first day we arrived! I chose this simple frosted version.

Bathroom Refresh5

Much better! I feel like the bathroom is so much more civilized now, and that it’s much more livable while we consider a full bathroom renovation.

Have you ever renovated a bathroom? Am I right to be intimidated, or did you find it to be easier than expected? And what’s the state of your bathroom? Is it already awesome? Would a simple refresh like this improve it? Or does it need a major overhaul? I’d love to hear!

——–

This post is sponsored by Target.

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Living With Kids: Shira Gill

January 13, 2015

By Gabrielle. Photos by Vivian Johnson.

I promise I’ve got some wonderful homes sitting in chillier locales in the queue, but I’m giving you another California home and sunny interview to warm us all up today. Meet Shira Gill, a sweet mom and wife who turned her 25 house moves into a thriving and much-needed business that edits pretty much an entire life.

Are you hanging on tightly to too much? Do you dread opening your closet in the mornings, not to mention – shudder – your child’s over-crammed wardrobe? Do your afternoons careen into crazy town no matter how well you think you’ve prepared for the chaos? Call Shira. I bet she’s either experienced or seen and solved much worse!

Q: Tell us all about the family who lives here!

A: Hi there! My husband, Jordan, and I both grew up in the SF Bay area a mere ten minutes from each other. Although we had several friends in common, we never met. We met working at Camp Tawonga, a children’s environmental education summer camp near Yosemite, when we were 20 years old. It took several years for him to convince me to date him, probably because I was balancing a busy schedule of dating the wrong people and traveling as much as possible. He works as the director of development for a non-profit in San Francisco, and I run my own business helping busy families streamline their homes and simplify their lives.

I’m so relieved I came to my senses and married him because it was the best decision I ever made. Jordan and I are opposites in many ways, but truly compatible and complimentary. I am creative, energetic, and impatient, while Jordan is grounded, practical, and calm. I help to motivate him when he is feeling a little bit lazy, and he is one of the only people that can calm me down when my mind gets racing. I often get restless and crave adventure and, luckily for me, he is always happy to be along for the ride…

Gorgeous home, gorgeous words…just ahead.

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Olive Us: Cracks

January 12, 2015

By Gabrielle.

I guarantee you will LOVE this month’s new Olive Us episode. It’s sure to capture your child’s imagination — and your imagination too! After you watch it, I hope you and your kids will picture the world a little differently next to time you take a walk together through your neighborhood — or even across a parking lot!

Olive Us - Cracks - Behind the Scenes

We first showcased this episode in the Olive Us newsletter last week and it’s getting shared like crazy. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it. Enjoy!

P.S. — Fun fact, since Olive Us launched, we’ve made 46 episodes total. You can find them all here. Subscribe to the newsletter to be the first to see upcoming episodes!

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Haiti Partners

January 12, 2015

Haiti Partner School 4

By Gabrielle. Images by Haiti Partners.

Did you know today marks five years since the devastating earthquake in Haiti? You can go here and scroll down to refresh your memory of what happened that day. So many people lost their lives, that we’ll never know the true number.

Ben Blair and Ralph are arriving in Haiti as I type, and I am looking forward to hearing from them and getting a report. What are they doing there, you ask? Great question. I’m excited to tell you.

Haiti Partner School 1

We have a good friend named Jesse Engle, who I met years ago at the very first BlogHer I attended. Jesse and his family live here in the Bay Area and he works in the tech and startup sector. Jesse’s brother John lives in Haiti and started Haiti Partners, an organization that is dedicated to helping Haitians help Haiti through education. You can read about their approach here, and their work here. Jesse is also very involved with Haiti Partners, and we’ve been getting involved with the organization through him.

Haiti Partners School 3

Broadband internet has recently come to Haiti, and Haiti Partners is figuring out how to make the most of it. One of the things better internet makes available is video chat. So one of the big ideas Haiti Partners is considering is to create a community of English speakers who can have conversations, via online video chats, with Haitians who are trying to learn English.

The new program is going launching this week, and that’s why Ben & Ralph are there. First, to help with the launch in general. Second, because Ben Blair’s education and professional experience is heavy on language learning techniques and he’s very excited about the possibilities of this program. And third, because Haiti Partners would love to have a video made so they can show people what the program is about, and Ralph is going to capture the footage and create the video. French is one of Haiti’s national languages, so Ralph’s French is going to help as well.

Haiti Partners School 2

We’re so impressed with Haiti Partners — it’s a really top notch team doing important work. And as a family, we’re over the moon that we can be involved and use our skills to help in even a small way. I’m sure many of you would love to get involved as well — if you have an internet connection and a computer, you could be a video chat volunteer! The program is so brand new and experimental, that they’re not ready to sign up volunteers yet, but as soon as they are, I will let you know. I think it would be a really cool thing to get your kids involved in, and could open their eyes to how big (and small!) the world is.

Tell me, Friends, have you ever been to Haiti? Or maybe followed updates about the country since the earthquake? As you’re picturing it, imagine warm, warm warm — the weather is supposed to be 90 degrees there this week! If you’re curious to know more about the status of Haiti right now, the links and videos here and here are informative and helpful. Is there a cause or organization or program you or your kids is working with this year? I’d love to hear!

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A Few Things

January 9, 2015

Blair Family Dinner Prep

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Is your new year getting off to a good start? Any good stuff going on this weekend? Today is Oscar’s birthday so we’ve got celebration plans! We started the day with breakfast in bed, we’ll have cake and open presents tonight, and tomorrow we’re picking up the cousins for a day trip to the Monterrey Aquarium. Oscar could not be more excited if he tried.

We’ll also be packing up Ben & Ralph for their big trip to Haiti — they leave Sunday, and I have my next hair bleaching appointment tomorrow morning. Should be a big full weekend at the Blair house. But before I sign off to get Oscar’s birthday stuff prepped, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Oh so heartsick about France. I’m watching the news and following the #charliehebdo hashtag on Instagram, and talking with the kids about freedom of expression. I’m sure you are too.

- This morning, I was feeling particularly tenderhearted about the gloomy news, and I saw this sweet and funny little photo and was surprised to find it comforted me a bit. I suppose, I’ll take any bit of sweetness I can get!

- On a more light-hearted note this article made me laugh: Today I learned something about my boyfriend that no girl should ever have to discover.

New Year’s Resolutions by Myer’s-Briggs personality type. Is your description accurate?

- Skip the mall ear piercing booth and take your kids to the tattoo parlor instead. Thanks, Wendy.

- Hah! A note to post when you leave on vacation.

Good dads will change the world.

- Why women need more sleep than menThanks, Sarah.

- Half the country is freezing right now, but these guys have figured out how to make the most of a polar vortex. Thanks, Beccah.

- If you’ve followed the media outrage over Shiloh Jolie-Pitt’s preference to be called John, this call for acceptance might hit home. Thanks, Mary Ann.

- An interesting idea: Why we need to change how we use the word “blessed.” Thanks, Erin.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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