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Call It A Day: Misty Brough

August 13, 2015

By Gabrielle.

I started my Call It A Day column for one reason and one reason only: I am fascinated by how each of us travels through an average ordinary day. We all seem to carry along a little something heavy, don’t we? I’ve found that when we share our load, well, it feels lighter, somehow.

At first glance, Misty’s account looks like an average ordinary day. But if you read between the lines, you’ll notice how much she’s doing behind-the-scenes to prevent any drama or unnecessary commotion for her family. It reminds me of watching ducks float on top of the water, gracefully and seemingly without a care in the world. A peek below the surface, though, tells a totally different story!

Please help me welcome Misty! It’s so good to have her here.

Don’t miss the family’s sweet evening ritual, straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

Have you ever thought about what your decor style says about you and your family? When guests walk through your front door, what do you think they can instantly sense about you? Is the first impression you make modern and clean, with any trace of a childhood hidden in a sleek cabinet system… or the basement? Perhaps guests sigh when they walk in, instantly craving whatever peaceful design you’ve got going. Or maybe you’re sporty and just can’t escape a home decor accessorized by the sticks and balls and cleats and — oh my, watch your step — more balls! Maybe you like blue. Every shade.

In Callie’s case, her family’s style is true throughout. I think we can get to know her by one or two or 20 glimpses of her home. She keeps her memories and crafts in the open, she loves a good collection, and she’s not afraid of putting reminders on the wall in case anyone loses the plot! She’s consistent in her message, which is the big sign that she’s clearly found her most-loved style and is sticking with it.

That’s a nice thing when it happens, don’t you think? Come see her house! Welcome, Callie!

We are a family of six. My husband, Steve, and I have four children.

Jakob is our responsible 12 year old, Isabelle is our passionate nine year old, Karter is our entertaining and humorous seven year old, and Beckett is adventurous two year old. As a family, we enjoy reading together, outdoor adventures, arts and crafts, sports, and music. There is a lot of hustle and bustle within the walls of our home. A lot of play, a lot of noise, a lot of messes to clean up, and a lot of love.

We live in the Pacific Northwest in a city just outside of Portland. Both my husband and I grew up in the area, and we love Oregon. My husband grew up on five acres out in the woods and has always wanted property for our children to enjoy. With his business, we have needed to live closer to the city and our home was a unique find — a home with property close to the city. We have loved the space, the view, all the trees, and surrounding green space.

The bedrooms are delicious! Just ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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By Gabrielle.

Rachael Bailey has the cutest kitchen table that would match my piano perfectly, and her canning jars remind me of my childhood, canning fruit in the kitchen with mom. Also, we all need a striped wall or two. And maybe a closet bed for a tiny one.

The mental list I made as I slotted photos in this tour and read Rachael’s words made me hopeful and more than a little grateful about these tours. I wonder if they’ve pushed you to make changes, big and little, in your own homes? I sure hope you can think of at least two things our homeowners have shared that are now on your own lists!

As for my ever-growing list, it may now include a cute chicken coop, too. And maybe five Gertrudes. Or at the very least, one small dragon reading on my couch! Welcome, Rachael!

There are a lot of us! My husband Neil is a talented whizzbang of a mechanical engineer finishing up the last year of his doctoral degree. I describe myself as a career mother, but I teach tech and business writing classes part-time at the university and run my own editorial consulting business on the side. I work when the children are asleep and spend my days building Lego rocket ships, snuggling up to read picture books, running through the woods, and experimenting in the kitchen.

We have two sweet girls: Abigail is nine and Juliet is seven. Then we have three adorable boys right in a row: Isaac is five, Luke is three, and Nathan is a keeps-us-all-on-our-toes two. Last but not least, we share our space with Hermes, our orange tabby cat, and ten friendly backyard hens (Yoda, Speckle, Apple, Gloria, Bok-Bok, and five Gertrudes!) As you may or may not have guessed, my children have named all of our animal friends.

We moved here just when the housing market was bottoming out and our area was absolutely flooded with foreclosures. We were lucky enough to both have parents and grandparents who had turned over to us sizable funds for our college educations that we’d never ended up using, thanks to scholarships, so we decided to put that money towards a down payment.

The home that we live in now is actually the very first one we looked at. Our realtor told us that it was way out of our price range, but was certainly the nicest one on the market, and she wanted to give us an idea of what a really lovely foreclosure could look like before she took us to look at all of the ones we could actually afford – and oh, they were awful! I remember crying as we left one listing that smelled like animal urine and had a random wall built through the living room so that if you turned on the ceiling fan it would collide with the wall, and I couldn’t help comparing it with the first dreamy listing we’d seen! Of course, that home had sold within days, but then our realtor called a week later to let us know that it was back on the market with a substantially lower asking price; apparently the bank was desperate to unload it. We finally made an offer that was far below the already-lowered asking price, and we got it! The whole process was so fast, and we moved in just three weeks after we’d begun looking at homes.

We live in north-central Indiana. Our proximity to Chicago allows us to spend weekends in amazing museums, but our community is the perfect mix of hip college town and down-to-earth farming community. I can hit an organic farmers’ market nearly any day of the week on my way home from taking my kids to the free ceramics classes funded by our local arts federation, and my kids are always going on field trips to the age-appropriate plays at the university. Our landscape was molded by glaciers, so there are beautiful wooded ravines in between the miles of rustling cornfields.

The kitchen table styled a little differently! Just ahead.

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Reading Weekend

June 3, 2015

Image and text by Gabrielle. Remember Baby June?

Last month, I mentioned that we scheduled a “reading weekend” for our family, and I receive several inquiries wanting more info, so I thought it would be fun to give you a little rundown of what we did.

The idea came about because we’ve missed reading books as a family. We read to the younger kids at bedtime. And all of the kids read on their own (except little June who is just starting to learn). But we used to read more books as a family, and we feel like we used to read more books overall (Ben Blair and I included). I think that everyone has been so busy lately, that our reading habits have changed for the worse. Anyway, Ben got the idea of dedicating a weekend just to reading, and I thought that was genius.

Of course, we considered hosting this at home, but we knew we would be too distracted with errands and household tasks and regular schedules. The kids too! So we decided to go to a hotel. We picked a non-touristy spot that was only about 45 minutes away, so that we could get hotel rooms at a decent price. Then, we put together on a schedule, and considered what might work for June, who as I mentioned, is not an independent reader yet.

Full itinerary, and a list of what we read, when you keep reading!

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Kelsey Gerhard.

At some point during my correspondence with Jessica, she mentioned that her primary goal wasn’t to have her home tour published on Design Mom. Well, it was probably one of the reasons why she asked her friend, Kelsey, to take the photos in the first place, but eventually she realized she simply wanted to record this time in her family’s life. Her house is just growing out of the babyhood stage, most of their furnishing are inherited or found, and the family is set to embark on a one or two year adventure in England.

Everything is about to change in the matter of a few weeks, but Jessica learned – somewhere between the photo shoot and her interview – that this moment should be remembered. The house, the decor, the little puppy scratches by the back door…it’s not all perfect, but it’s perfect to them. Such a wonderful reminder, isn’t it?

Please help me welcome Jessica!

Hello, everyone! I’m so happy to share my home with you today! My husband Matt and I live here with our four children, our fat, snuggly old cat, and our two year old puppy.

Matt and I both enlisted in the Army after graduating from college and were stationed at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. We met in January 2003, started dating in June, got engaged in July, and got married in December. After we got married, we had four kids in about five and a half years, so our life together has been jam-packed from the very beginning.

I am the Communications Manager for a non-profit called the Officer Down Memorial Page, which is basically my dream job. I also started my blog about a year and a half ago, and I love it – writing is my favorite thing, so blogging really makes me happy. In my free time, I love to read, work out, play with my kids, and hang out with my husband. Not necessarily in that order! And I love to travel.

Now that our kids are old enough that travel is suddenly far less complicated and way more fun, we’re hoping to really embrace that and travel a lot more in the near future.

Matt is a consultant for a government contracting firm. He’s funny and smart and a super-involved dad, which makes my job as a mom so much easier and more rewarding. He makes me the best version of myself, and hopefully I do the same for him. I like him a lot.

Bridget, our ten year old daughter, is intelligent, dramatic, witty, impatient, thoughtful, and funny. She loves sports of all kinds and she is also very, very into theater and photography. She has a creative soul. Her little brothers might refer to her as bossy, but I prefer to say she knows how to take charge of a situation and has great leadership skills. I pretty much think she’s awesome.

Gabriel is eight, and is my most physical and snuggly child. He wears all his emotions on his sleeve and just completely interprets the world around him through touch. He is friendly and outgoing and loves hanging out with his friends. Gabe is an excellent athlete and would gladly stay outside playing baseball, football, hockey, swimming, riding bikes, skateboarding, and generally being active all day, every day. Sitting still is not really his thing.

Owen, my six year old, is a thinker and an observer. He is my most determined child; he just does not give up at something he wants to do until he is successful. It’s a beautiful characteristic when he’s trying to learn to ride a bike or throw a fastball, but it’s slightly less admirable when he turns his determination against me, like when it’s time for bed. He is also very athletic and we haven’t yet found a sport he can’t master. He’s fun to watch.

Quinn turned five this week, but he is and always will be my baby. He is the happiest and friendliest kid I know. He has never met a person or an animal he didn’t like. Like his siblings, he also loves sports. He is my partner for grocery shopping, running errands, gym visits, and all the other day-to-day things I have to get done, and he’s a rock star for all of it. I’m lucky I get to hang out with him all day, and I will be really lonely when he heads to kindergarten in the Fall.

We moved to the D.C. area almost ten years ago when Matt got out of the Army; he got a great job offer here and that was basically the deciding factor. When we first arrived, we just wanted to settle down after having moved around A LOT in the Army, but there just weren’t a ton of single family homes in our price range that didn’t need major updating. We looked at so many houses, but felt like they all needed too much work to really be what we wanted.

More wisdom and wonderful views, just ahead!

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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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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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By Gabrielle.

I hereby declare Noa Weintraub Queen of the Stunning Staircase! She is ruler over two of the most startlingly stylish sets of steps I’ve seen, so I really think she deserves the crown. (There should really be a crown.)

Her home is a fun house, for sure. You would never in a million years think that the force who designed these spaces thought she didn’t want a child! This honesty, this unabashed creativity, and Noa’s great advice — one of her gems is “Life’s too short to wait for a special occasion! — all make this tour a favorite of mine. I hope it’s one of yours, too!

Welcome, Noa!

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

A: Hi! I’m Noa, an artist, illustrator and ceramicist. My partner, Mark, is a photographer, and we live with our six year old daughter, Matisse. Until recently, we also lived with Mark’s son Wyatt who is 20, but we are still lucky to see him frequently — especially when good food is involved.

Sharing our house are Wyatt’s two snakes: Psycho Sy is a King Snake, and Fluffy is a Royal Python. I know, I know! It took me a while to get used to them, but they really are nicer than they sound and conveniently very low maintenance.

Mark and I met while on an advertising job, back in my more glamorous days when I used to be a fashion stylist. These days, I’m more inclined to be wearing flats and wellington boots than high heels and sequins. That’s not to say I don’t try and dress up as much as I can. I’ve always believed life’s too short to wait for a special occasion. Wear the clothes you love as often as possible, even if it means dressing up for the school run! Working as an illustrator and being a mum work well together, I’ve discovered. I have the flexibility of choosing my own hours and I make sure that I work around Matisse’s schedule. (It’s also a really good excuse to buy loads of vintage children’s books, one of my favourite things!)

Second set of stellar stairs, coming right up! Come see!

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Toca Boca Nature2

Images and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Toca Boca.

Oh my goodness. It’s been over a year since there was a children’s app review on design mom, but I’ve got a really good one for you today. It’s  new. It came out last week and it’s called Toca Nature. It was developed by the team at Toca Boca, a Swedish-based development company that makes fantastic apps for kids.

Toca Nature Screenshot

There are no points to earn in Toca Nature. No high score to beat. There are no berries to buy, or any in-app purchases at all. The app is about building and exploring. You can go macro and see the whole “world”, turning it around and around to see different habitats and perspectives. Run your finger through that forest and you can create a river. Or a mountain! Or a forest!!

Toca Nature Closeup

Or, you can zoom in to the details at dirt level. You can make a place for plants and mushrooms. See the animals grazing. Create a place for fish to swim. The app is designed to encourage kids to think about how different aspects of the environment connect and interact.

Instead of a competitive framework, think of this game like playing with Legos. You’re not using bricks, but you’re “building” a little world. You can work slowly and carefully if you’d like. You can change things if your first plan doesn’t work out the way you expected.

Toca Boca Nature6

Probably my favorite part is the colors. The little world in Toca Nature is beautiful! Muted, comforting, calming colors instead of the usual intense options offered on kids apps. It’s really lovely to look at.

Click through for a review of the app in Oscar’s words!

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A Few Things

September 26, 2014

Design Mom Living Room

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How’s it going? Any weekend plans you’re looking forward to? We’re thinking of our European kids this weekend, because Ralph is headed from England to France tomorrow. He’ll be in the same town, and attend the same school as Olive, but they’ll be living with different families. Oh man, the thought of them getting to see each other on most days makes me super happy, and is somehow hugely comforting. Which reminds me, I should totally share an update about how both Olive and Ralph are doing — hopefully next week!

Beyond thinking of my kids-across-the-ocean, my weekend will be mostly taken up with responding to copy edits on four of my book chapters. Anytime there’s a circumstance that requires me to make a ton of purposeful decisions all at once (like when we cleared out our storage unit in Colorado), I have to really psyche up for it and getting in a particular frame of mind. A thousand decisions that need to be made during a short time period is so overwhelming to me! It’s the exact opposite of busy work, and I find it completely exhausting. I’m sure I’m not the only one!

Before I dig in to my book work, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- I totally need this — Pep talk of the week!

- I had no idea Bridge to Terebithia was a frequently banned book.

- To mark National Public Lands Day, all National Parks are free on Saturday. Woot!

This restaurant wants to be the worst-reviewed on Yelp.

- Did you get a chance to see Emma Watson’s UN speech? Any thoughts?

- The best built-in beds for kids.

- DIY jump rope. (I love jumping rope.)

- Murder in a time before Google.

- Meta Coleman’s class on Creative Children’s Spaces looks so good.

- The A-Z of dance.

- Dying to try a pair of these drapey pants from Banana Republic — they look comfy as sweats, but elegant too! There’s a code to get a discount — use BEHERENOW to get $25 off of every $100 you spend.

- It’s Like They Know Us. So many good ones, but this might be my favorite: ”Oh, really? My little guy never fusses at mealtime. Have you tried feeding him on a white couch?”

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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By Gabrielle.

Is it just me, or are we all a bit fascinated with New York? I know so many people who either reminisce fondly about their time in The Big Apple, or else dream about someday living there. And tell the truth: When you hear the first few chords of New York, New York, you can’t help but belt out all the lyrics, right?

LaTonya Staubs lives a colorful life in Brooklyn. From the red and white polka dotted rug to turquoise chairs and on to orange spotted walls, this is an explosion of creativity. And yet, it’s still a calm from the storm that is the city, just outside their front door. That’s a trick that requires constant attention to balance and intention. But I wouldn’t expect anything less from this designer, mama, and lovely blogger. Friends, please welcome LaTonya!

Q: Tell us all about your family. (Also, your babes have such unique names, so please share how you chose them!)

A: My family and I live in Brooklyn, NY in a small and loving space. We started our family at a pretty young age, by total surprise. I was 21 and Peter was 24. River was and is still the most amazing surprise!

Before I got pregnant with her, Peter and I were young people just having fun in the city. There was always a party or show to attend, and my life was pretty much the typical life for a girl just barely out of her teens working and living in the city. I wanted a peaceful pregnancy and baby, after all the hoopla. I also wanted a baby girl with a unisex name, so she wouldn’t be judged about a job etc. before others ever met her. It goes so well with her personality.

We came up with Oak after I had already lost a baby well into my second trimester. I went into my pregnancy with him incredibly nervous and private, with a lot of feelings, and not knowing exactly how to sort through them. I soon realized that the insecurity after getting pregnant after a loss like that doesn’t just go away. All I could do was share my feelings with friends, and later with blog readers. I wanted to be strong and I wanted my baby to be strong. I knew if he made it through all the endless high risk appointments and past that 24 week mark he would be strong. Oak is a representation of that strength, like an Oak tree.

River’s room and those orange spotted walls, just ahead!

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Living With Kids: Agnes Hsu

September 16, 2014

By Gabrielle.

Agnes would be a lovely friend to have, I think. She owns a cupcake shop, is a family photographer, and also runs a kids’ creative site. Life with her must be sweet, DIY divine, and photogenic. (As an extra bonus, she lives in my neck of the woods, so I call dibs!)

But with all those professional endeavors, something’s gotta give, right? If you’re struggling with your own overwhelming schedules, you might like to hear how Agnes deals with it all. From the division of duties, scheduled personal times that refuel the family’s energy levels, and effective out-sourcing, it’s good stuff. Friends, please meet Agnes! Hello, Wonderful!

Q: We can’t wait to meet you all!

A: Hi! I’m Agnes Hsu, mom to two feisty kids who keep me on my toes: Alia, five and a half, and Kian, who is three and a half. I’m married to my college sweetheart, Tim. We’ve been married for 12 years and together for 18, which seems like a lifetime but it’s all flown by so quickly!

I’m the entrepreneurial/creative spirit in the household. I run on energy and am a non-stop person. I’m an introvert by nature and don’t enjoy small talk, but can talk for hours one-on-one with someone because I love getting to know people from the inside. I’m inspired by those who take chances and have gone through trials in their lives. I am an avid reader, particularly biographies and memoirs. I’m typical type A, compulsive and frenetic. But thankfully, my husband Tim balances that out.

He’s an extrovert, super friendly, and people generally love him upon first meeting. He’s solid, laid-back, and is the most optimistic person I’ve ever met. Our interests couldn’t be more different, too. He’s very much into technology and works in marketing at Twitter, and just prior to that he was at a gaming company. He’s extremely witty, funny, and a hoarder, whereas I’m serious and a neat freak who is scared of clutter. It’s a miracle we are married!

Our kids are the center of our amusement and love. Interestingly, they are also polar opposites like my husband and I. My little girl is like a mini-me. She loves arts and crafts, creative projects, and is also super neat (actually loves to clean her room!) and enjoys baking/cooking in the kitchen as much as I do. She’s also on the shy side and it takes her a while to warm up to people, but once she does she can’t keep quiet around them.

Pretty scenes and worthwhile words, just ahead!

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Jylare Smith Photography.

No matter how many times I read Elle’s words, they still make my heart lose a few pounds of worry and stress. If you’re feeling like you’ve not enough space in your home or too much chaos in your life or even too much fear creeping into your parenting style, read this. I promise you’ll feel the warmth, gratitude, and sincerity with which she tries hard to surround herself daily.

In short, I really like Elle. I hope you do, too.

Q: Tell us all about your family.

A: My husband, Jared, is a surfer boy from Southern California. Half of my childhood was spent in the swamplands of Texas and the other half in the mountains of Utah. We married while we were still just babies eight years ago. We finished our degrees together, have had three children (Lucy is five, Solomon is three, and Frances is three months) and run a baby carrier business called Solly Baby from our 740 square foot home on 3/4 of an acre in North County San Diego. Somehow, we’re still pretty crazy about each other. Or maybe we’re just crazy. Either way, I think we’ve got a good thing going.

Lucy is our fiercely independent, creative spirit. She can be found thinking of sad things just so she can watch herself cry in a mirror, carrying around her chicken “Cloudy” like she is a doll, and scrambling eggs for lunch for herself and her little brother. At her dance recital this year, she told me she “enjoyed being on the stage, but next year would rather do something ‘freer’ and maybe even a little bit ‘wild.’” Yeah, she’s amazing.

Solomon is pure energy and laughs. He was almost kicked off of his soccer team this year for repeatedly spanking the coach’s bum as well as gymnastics for coming up with (what I would call “creative”) alternative uses for the apparatuses. He can be found kissing his baby sister every. waking. minute. He’s always telling me to not be so “serwius” and he’s got a thing for superheroes, being strong, and the music from Les Mis.

Effortless and airy, coming right up. Breaths of fresh air included!

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DIY: Cement Pencil Holder

August 25, 2014

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie. // This post is brought to you by Office Depot. #TeachersChangeLives and so can you! Go here to find out more.

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It’s official: a new school year is upon us! And like many kids, my children have the itch to make something for their new teachers. A drawing, a little piece of origami, a sweet note. Of course, I always wonder if there’s something we can add, something to go along with the little note or drawing, that their teacher will find useful. A gift card so that their teachers can buy supplies for the classroom is always helpful, but if you’re in the making sort of mood (I am!), I thought this cement desk organizer fits the bill very nicely.

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

The project incorporates two of my favorite things — fresh school supplies, and cement. Best of all, it’s not just for pens and pencils. This handsome + utilitarian item can be designed to hold any number and any size of desk accessories. The style and layout is all up to you!

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

Don’t be anxious about working with cement for this project. Yes, it requires concentration and muscle (which surely you have in spades), and an odd combination of working fast and waiting. But the end product is worth it. These heavy duty holders would look handsome on any desk!

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

Plus, there are lots of ways to include the kids on this project, from gathering supplies, to stirring cement, to decorating the dried organizer with Sharpies (we used silver).

Ready to get to work? Let’s go.

Click here for the full tutorial.

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By Gabrielle. Milk bottle macarons via Raspberri Cupcakes.

There is no shortage of opinions when it comes to childbirth methods — and the opinions don’t stop after delivery! Whether from well-meaning friends and family, the latest issue of a parenting magazine, or even complete strangers at the grocery store, the opinions come. And they often bring a dose of parenting guilt with them. Worst of all, is when the reigning advice, guidance, or child-rearing tradition doesn’t work for your baby or your family. We’ve talked about it before, but it’s a great reminder at any stage of life: Sometimes, what is best for most might not be best for you. And that’s perfectly okay.

In Danielle‘s case, it was all about the breastfeeding. Some of us have been in the same spot as Danielle, some of us have had the completely opposite experience. I think, however, there’s a lesson here that everyone can relate to. Please enjoy Danielle’s story.

Danielle’s touching story, just ahead.

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By Gabrielle. pray4trax necklaces available in the little vikings Etsy shop.

Oh, goodness, but I enjoy browsing through Kassi Bacquet‘s life with her five lovely babes. Her experience began with the birth of her son when she was in high school and ends with the arrival of twins, one of whom was born with a fatal genetic disease. I thought we could all glean a lesson or two from this mama, especially the honesty and grace she carries with her daily. Please enjoy her words, Friends!

Q: Tell us about you and your beautiful family! 

A: Gosh, my husband and I are both thirty-four and very young at heart. I had Tyler at sixteen, so he and I have always been pretty close…although now that he’s a teen and almost seventeen, he has far less time for dear old mom! We have a lot of dance parties at home with my two daughters – Tannyn, who is nine, and Tayli, who is six – and the twins, Tavvi and Trax, who are 19 months. Our home is loud, crazy, and wild almost all of the time! It’s never quiet until the kids are in bed.

We’re a family of surfers. Dan, my husband, and the three older kids surf competitively here on the gulf coast. We love the beach and now that the babies are older, they are surfing, too.

A birth and a diagnosis and a gorgeous shot of Kassi with her twins, just ahead.

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Garden Hideaway   |   Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle (some of the photos were by Ben Blair too!). This project is brought to you by Lowe’s. Find everything you need to bring sunshine to your Mother’s Day in the Lowe’s garden department. #springiscalling

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I prefer a really low-key Mother’s Day, with my big request being that I get to sleep in. : ) But this year, I thought it would be fun to use Mother’s Day as an excuse to get a project done in the yard. I know I’ve been sharing lots of photos of the interior of our house over the last few weeks. But wrapping up the living room details marked a break in the interior work for awhile. Spring is here, and we’ve turned out attention to the yard. And the yard definitely needs attention!

Garden Hideaway   |   Design MomTransform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design MomTransform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

It is a wild, wild place. Last summer, just days after we moved in, we had a consultation from a tree expert and his landscaping crew. He told us that based on the layer of accumulation on the ground, he thought the yard hadn’t been touched for 20 years! I can totally understand that. The previous owners were in their 90′s, and it’s overwhelming to take care of. Plus, the wildness has its own beauty, and it can be appreciated simply by sitting on the decks that surround the house and taking in the view.

I confess, I am very intimidated by our yard. Tackling the interior is doable for me, but making a master plan for the yard requires a skill set I don’t have. So we intend to contact a landscape architect who will help us draw up a garden design — some thing that incorporates our ideas, plus the realities of the landscape and climate. We’d like the design to be something we can implement over a few years so we can budget accordingly.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design MomTransform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design MomTransform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

But in the meantime, we don’t want to ignore the yard, so we’ve been slowly, but surely cleaning up the thick layer of sticks and leaves and nature, and adding it to the community compost. And as we clean up, we get to know the property a little better, and get ideas of how we can make the most of it.

Off to one corner is a little shady grove that we thought had potential as a sort of hideaway — a place that’s off the main paths of the yard, where we could go to get a break from the sometimes-chaos that is life with a big family.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design MomTransform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design MomTransform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

So we started clearing it out. The whole family helped. We dragged fallen branches and lopped off dead ones. We raked and shoveled leaves. We climbed into the trees to shake down the fallen Eucalyptus bark that was caught in the branches overhead. The castoff pile grew and grew until it was about 6 feet high and 8 feet long and five feet wide. It was an impressive pile! And proof of the work we’d done. We we’re proud of it! But only for a couple of days — and then we hired a team to come clear that pile out. It was a bigger job than we could do ourselves.

Once it was cleared out, the little grove was really shaping up! With the old growth gone, the sunlight could filter through the leaves, and there were now pathways to access the clearing.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

Now it was time to make it pretty.

Click through for more photos and details.

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By Gabrielle.

Never before have I asked a Living With Kids tour guide about her family and received a response like Nell‘s. It’s beyond lovely and lucky and all those words we use when someone is exactly where they should be in life!

And this house! Oh, what a house. In my imagination, Nell’s family home is just like the one in the game of Clue, come to life. (My best guess is James in the Music Room with a cello!) All of it is so interesting to me, from the family input into decor to the incredible sense of deja vu that must happen on a daily basis. Please, please enjoy this tour and help me welcome this sweet – and growing – family!

Q: Please tell us about you and yours!

A: My whole family includes this clan of our parents, beloved four siblings, their partners, and their kiddos. We’re Irish Catholic and were raised to be fiercely loyal, and very much involved in one another’s lives. My parents have been together for 40 years this year! Both are doctors – dad a gastrointerologist and mom a psychologist. My eldest sister and her partner live in Minneapolis and are true urban farmers. My second eldest sister is a social worker who specializes in older adults and little kiddos, her nieces and nephews benefitting from her proximity of living in the Twin Cities as well; she’s the auntie who teaches them about the periodic table and splatter paint! The sister right above me is our New York star, a graphic designer turned herbalist whose organic skincare line is fabulous. Her husband has opened two successful bar/gastro-pubs in Manhattan and is burgeoning on his third. Their toddler daughter and baby girl are perpetually on our FaceTime feed chatting it up with my kiddos. Our little brother is an officer in the Army, though he’s a world traveler and adventurer (and still our baby brother) behind all that ordered life. He and his wonderful wife have a nine month old whom we all wish we could gobble up, but can’t as they live in Tennessee.

There’s me, the fourth, the creative writing major-turned-lawyer who married her law school love, and we have James who is almost four, Maureen who is two, and a little baby boy due to join us in early May. I’m haphazard about cleaning but love to tidy, my husband is a poet who’s an insurance coverage lawyer, and our children are obsessed with all things church and baseball related. We eat as healthfully as possible but also indulge on my mom’s homemade and certainly unhealthy caramels. Despite our children’s screen-free life, my husband and I love to curl up with fatty fatty ice cream and watch Netflix once the kids have gone down for the night!

Q: You’re living in your childhood home! Tell us about why you wanted to buy it from your parents, and any difficulties or second-guesses along the way.

A: All of us siblings had agreed growing up: somebody had to buy the house someday. I feel so lucky it ended up being us! We were the first to get married and have children, and once our careers had lined up so that it was financially feasible, we made the leap. The house has so much character and personality. It’s roomy but intimate, majestic but practical, stunning but humble. It had never really occurred to me that another family could raise their children in it, unless that family were one of ours.

The carpets…oh, the carpets!

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By Gabrielle.

When Mary first contacted me about a possible tour, she was sweetly hesitant and sent along a few photographs to share the space she and her husband are living with their four daughters. As I always do, I asked for a few more and added a lot of exclamation points to my request.

And when she sent me many, many dozens scenes from her daily life, I spent a good afternoon poring over them. I had to beg Mary to edit them down for me because I simply could not! This tour would have included at least 750 photos! Because, Friends, this life of the Heffernans is pretty lovely. And busy. And thoughtful. And supremely well-designed. I love it all, and I hope it just makes your day, too.

(Just maybe, there will be a follow-up post this summer with all the photos I couldn’t use this time around! I’m keeping my fingers crossed, because I would really, really love a tour of the family businesses!)

Q: Please introduce us to your sweet family!

A: Hello! I’m Mary Heffernan, a mom and small town business owner and a country girl at heart. My husband Brian is a manly mountain man who is surrounded by a crazy wife and four independent, strong-willed little girls. Luckily, they tend to be tomboys and are out there hunting and fishing with him, so he couldn’t be happier. Brian and I met in 2006 at a charity event, where he was on the board and I was volunteering. Eight years later, we have four daughters and a fun and crazy life together, running a range of small businesses in Los Altos, California.

All four of our girls are named Mary, which makes traveling interesting! They are all named after different grandmothers, as we are both from big Catholic families with a lot of Marys! Our eldest, MaryFrances or Francie, is six and the leader of the pack. MaryMarjorie or Maisie, is four and a sweet, maternal soul. MaryJane or JJ is the wild child at three and full of personality and outfit changes. MaryTeresa, Tessa, is one year old and packs a punch to keep up with those big sisters! We have a chocolate lab named Moose, and three Navajo Churro rams on our ranch named Chief Big Horn, Geronimo, and Eugene.

I can’t wait for you to see the kitchen. Truly.

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