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Mamagama Giveaway

July 31, 2014

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By Gabrielle.

I’ve got a giveaway for you today from a shiny new sponsor. I know you’ll love it! Have you heard of Mamagama? You might like their intro as much as I do: ”Mamagama sells awesome maternity t-shirts for gorgeous, broody, moody, ice cream and pickle eating superstars.” Isn’t that fun? And the prize is a $100 gift certificate to their shop!

beachball_maternity_tshirt

Mamagama is a small shop that focuses on the coolest pregnancy t-shirts. Something I love about their wares, is that they are illustrated by talented artists from around the world and include entertaining maternity stories. Even better, Mamagama maternity t-shirts are extremely soft and made of organic bamboo with just a little bit of stretch — which makes them fit a pregnant belly in a lovely way!

flirty_maternity_tshirtbloom_organictshirtfunny_maternity_tshirt

The creative mind behind the brand is Hong Kong-based, Romanian designer, Raluca Stroe. Her vision of pregnancy makes me smile. A Mamagama pregnancy embraces the bump, and feels free to be a little irreverent about it too. : ) I have 5 dear friends expecting at the moment, so if I won, I would buy a t-shirt for all of my favorite mamas-to-be!

Visit Mamagama and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to hear your take on dressing the bump. Do you favor hiding it, or showing it off as soon as possible? The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

P.S. — Don’t miss the Halloween maternity t-shirt edition!

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Sarah is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

pumpkin_maternity_tshirt

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By Gabrielle.

Usually, I try to remove all time stamps from these home tours. That means cropping out Halloween decorations when possible and trying not to post summer tours in the middle of December. But Candice is good at decorating for the holidays. Like, really good. (Do you remember her Winter Wishes craft? She’s also the brilliant photographer who helped us with our Central Park family photos.) And so I threw out all the rules and begged her to share her holiday home. Her inspired Christmas decor reinforces the idea that simple is stunning, especially in excess. (Candice calls this the Anthro rule, which made me laugh. But it’s so true, isn’t it?) I hope this installment of Living With Kids offers a little inspiration, and maybe even an afternoon of cutting a billion glittery stars. Enjoy the tour, Friends!

Q: Please tell us all about this festive family.

A: Hi! Our family consists of Mark, Candice, Grant, Nicholas, Sebastian and a prideful little scotty dog named Dickens. I met Mark when I moved across the country the day before my senior year of high school started. I wish I could say it was love at first sight but really due to a rather large miscommunication when we first met it was more of a Pride and Prejudice situation. To say we barely tolerated each other is an understatement. It wasn’t until the end of the year when we were cast as husband and wife in the high school play that we stopped trying to avoid each other completely.

He moved away after high school and it wasn’t until he came back when I was a junior in college getting my BFA in photography that we knew we were in love. We were married just a few months later. We have been married for almost 15 years now and I’ve loved him every minute of it. (There is a lot more to the story including the time I set him up with my best friend…but we will just leave it at this!)

Mark is currently a Theatre Professor at a University here in San Antonio, and I teach photography online.

Grant is a new teenager and is everything Mark and I are not: brilliant at math and science with a deep love of rules and organization. I’m very grateful that there is someone in this house who loves that stuff.

Nicholas, formerly known as Cole, has decided that at the age of ten his nickname is too young for him. He also changes his name from Cole to Nicholas every Christmas season. He is charming, funny, and can make friends with anyone.

Sebastian is two. That means that you can see that there is an eight year gap between his brother and him. We waited for him to join our family for a long time and it was well worth it. He’s super smart and full of life. He pretty much rules the rest of us with his adorable demands.

That’s it. I’m painting a room black.

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Lowe's Deck the Halls and Walls and All

This post is brought to you by Lowe’s Home Improvement. Create your perfect holiday setting with help from Lowe’s. Follow along at #holidayreadyhome.

lowe's logo

By Gabrielle. Images from the Deck the Halls and Walls and All Event.

So. I loved having Thanksgiving at the very end of November. (Did that feel unusual to anyone else?) It seems like we typically get a week between Thanksgiving and December, but this year, the holiday fell right at the very end — like Halloween does in October. I think the reason I love it so much is that it reserves November completely for Thanksgiving, and kind of keeps Christmas at bay a little bit.

Hmmm. It sounds kind of awful when I type it out like that. It’s not that I don’t like Christmas. I love it. It’s just that it can take over for like 2 months if I let it. And then I’m worn down when the big day finally happens. But at our house, since we don’t pull out the Christmas boxes, or turn on the holiday music, until the day after Thanksgiving, this year, Christmas is pretty much a December-only holiday. Which I’m giving the thumbs up.

Lowe's Deck the Halls and Walls and AllLowe's Deck the Halls and Walls and All

If there’s a downside, it’s that I’m a little caught off guard that December has actually arrived. I’m sure it’s partly because I’m not used to the subtle change of seasons here in California — there are no parkas or snow hats tipping me off to the fact that winter is almost here. But whatever the reason. I woke up on Sunday feeling like December 25th was going to sneak up on me if I didn’t get intentional about the holidays. So I sat down and reminded myself of my tried-and-true holiday house “recipe”.

Find my “recipe” ahead — and the Facebook chat info too!

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A Few Things

November 1, 2013

Keychains by 3 Potato 4

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Friends, it’s November! We made it. We made it through October. I don’t know how you feel, but November 1st feels like a triumph to me. October might be my favorite month — the ideal weather, the brilliant leaves, the pumpkin cookies. But when Halloween night ends, I’ve usually maxed out my ability to have conversations about costumes or candy or trick or treating. For me, it’s always delightful to say hello to Halloween on October 1st, and equally delightful to say goodbye to Halloween on November 1st. How about you?

While I take down the Halloween decor and box up the costumes, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share:

- What?! Jimmy Fallon is wearing the FashionABLE scarf that was designed at Alt Summit. (The Genet scarf is my favorite! I wear it all the time.)

What are we looking for?

- Instagram experiments.

Beards + spaghetti.

- I snapped the keychains (above) at a little shop here in Oakland called Nathan & Co. They’re made by 3 Potato 4. All are good reminders for me right now!

- Do you live near any urban farms?

- DIY Polka dot tights.

- The right hand sidebar is updated with lots of November goodness. Take a look!

- The good, the bad and the ugly about GMOs (genetically modified food).

- A nursery with terrific thrift store finds.

- I need new jeans. I think I’ll stick with my favorite pair from The Gap. What are your tried and true favorite jeans these days?

- Dinner inspiration — 16 soup recipes to warm you to your toes.

I hope you have a wonderful, relaxing weekend, accompanied by a giant bowl of leftover Halloween candy. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Are you watching the heart breaking news unfold at #LAX? I was just on the phone with my sister, Sara, and her husband is at LAX trying to catch a flight. He doesn’t know any more about what’s going on than what I’m seeing on the news, but of course, we’re bugging him for updates like crazy. So scary!

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Olive Juice Kids Giveaway

October 31, 2013

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By Gabrielle.

Hooray! I’ve got a terrific giveaway for you, and the timing couldn’t be better. Halloween is today, and that means “the holidays” unofficially begin tomorrow. So how about a $150 gift certificate from Olive Juice Kids? Now you can pick out something pretty for those upcoming family pictures — or to wear to Thanksgiving dinner!

Fall Clothes from Olive Juice Kids

Olive Juice has been a fantastic sponsor of Design Mom for the past few years, so if you’ve been reading for awhile, you may be familiar with their classic, high quality pieces. Their designs are consistently well done, with attention to detail and style that will last. I simply love their clothes!

If you’re looking for something with a European feel, something that feels unusual, Olive Juice will have the perfect thing. Take a look at their LookBook for inspiration! Best of all, their clothes truly are made to be worn by kids — the cuts and materials are comfortable and realistic.

Fall Clothes from Olive Juice KidsFall Clothes from Olive Juice Kids

Visit Olive Juice Kids and leave a comment below to enter. I’d love to know what you’re shopping for these days — a family portrait? an event? or maybe your child’s wardrobe just needs some fresh pieces? The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

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Tamara is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Trick Or Treat Plans

October 31, 2013

trick or treat

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Have you carved your pumpkins, or maybe spray-painted and glittered them? Stocked up on candy galore, or purchased four dozen apples? (Parents will love you, but be prepared for some sad, quizzical little faces!) Will you serve brains for dinner, or just call it spaghetti? Have you been practicing pretending you’re not at home even when the doorbell rings seven hundred times, or are you already waiting for your first trick-or-treater to arrive? Does your costume match your little one’s, or will you be the one going as The Pink Princess’s Mother Who Wears Denim and Uggs?

It’s cute to see all the different personalities come out on fun holidays like Halloween. Tell me all about your plans for the night, if you have any. What have you most been anticipating with glee? What are you already dreading?

As for our family, we have costume parades and class parties, then trick or treating this evening — nothing too unusual. But since we haven’t really celebrated Halloween for the last two years, this feels special as can be! Which reminds me about one unexpected surprise this year. I assumed our kids would want to go all out on costumes. Instead, all but Oscar chose something we already had in the costume box. Hah! Maybe they were just glad to see those familiar favorites once again.

In case you’re curious, Ralph went to school as The Big Bad Wolf (seen here), Maude went as Medusa (originally worn by Oscar), Olive is reprising her role as The Mummy (worn earlier by both herself and Ralph), Oscar is a Ninja (yay for a new costume!), Betty is trying out our Mrs. Frankenstein costume (originally worn by Maude), and June is a Fancy Witch (a costume Betty wore back in the day). How about your kids? New costumes, or recycled ones from past years?

Here’s to a Happy Halloween for all!

P.S. — We’ve heard from neighbors that our street, which is sort of hidden away, doesn’t get trick or treaters. So we’ll be seeking elsewhere for our evening festivities. And speaking of treats, do you have a candy policy at your house? Here’s some good advice, and our own family policy, for handling all that candy!

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Pumpkin Soup

October 31, 2013

pumpkin soup/gratin makes a great fall dinner (or appetizer with friends!)

By Raleigh-Elizabeth.

Supper is our favorite Halloween tradition. That’s really saying something, since we’re the crafty sort of people who start making our costumes before summer is even over and have been planning our son’s first Halloween costume since before he was even born. (We’re doing a Jurassic Park theme this year, and he’s a baby dinosaur. I’ve been working hard on his baby triceratops costume for awhile, and I think it’s come together pretty well! I just hope I finish before tomorrow.)

We love the whole trick-or-treating concept (and trunk-or-treating, our church’s version) and being neighborly with friends while watching the little ones have too much fun, too late at night, and with too much candy. We enjoy all of these things, but we don’t like them nearly as much as we love Halloween supper. And that’s because on Halloween, we eat our supper straight out of a pumpkin.

Recipe and instructions straight ahead!

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A Few Things

October 25, 2013

Empire State Building

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! I’m back from New York. I arrived late last night and was so happy to wake up and realize it was Friday. I know that’s cliché, but the feeling is oh so real! : ) This weekend, we have a few Halloween celebrations happening. So today, as soon as I hit publish on this post, I’ll be running errands to seek out the costume details we’re missing — things like black tights in June’s size, a green turtleneck for Betty, and hair paint in black and white.

Running errands here is one of those things that feels so different from what I experienced in France. Here, I know which shops carry which sorts of items, I know what to expect as far as customer service and returns go, and the biggest difference: I speak fluent English!

While I work through my shopping list, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

- I love how Kacy writes about parenting. (This made me cry.)

- Ben Blair sent me this video about strangers posing together.

Authenticity is not a look. (Favorite sentence: “Authenticity can be captured by a photograph taken in a certain moment, but it can’t be constructed for a photograph.”)

- Do you have Halloween parties coming up too? Well here are 17 Spooky Delicious Treats for party-goers (and quite a few are healthy!)

- An essay about loss that made me weep and laugh like a crazy person.

- A sophisticated, vintage grey nursery.

She responds to her critics with such humor and grace, doesn’t she?

- I read about it here, and ordered the Wes Anderson Collection book immediately.

- The Ethnic Label.

12 cute reasons why heels are worth it.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Trunk or treating! Halloween parades! After-party messes as you wash the hair paint out! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — You guys. In New York, I was shopping for winter boots to use as props for the Lowe’s event, and I saw these Tori Burch boots at Bloomingdales. I didn’t buy them (out of budget), but they are so freaking cute I just had to share! Red pom poms!

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By Gabrielle.

This weekend, we have a full schedule of Halloween events, and chances are you do too. So I thought reposting  this little video I made last year might be helpful. It’s all about easy ideas to feel festive — even if your someone who dreads dressing up. The ideas are simple, non-messy and inexpensive. You can even dress normally, then add or subtract these ideas as you move from work to errands to the Halloween parade.

I get it. Halloween isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But most kids adore this holiday like crazy! And you can totally make their day by joining the festivities — even in the tiniest of ways. Enjoy!

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A Few Things

October 18, 2013

sea lions in san francisco

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. I thought I would be waving to you from Palm Springs when I hit publish on this post. My friend, Caroline, visiting from France, was going to join me on a last minute trip to the amazing Camp Mighty. Alas, when we tried to catch our early flight this morning, we discovered BART (public transportation) was on strike, wreaking havoc on all transportation routes, and we missed our flight. Bummer. So instead, we’re making plans to visit Santa Cruz tomorrow. Not as fun as getting to see my dear friend Laura Mayes, but definitely a happy, beachy alternative!

How about you? What are you up to this weekend? While I try to figure out if we can see redwoods and Santa Cruz in the same day, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- An app that helps you remember your dreams, and also determines the best time for you personally to wake up without feeling groggy.

- Hot air balloon!

- Childbirth made me love my wife’s body even more.

Skeleton Wall Hangings. Just the sort of thing I would love for Halloween decor!

- A memoir by Elizabeth Smart that looks really interesting.

- Nature is so cool! Mechanical Gears in Jumping Insects.

- House Rules, step-by-step.

- The number one thing Caroline’s kids want her to bring back? Uggs! They’re very popular in France this year, but the prices are higher there. Have you ever owned a pair?

- Halloween fun: charming cotton candy ghosts, and candy-free pom pom pop-ups.

- Another article that might convince you to get in the picture.

- How to draw monsters  — it’s all about the hair and horns. Who knew? Draw one and add it to your child’s lunch for a fun surprise. Thanks, Sara.

- Last week, we talked Kid Costumes. This week, let’s talk Costumes for Families and Couples.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend wherever you are (somewhere wintery? somewhere summery?). And I want to say thank you for all the good conversation this week. I always love reading your comments! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — I’ve had so much fun having some tourist time in San Francisco with Caroline. I’ve been instagramming like crazy — including the image of sea lions at top.

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3 Easy Halloween Projects  |  Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

In case you missed it, this is a repost of a cute little video I made last year. When it comes to Halloween decor, I veer toward eerie and spooky, but still pretty. And I steer clear of gory — it’s just not my thing. So here are 3 simple ideas that are festive and pretty, but have a spooky feel. And they’re easy too!

I have some friends that don’t love Halloween. They put a pumpkin on the porch and call it good. How about you? Do you decorate for Halloween? Or is it a holiday you endure but don’t necessarily enjoy?

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A Few Things

October 12, 2013

Design Mom Gabrielle Blair Golden Gate Bridge

By Gabrielle. First image snapped by Maude, second by me.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Here I am, once again a day late with my weekend links. What an unusual couple of days this has turned out to be! Yesterday, I went off to a meeting at Ikea (there’s a fun project in the works!), and while I was there, the fire alarm went off and the store was evacuated and shut down for the rest of the day. Luckily, I was told that no one was hurt, and that the store didn’t sustain much (or any?) damage. Sigh of relief. Have you ever had the fire alarm go off when you were running errands? I think that was my first time. A new experience for sure.

We also have our first house guests! Sammi & Alex are twins, and they are Ralph and Maude’s dearest friends from Colorado. They’re here celebrating their 16th birthday! So it’s the perfect time for us to get to be tourists in this new-to-us area. Yesterday, we focused on the Golden Gate Bridge, and today, we’re tag-teaming. Ben Blair took the older 3 kids + guests to Alcatraz (it’s closed with the government shutdown, but they’re taking a boat tour around the island). And I’ve got the younger 3 at home — we’re going to make cut-out cookies with Halloween shapes. Crossing my fingers I can also work in some email catch up. : )

How about you? Any fun plans this weekend?

Betty & June Golden Gate Bridge

While we get to baking, here are a few things I thought you might enjoy. By the way, yesterday was the International Day of the Girl! So I’ve got several girl-related links today:

-  This interview with Malala is so good. She is amazing.

- Costume inspiration: I want to show this no-sew skirt DIY to my girls. This would be fun to make at a birthday party too.

- A wonderful fundraiser for women at risk, featuring a book I love.

- The case for cursive?

Given Goods. A collection of products that give back tangible benefits — benefits that you can track!

- This nursery does pink in all the right ways.

- Did you know there’s a “kid mode” on the iphone?

- Stopped into Banana Republic yesterday and wanted one of everything! Their fall collection is really killing it. (Big sales this weekend: 40% off Outerwear & Sweaters, and 40% off Sale Items too!)

- National flags made out of local cuisine.

- 15 non-Jack O’Lantern ways to decorate with pumpkins!

- My kids haven’t decided how they want to dress up yet, so I’ve been collecting cute ideas for Halloween Costumes for Kids to get their imaginations going.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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A Few Things

October 5, 2013

Masks on Artwork for Halloween

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? Are you up for a Saturday edition of my weekend link list? Yesterday’s work time was cut short — because we ended up taking out the three-quarter wall in the kitchen! Very exciting!! The space is so open now. Makes me feel like we have endless options. I’ll write more about it next week, but in the meantime, you can see updates on Instagram.

We have some fun stuff going on this weekend. A cross-country meet for Maude. A marching band performance for Ralph. A breakfast with friends for Olive. I’m going to spend the weekend sketching a thousand layouts and possibilities for the kitchen. And Ben Blair is headed to Santa Barbara! The four Blair Brothers are taking their father on a road trip to his home town. Isn’t that wonderful? Makes me happy.

What are you up to this weekend? In case you need a little added excitement, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- Did you hear? Domino is back.

- I love this: It’s #Socktober!

- A nursery filled with stars.

- Remember Laura’s home tour? Well she just launched Kid & Coe, a company dedicated to simplifying family travel. Check it out.

- Mom texts.

- A Dr. Pepper Party!

- I’m almost out of my favorite French beauty product, Nuxe Oil, but (hooray!) found some at Bloomingdales.

- Really cool: DIY ipad cases made from canvas artwork.

- What your husband should be wearing.

- Authentic crepes with Stephmodo.

Fall dinner party inspiration.

- I’m hosting a fun Instagram photo contest with Pop & Lolli. Have you entered yet?

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Thank you so much for the comments and conversation on my post about Mary Lu. Seriously. I so appreciate your thoughts!

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Zazzle for Halloween!

October 5, 2013

Zazzle Halloween

This post brought to you by the new Zazzle. Make your Halloween celebration magical with personalized, high quality party goods.

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By Gabrielle.

Hooray! It’s really and truly October. And I am in full Halloween mode. You too? We weren’t really able to celebrate Halloween for the last couple of years, so the kids are definitely in the mood to go all out! What I’m craving most is a really good Halloween party — something creative and spooky without being gruesome. I love the idea of hosting one, but this year, instead of hosting, I’ll cross my fingers I get an invitation to one instead. : )

If you’re craving a Halloween party too, Zazzle has everything you need! Invitations. Decorations. Party Favors. Paper Goods. And so much more. And everything they sell can be customized to your liking, or personalized just the way you want. Below, you’ll find some of my favorites among their thousands of Halloween offerings — quality goods that you’ll be able to use for Halloween for many years to come. Best of all, each of these designs is available on all sorts of products — from aprons to zip hoodies.

Zazzle for Halloween!

Start with invitations to your event, like these (1) Vintage Invitations, or these (2) Carnival Style Invitations. Then get your house in a festive mood with sophisticated throw pillows, (3) Art Deco Black Cat, (4) Waving Skeleton, and (5) Flying Witch.

Zazzle for Halloween!

Next, choose supplies for serving refreshments. I like these sweet and elegant (6) Ghost Napkins (or these mysterious ouija board cloth napkins), and the (7) Full Moon Party Plates. Now, pick out party favors for your guests and Trick-or-Treaters. Customized candy tins are just right! Try the (8) Annual Rising design, or (9) Night Flight design. Then, hang good looking posters — like this (10) Transylvania by Train option, or this (11) Masquerade Ball option — as handsome party decor.

Again, most of these designs are available across a whole suite of products, so if you crave a coordinating party, with matching paper goods, invitations and decor, Zazzle has you covered!

All that’s left for you to do is make the spooky playlist. Yay for Halloween parties!

And now I’m curious. What are you drawn to for Halloween? Do you like the scary stuff (zombies, horror movies, haunted houses), or do you stick to more fall-themed decor (pumpkins and leaves)? Maybe some of both?

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Glow in the Dark Halloween Garlands. Cheap and Easy DIY!  |  Design Mom

Images and text by Amy Christie for Design Mom.

Tomorrow is October! Bring on the black and orange!! And you know me, I love the garlands. Sewn paper garlands can be customized for everything and I just can’t stop making them. They are a simple, inexpensive and low-key way to dress up your home or decorate for a party.

Glow in the Dark Halloween Garlands. Cheap and Easy DIY!  |  Design MomGlow in the Dark Halloween Garlands. Cheap and Easy DIY!  |  Design Mom

But for this holiday, an eerie trick! Make the seemingly ordinary garland into a glow-in-the-dark treat.

Glow in the Dark Halloween Garlands. Cheap and Easy DIY!  |  Design Mom

By day, a festive string of color — and by night, a gleaming strand of ghoulish shapes.

Glow in the Dark Halloween Garlands. Cheap and Easy DIY!  |  Design Mom

Gather your materials and let’s get started.

Click here for the full tutorial — and the glow-in-the-dark how to!

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Now Hiring

September 24, 2013

help wanted vintage flash cards

By Gabrielle. Flashcards from  on Etsy.

Hello, Friends! It’s assistant hiring time. Do you live in Oakland? Are you super organized? Do you love things like blogging and Pinterest and Facebook? Can you run errands? Craft up a storm? Are you hard working? A good communicator? A problem-solver? Fabulous! Send me an email at gabrielle@designmom.com and let’s chat.

I’m looking for someone to work side-by-side with me for 2o hours per week. The schedule will typically be Monday thru Friday from 9:00 to 1:00. At first the job will be a million different things — you might be answering emails, or working on Halloween costumes, working on spread sheets, discussing future post topics, assisting with shoots, or helping organize the office. But eventually it will settle into more of a routine. If you think you’d be a good fit, let me know!

P.S. — The first time I posted a help wanted notice was in 2010. Melanie of You Are My Fave responded and she was a delight to work with! If only she would move to Oakland. : )

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Meri Meri Giveaway

September 12, 2013

DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

Hooray! I’ve got a fantastic giveaway for you today, sponsored by Meri Meri — the Party Supply & Paper Goods Shop. They’re offering a generous $150 gift certificate!

Meri Meri Halloween 2013

I could not be a bigger Meri Meri fan. I love the unique paper goods they create, and I especially love that they are completely original and found only in the Meri Meri shop! I’m featuring my favorites from their Halloween goods today (October will be here in a flash!), but they also have themed birthday parties, general party supplies, cute baking goods, and tons of holiday products as well.

Meri Meri Halloween 2013

If I won, I would order a whole bunch of these and hang them over the entry table or over the mantel. Wouldn’t that be a fun focal point?

Visit Meri Meri and leave a comment to enter, I’d love to know what party theme or party supply you love the most. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

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Claire is the lucky winner! Thanks for playing.

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zazzle celebrations

This post brought to you by the new Zazzle. Make your next celebration magical with personalized party goods.

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By Gabrielle.

Are you familiar with Zazzle? I was first introduced to the company by Jenny, The Bloggess — she uses their services to put funny, weird, and sometimes irreverent captions and images on t-shirts, hats and mugs. And not just Jenny. Virtually anyone (yes, that means you!) can create a shop on Zazzle and add your own designs to tote bags, dishes, pillows, candles, aprons, even flip flops — without having to actually stock any products. In fact, the product won’t be created in real life form until someone orders it. Pretty cool, right?

Well, I’m excited to tell you Zazzle recently relaunched! They have a gorgeous new site that is easier to use than ever. And now, the focus is beyond opening your own shop. The new site is an ideal source for finding everything you need for your next party, event or celebration — and every single bit of it can be customized to your liking!

To celebrate the new launch, I’m showcasing some of my favorite party picks from their vast, vast inventory. Here’s what I’ve got bookmarked:

zazzle products

1) Personalized Luggage Tags. Such a great party favor idea! I always appreciate favors that are truly useable.

2) Red Heels Pillow. This would make a memorable housewarming gift for a bestie.

3) Personalized iPhone Cases. Love these! And Zazzle offers options for every kind of smart phone and device (not just iPhones). It would be fun to give out something like this in the Alt Summit gift bags.

4) Retro Sauce Invitations. Wouldn’t these be perfect for a Labor Day BBQ? And this Summer Bash invitation would be ideal for an August pool party.

5) T-Rex Tote Bags. Give these to party guests so they can collect fossils. And here are some cute Dinosaur Party invitations, too. Such a terrific party theme!

6) For a Bon Voyage send-off party, have customized Flip Flops made for the guest of honor. I’m digging all these nautical designs.

7) Spooky Owl Halloween Supplies. I’ve missed Halloween while we were in France. I can’t wait to celebrate this year.

8) Personalized Binders. This would make a cute hostess gift at a recipe exchange. Or you could create customized binders for Back to School!

9) Carnival Bunting. This is pictured in the photo at the top. You can order each separate letter as a postcard, then trim and hang. Genius. Lots of other bunting designs, too.

I’m so impressed with the relaunch! In my head Zazzle was mostly t-shirts and mugs, so I’m giddy to discover just how many options they offer. Flip flops! Messengers Bags! Bunting! I honestly had no idea. My mind is spinning with ideas…

P.S. — When I say vast, I mean vast! The first time I put in a search on the new site, I think there were 500,000 results. Hah! So feel free to be as specific as you’d like in your searches — instead of searching “party invitation” try “pirate party invitations”.

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Hiring Help?

May 31, 2013

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[ UPDATE: Voting is now closed. ]

By Gabrielle.

I loved seeing your opinion about prizes last week, and thought it might be fun to pose a weekly question. Up next: If you could hire someone to help you for the day, would you hire a driver, a house cleaner, a cook, or a babysitter? Click your pick above — I’d love to know!

A few weeks ago I posted a house tour that generated quite a few comments about hired help. Mostly, they implied that since the house was so orderly and beautiful, there must be a ton of hired help — and the tone of the comments sometimes hinted that hired help was a negative thing. I’m not sure if I’ve ever completely understood the strong reactions this topic can inspire. But I’d like to understand better.

In my day dreams, our household is run by Alice from The Brady Bunch. She lives at the house in her own little apartment, so she’s pretty much always available. And she knows the house so well that she doesn’t need instructions on where the books go, or which clothes belong in which bedroom, or when the fire alarm batteries need to be changed. She makes it her job to know. She’s not a nanny, but she can watch the kids in a pinch. And she can run errands as well. It’s a lovely day dream.

Personally, I’m a fan of getting help! I’ve hired help whenever we’ve needed it and had the budget for it. When we didn’t have the budget for it, I would make babysitting trades and even spring cleaning trades with friends and neighbors. Sometimes the help means a babysitter — currently, little June goes to a sitter twice a week. Sometimes the help means a full-on assistant — in Colorado, Melanie of You Are My Fave came to my house every morning to help run my business, which included a range of tasks from assisting with emails, to running errands, to helping make Halloween costumes. (She was amazing, by the way!) Sometimes the help means a house cleaner — during our last year in New York, a lovely woman came twice a month to give the house a good scrubbing.

But I have friends who are really uncomfortable getting help. Some think it’s a waste of money. Some feel guilty about getting help. Some saw their mothers do it alone, and want to model the same thing for their own kids. Some feel the house and the children are their responsibility — and they feel that getting help is shirking that responsibility.

And obviously, the whole conversation comes from a place of privilege and cultural traditions. In fact, like you, I’ve had friends move all over the world, and in certain countries, it’s expected that they will hire help. It would be rude to the local community if they didn’t.

What’s your take? Have you ever hired help? Do you have help now? Do you have a strong opinion on the subject either way?

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Restaurant Critic

May 23, 2013

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By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image via The Renshaw.

It’s a rare day that I get to taste the food I read about in restaurant reviews. From America’s most dazzling hot spots to small hole-in-the-walls where dinner for two costs my monthly diaper budget, I’m relegated to drooling over the words, not the plates.

And maybe that’s half the idea. Maybe restaurant critics write not just to sell us on the merit of a dish, chef, or fancy restaurant, but to let us have a taste of something they know we probably couldn’t enjoy without them.

That’s the truth Ruth Reichl discovered when she first started out as a restaurant critic for the New York Times. Newly returned to New York after a stint in California, she headed first to Le Cirque (among Manhattan’s fanciest fancy places) dressed not as herself, New York Times restaurant critic, but as the invented Molly Hollis, a Michiganer who wore pantyhose when it was hot out, got no special treatment, and was sat in the frozen tundra of the restaurant on a banquette she was forced to share with the menus and wine lists. When she started to peruse those wine lists (because her waiter had failed to give her one), it was unceremoniously demanded back because someone else – clearly, someone important – needed it. By contrast, when she appeared as herself, Ruth Reichl, Restaurant Critic, she was told — quite honestly — that the King of Spain would have to wait in the bar, but her table was ready.

More on restaurants, critics, and real food ahead!

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