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A Few Things

October 21, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-10-21 at 10.58.01 AM

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello Friends. How are you? Looking forward to the weekend? I have zero weekend plans and I’m glad. Ben Blair will be at a Blockchain conference and I’m hoping to catch up on some work. We’ll probably tackle the Halloween costumes and wash the car too. Not very glamorous, but I don’t mind.

But I do have one fun thing to tell you about. You know my Random Thoughts posts? Well, yesterday, I attempted to do something similar on Facebook Live. I made a little list of topics that have been on my mind and then started the video and just talked and talked. You can watch it here if you’re curious.

I was very nervous right before it started and asked Ben to give me a pep talk. Sometimes when I’m trying something new, those critical voices in my head just want to take over and shut everything down. But the feedback has been really good and I’m so glad I did it. Let me know what you think. I’d like to do more of these. Maybe once a week? We’ll see. And if you have topics you’d like me to cover, definitely let me know.

And now, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

- “Only white people,” said the little girl.

- The open office trend is destroying the workplace.

- Me and 6 other Mormon women were interviewed in New York Magazine.

- Do stars have consciousness? (Stars as in the night sky, not the movie variety.)

- 10 TED talks on modern feminism. Add them to your playlist.

- If you’re not in the mood to dress up for Halloween, perhaps this ghost manicure will appeal.

- This is what work-life balance looks like at a company with 100% retention of moms.

- Raise your hand if you’ll be watching Hamilton on PBS tonight. (Olive is going to a viewing party at her friend’s house.)

- Sweet love note from Canada to America. Did anyone else cry when they saw this? It totally made me tear up.

- Emily McDowell’s Everyday Bravery pins. I think I need to keep a pouch full of these in my handbag, and then give them out as I run my errands.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I hope October is gorgeous where you live! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.



A Few Things

September 30, 2016

palm springs

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I have been traveling so I’m writing this from a hotel room. I was in Palm Springs for a couple of days, making a venue visit for Alt Summit (which is going to be SO GOOD!), and then I flew to Salt Lake City, so I could speak at the Dialogue Conference this morning. I had such a great time! I was on a panel with Meg Conley and Courtney Kendrick Clark and Michael Austin, moderated by Molly Bennion. We were talking about pressing social issues and I brought up the UN’s Global Goals, which I find really inspiring, and I ended with one of my favorite poems from Rilke. The conference is going all day and it’s free, so if you are near Utah Valley University, you can totally check it out. I fly back this afternoon and I’ll be spending the rest of the day at Brit & Co’s Make.

How has your week been going? Anything exciting on your schedule for the weekend? My big goal is to get our closet fixtures installed tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to it. An organizing project sounds absolutely dreamy at the moment. I’m sure we’ll be pulling out our Halloween box tomorrow as well. Can you believe it’s really October? I could not be more shocked by that fact.

It’s time to check out, so I better get to my list. Here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- A new program to help kids avoid drug abuse is showing great promise. It involes the 4 traits that put kids most at risk for addiction. (NYT)

- Are we headed to a time when we won’t need antibiotics?

- This house costs just $20,000, but it’s nicer than all of ours.

- A zero-waste grocery store.

- Five lionesses grow manes and start acting like males.

- The 4 responses you’ll probably hear when talking about #BlackLivesMatter.

- Secrets of people with all the time in the world.

- Have you heard of the Golden Record?

- He suggested that women in tech should use their initials online (to obscure their gender), but got a ton of pushback.

- Earbuds that translate languages. (Did you ever read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? It’s like a Bable Fish!)

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



Living With Kids: Natalie Olsen

September 20, 2016

By Gabrielle. Photos by Ashleigh of Red Aspen Photography.

Natalie lives in Portland, Oregon — she happily admits she moved there after it was cool, which reminds me of a friend who lives in Texas who always says, “I wasn’t born a Texan, but I got here as soon as I could!” — with her husband and their four children. Debt-free. No mortgage, even. I had to hear more!

She is an absolute delight to read, and I truly found myself nodding vigorously as she extolled the virtues of a debt-free life. It sounds so appealing!  Come see.

Welcome, Natalie!

Hi, everyone! We are a family of six. Comprised of a ballerina-rope-climber, robot-building-racecar-driver, gymnast-collector-of-interesting-things, a magician-filmmaker, HGTV Property Baron Personality, and a one-year old baby. Yes, I’m embellishing, but hyperbole aside, we are a family with diverse interests that celebrates individuality.

Zach’s 9-to-5 is at Portland’s own Columbia Sportswear. He is the best magician inexpensive gimmicks from Amazon can buy. His magician alter-ego, The Great Shahrivar, shows up for all our kids’ birthdays. His interests are as long as his attention span is short, including: podcasting, novel writing, songwriting, blogging, filmmaking, and a solid foray into a t-shirt business — that is to say he adheres to the long lost art of working to live rather than living to work!

I’m Natalie, a realtor licensed in both Oregon and Washington State. I daydream more than anyone I know – too bad I can’t get paid to dream! I am always coming up with new plans, ideas, and house renovations. My latest dreams have led Zach and I to start a new project making our own show on YouTube. We’re hoping to show what it’s really like to buy properties while at the same time dispelling myths and giving advice on how to make a good investment. I love real estate and personal finance, and Zach loves making stuff, so with our powers combined we hope to make some entertaining stuff and have fun in the process.

A debt-free life? It’s so possible! Come hear more about it.


By Gabrielle. Photos by Karen E. Photography.

Diane is a person who doesn’t like to waste time. I quite enjoy that quality in people, don’t you? And, in fact, Diane possesses a truckful of enviable qualities I could either list from one to one hundred — or you could just read the words she’s left here with us today.

If you’re feeling not-so-strong, I encourage you to stick around for Diane. If you’re feeling scared or alone or overwhelmed, please stay. This is one to read now and come back to later. I promise. Welcome, Diane. I am so glad you’re here.

My name is Diane and I don’t like to beat around the bush. Ha! How’s that for an introduction? Chit-chat makes me uncomfortable, I don’t have a poker face, and I am compelled to acknowledge the elephant in the room. He’s too distracting! I’m a 41-year-old stay-at-home mom who is a tomboy at heart yet loves a maxi dress on occasion. I can’t live without my running shoes and feel freest on the trails at sunrise.

I created this unbelievable family with my soft-spoken, brilliant husband, Will, who is wise beyond his years (which are three less than mine) and utterly unflappable. He can grow a five o’clock shadow well before noon, and I am lucky to have him as the captain of my pompom squad. Like any smart girl who was raised by a wonderfully supportive father, I looked for the boy who was most like him and then I married him.

When Will and I were engaged, I said, “I want to have two girls so we can give them each one of our sisters’ names.” It’s like I proclaimed it from that moment! Dylan Christine was the first and nothing makes me happier than the special bond she shares with my confidante and sister, Chrissy. Dylan has always been acutely observant and very emotionally intelligent. She thrives on social interaction and asked at two years old to go to school so she could “play with little boys and little girls.” Story time at the library simply wasn’t enough! Dylan truly smiles from her heart and I could stare into her blue-gray eyes for the rest of my life and be happy.

Taylor Camille is our little goof who giggles when she toots and then turns around and proclaims that she is never ever eating dinner again. I don’t know if my sister-in-law, Cami, wants to lay claim to either of these traits! But Taylor will hug and kiss you until you feel that everything is right with the world. She is immensely creative, innately funny, and she is going to blaze her own trails for sure. Taylor was simply born with a confidence that is written all over her face, and when she catches my eye and flashes a knowing wink, my heart melts every time.

Diane’s story, straight ahead. You won’t want to miss it.



By Gabrielle. Empathy cards by Emily McDowell.

Sierra Casillas is a midwife in Washington, DC, and expecting her first baby. But if you’re thinking this is going to be one of those stories where her professional experience has completely and utterly prepared her for her personal challenges, you’re going to be surprised.

I’ll let her tell the story. Welcome, Sierra!

Sierra’s story, straight ahead!



By Gabrielle. Photos by Wendy of Blue Lily Photography. Party props from Oh Happy Day Party Shop.

Look at these crazy photos of my family!

You may have seen them already, because I shared some of these on Instagram in December — just a couple of days after the photoshoot. But I just realized I never shared them here on the blog. Which completely shocks me when I think about it, because I LOVE how these photos turned out! I feel like they are one of my best collaborations ever and I’m over the moon that I get to share them with you. Here’s the story of how they came about — including all the thinking and work that happened behind the scenes.

Last fall, Wendy of Blue Lily Photography emailed me. She told me she was headed to Oakland in December, and I said, “Let’s do a photo shoot! Something awesome!” Wendy was the photographer for June’s newborn photos, and she shot our Vintage Car holiday photos too. It’s always fun to work with her especially because she doesn’t seem to mind if I think up crazy ideas.


Before I worked on Design Mom, we would generally get a family photo shot about once each year. But these days, we end up taking family photos a few times a year — partly because of work-related requests and partly because it’s hard to pass up the chance to work with amazinly talented photographers! So when Wendy reached out, I wanted to use the opportunity to try something new.


I collect photo inspiration on Pinterest throughout the year, and in 2015 I had been particularly drawn to photos that featured patterns-on-patterns-on-patterns. So I sent a few pattern-filled photos to Wendy and said, “What do you think about something like this?” She gave a big thumbs up and we put a date on the calendar for early December.


At that point, I pretty much forgot about the whole thing because October arrived and as you know, once October hits it’s one big wave of holiday — Halloween-Thanskgiving-Christmas-NewYears, and the holidays also coincide with lots of Alt Summit deadlines too. So you can imagine my panic when Wendy emailed again to confirm, about a week or so out from the scheduled shoot, and I realized I had done exactly zero preparation.


There was a part of me that wanted to cancel, or just go with something easier, something straightforward. But ultimately, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t at least try. And no surprise at all, once I made even the littlest effort, I started getting all sorts of energy and enthusiasm and forward motion for the project. I love when that happens!


The trick was that I only had a few days to bring everything together. The first stop was our closets. I pulled out everything that had all-over pattern. Next, I hit thrift shops. I didn’t have anything in particular in mind, again, I was just looking for anything with lots of pattern. After that, I set everything out and stepped back and really studied it all for awhile. At that point I had several color palettes going on and was considering using a different one for each person. But I realized I didn’t have time to pull that off and that I needed to choose one color.

More photos from the shoot, and more details ahead!


Thanksgiving Report

November 30, 2015

calm treehouse livingroom

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

It wasn’t my original plan, but I ended up taking off work Wednesday thru Friday, and oh my goodness I’m so glad I did. What a luxury it was to simply focus on enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with my family! It was just what I needed. I barely even glanced at my phone for days. A social media break like that once in a while is a treat.

It was a really laid back few days. I pretty much barely left the house at all. After Thanksgiving, it was a strictly lounge-y sort of holiday. Zero shopping. Zero to-do list items. Lots of hanging out. Lots of eating good food.

A few questions:

How was your Thanksgiving? Ours was good. There were 18 of us — 8 Blairs and 10 Guests. Everyone helped with food. There was plenty to eat and it all tasted exactly like Thanksgiving should. Plus the conversation was excellent. I went to bed happy and full. And I especially loved how the house felt and looked. The light was extra good that day, and my brother Jared sent two stunning flower arrangements. Last year, Ralph and Olive were in France during Thanksgiving, so having all of us together this year was heavenly.

How long did your pie leftovers last? Ours only made it till Friday. Maude ended up making another banana cream pie on Sunday because we were still having pie cravings.

Did you make turkey noodle soup over the weekend? Us too. But otherwise, the Thanksgiving leftovers are over and done.

Did you score any good deals during the weekend sales? My mind was elsewhere, but now I’m jealous of anyone who has their holiday shopping done! Last year, I took care of our shopping early, like pre-Thanksgiving early, and it was such a relief. No such luck this year.

Do you follow Small Business Saturday? I confess, I wasn’t in shopping mode and didn’t make any purchases that day, but I wanted to support the movement all the same, so midday, I had an idea and I started instagramming about some of my favorite small businesses. I made it to nine, and then realized I love too many small businesses and wouldn’t be able to mention them all. Hah! But that’s certainly a good problem to have. Getting to know dozens of creative entrepreneurs is one of the best parts of my job.

Have you started decorating for the December holidays yet? We started the day after Thanksgiving. In fact, the photo above was snapped during the very brief calm between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It already looks much different! We’ve done pretty much everything but the tree, which we plan to pick up sometime this week.

What are you feeling grateful for these days? When we went around the dinner table and shared what we were grateful for, I mentioned that I love that our family is in an ideal phase for Thanksgiving. I don’t know if I explained myself very well, but basically I talked about how different holidays really shine depending on the phase your family is in. Like it’s hard to beat Christmas morning when you have little kids in the house who are still under the magic spell of Santa. And Halloween is brilliant when kids are old enough to get creative with their costumes.

We happen to be in a really good phase for Thanksgiving. Everyone is old enough to help with the cooking and preparations, and they have interesting things to add to the dinner conversation. Plus they seem to really understand what the holiday is for — this special time set aside to be with your family and be thankful. And I know it won’t last, this phase we’re in, so I really appreciated it this year.

I can tell you that I’m also feeling incredibly grateful for YOU. My inbox can be a funny place. Sometimes people are very frustrated with me. But during Thanksgiving week, my inbox was nothing but love and kindness. So many of you wrote such wonderful messages and it’s part of why the long weekend was blissful for me. Thank you.

To all of you who read here, who send ideas and suggestions, join in the discussions, share my posts, give helpful feedback, click like on Facebook, or heart on Instagram, or repin on Pinterest, I want you to know how thankful I am for this community. You have been a big part of my life for 9 1/2 years now, and I miss you like crazy when I take a few days off!

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! And now, bring on December! : )

P.S. — Speaking of December, I just filled my sidebar with tons of my favorite decorating and DIY gift ideas. I hope they’re helpful!


A Few Things

October 30, 2015

squirrels snacking on porch pumpkins

Photo and text by Gabrielle. The squirrels have been snacking on our porch pumpkins!

Hello, Friends! How are you? Are you ready for this Halloween-y weekend? We have our school costume parade today, and tomorrow is a school festival, plus trick-or-treating in the evening. At which point, I will be content to say goodbye to the Halloween decorations. I don’t know about you, November 1st always feels like the start of the Holiday Season to me. Bring it on!

But before we say goodbye to October, here are a few things I wanted to share with you:

- I read this two-part series on Artificial Intelligence, and immediately asked Ben Blair to read it too because I couldn’t wait to discuss it. So dang good! I’ve been thinking about it for days.

- An new app for kids to trade toys with each other.

- Thought experiment: What if there were no schools?

- Raise your hand if you’ve ever daydreamed of being interviewed by Terry Gross.

- Did you see this makeup commercial?

- This 6th grader will mail you a super secure password for $2.

Watsi is a nonprofit that enables anyone to directly fund life-changing healthcare for people in developing countries. So far, they’ve saved over 5,500 lives and 100% of donations go straight to patients in need. I like the idea of giving Watsi giftcards for the holiday to my friends  — and then they can use the giftcards to choose a patient, fund the care, and get updates on his or her post-treatment progress.

- Cutest little apple monsters.

- Lego wants to start creating their blocks from sustainable materials.

- Just realized I didn’t share the link to the First Film Festival awards show. There were some really terrific entries!

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


P.S. — Too busy to figure out a costume? Try these awesome (easy!) ideas. Even if you try the easiest one, I’ll bet it will make your child’s Halloween!


DIY: Moonlit Mummy Lanterns

October 27, 2015


By Gabrielle.

I like to keep a few last-minute decoration ideas on hand for any given holiday or event. Some years are busier than others, and I can’t always go all out with preparations. But if I have some easy ideas in my back pocket, then it’s much more likely that I’ll be able to add some instant magic to the house.

My internet friend Amy, just came out with a book called Washi Tape Crafts. It has tons of ideas for cute ways you can use washi tape, and even offers technique guidance — like how to get a good precision tear, how to weave with washi, and how to create specific shapes. Most of the ideas are for anytime crafts, but some are centered on specific holidays, and when I saw the mummy lanterns, I thought they were a perfect last-minute Halloween idea!


Happily, Amy sent over the instructions so I could share them here.

Fast and easy DIY instructions when you click through.


By Gabrielle.

Whenever someone new visits Palma Voutiritsas’ home for the first time, they ask the very same question: “Do kids even live here?” She used to wonder if that was a compliment or an insult, but more and more she’s determined to accept their sweet appreciation and ignore the negativity. (More on that later!)

“Yes, kids live here.” she answers with a smile. “Two of them, in fact. They are incredibly happy and active and very, very messy!”

I thought you might like to see how a designer approaches Halloween and other holiday decor in a really heartfelt way. I just know you’re going to love Palma’s spirit and contagious attitude about how much your furnishings and decor matter…but not for the reasons you might be thinking. (And just wait until you hear the story of her home remodel! Hilarious.) Welcome, Palma!

Hi everyone! I’m Palma. My husband, George, and I are raising our two daughters, Milana and Isella, in a suburb of Chicago that doesn’t feel anything like a suburb. The schools are fabulous, the seasons are gorgeous — although last winter was a little long! — and our proximity to Chicago, one of my favorite cities in the world, is the greatest. Being 15 minutes away from the beach and museums and fabulous restaurants no matter what you’re craving is a true luxury. You should totally come visit.

I love our home. Sure, people ask if it always looks this way and question our lack of clutter and usually don’t believe I’m not running around screaming at this mess or that one with stain remover in one hand and a sponge in the other! But that’s not how we live. I promise.

I’ve seen a quote around Pinterest that really annoys me: Sorry my house is a mess — we’re busy making memories. Here’s another favorite: Sorry about the mess, but we LIVE here.

I always wonder what those quotes and the people who love them are implying. If you’re an organized person, are you somehow excluded from making sweet family memories? Do you have to be living amid clutter to be truly living the best, most intentional life?

More wisdom and wonderful views, just ahead!


Homemade Pippi Longstocking Halloween Costume DIY

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

On Saturday, we went to our church Halloween party. It was a “trunk-or-treat”! If you haven’t heard of a trunk or treat, it’s basically a chance for all the families in our congregation to get together and see the kids dressed up in their costumes. Our congregation covers a big area geographically, which means we don’t all attend the same schools or live in the same neighborhoods, and won’t likely get to see each other on actual Halloween, so this is a fun substitute.

Families gather in the parking lot at the church and the kids go from car trunk to car trunk trick-or-treating. Some people decorate their trunks, but it’s not a requirement. I especially love trunk-or-treat for very young kids. It happens in broad daylight, in a contained area, with no moving vehicles, and there are lots of familiar faces — so it’s less intimidating for little ones than actual trick-or-treating from house to house, and it doesn’t take up a lot of time.

Homemade Pillow Monster Halloween Costume DIY. Cheap and easy!

The only downside of our trunk-or-treat, is that it moves up our costume deadline by a week. That’s not really a bad thing, in fact, I like that I don’t have to think about costumes this week — we’re all set for the school costume parade on Friday and for trick-or-treating on Saturday. Feels good to have that marked off my to-do list. The earlier deadline just means we have to get working on costumes a little sooner in October than we probably would otherwise.

Here’s a little report on what the kids wore:

Homemade Mermaid Costume DIY for a Little Girl. Perfect for Halloween.

Flora June Blair. Mermaid.

Homemade Mermaid Costume DIY for a Little Girl. Perfect for Halloween.Homemade Mermaid Costume DIY for a Little Girl. Perfect for Halloween.

For this costume, I found a sequin dress in the women’s dept at Goodwill, then remade it into a skirt and added the tulle. I used extra material from the dress to sew “seashells” onto one of her gymnastics leotards. June’s original vision for this costume was to have a true mermaid tail. When I explained she wouldn’t be able to walk for trick or treating, she thought about it for awhile and then told me she had an idea. “Let’s make a glass bathtub and I’ll lay in it with my mermaid tail and we can fill it with water, and Oscar and Betty can carry me to each door.”

Homemade Mermaid Costume DIY for a Little Girl. Perfect for Halloween. Add sequin "seashells" to a leotard.

June likes this costume very much but not-so-secretly wishes it turned her into an actual mermaid. Also, for the photos, she wanted to have a sort-of serious expression. I think she feels mermaids are very solemn.

Full costume report and lots more photos when you click here!


A Few Things

October 23, 2015


By Gabrielle. Photo by Katrina Davis.

Hello, Friends. How are you? How was your week? It’s been another odd one here. Ben Blair left to Utah on Tuesday morning. His return flight was originally scheduled last night, but we decided to extend his visit until Sunday night, as all his siblings gather to spend time with their mother. Julia is still in the ICU. There have been some big improvements to her health this week, but she continues to be in great pain and death is on her mind. The whole family is praying and hoping hard for recovery, while trying to process the idea that it might not come.

And while I get updates on my dear mother-in-law, I’m trying to do the usual parenting stuff — get the kids ready for school pictures, finish their Halloween costumes, pick up dinner ingredients, and get everyone home on time for piano lessons. I’ve said it before, but it’s such an odd thing, living a life in the middle of young growing children and critically ill parents.

I was talking with Laura Mayes about it today, and she mentioned she’d read somewhere that this phenomenon is fairly new and unique to Generation X. Apparently, preceding generations mostly had their kids in their mid-20s, and their parents didn’t reach the “elderly” stage until their own kids were out of the house. But these days, parents are older, and grandparents are older, so you end up with families like ours — Ben Blair was born when his mom was in her early 40′s, and our youngest child was born when I was 35, which means we have both a kindergartener and a set of parents in their 80s. It’s not a complaint at all, more of an observation and odd sensation. I’m betting many of you can relate!

Mostly, I’m finding lots of reasons to feel gratitude this week. I’m thankful that Ben can be with his siblings and parents this week. I’m thankful for my kids who know it’s challenging when I’m flying solo, and step up to be even more helpful than usual — things like all hands on deck for dinner prep, zero commentary on what they would have rather had in their lunches, and helping Oscar practice his speech for student council. I’m thankful that I found a perfect dress for Betty’s Pippi Longstocking costume on my first visit to Goodwill. And I’m thankful for the sweet emails and phone calls checking up on me and the family. Big hugs to everyone!

I’ve got to head back to the sewing machine now and try to finish the costumes up before the kids get home from school, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

Is abuse killing Twitter?

- Also on Twitter, @manwhohasitall. I shared this on Facebook last week, but it’s still making me laugh super hard.

- This interactive portrait of what’s happening at Homan Square has my mind exploding.

- Before Google, there were librarians.

Oslo is going to ban cars. If you could pick one U.S. city to become a no-car zone, what would it be?

- Yes! British library offers over a million free vintage images for download.

- An interesting essay by a doctor about the breakdown of systems within American healthcare. He says, “Yet if this is how much trouble I have navigating a simple refilling of my medication, I don’t know how the rest of America does it, especially those with much more complicated issues than mine.”

- An ode to dressing comfortably.

Mom’s thing. Hah!

- The Lonely Death of George Bell. Really good article. No call to action, just a solid, thoughtful read.

- A cute doll makeover I haven’t seen before.

- A whole town celebrates Christmas in October for a terminally ill boy.

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


P.S. — I miss Ben Blair like crazy. He is truly my partner in pretty much everything, and when he’s gone, his absence is felt in a BIG way. I love the photo of us at top. : )


A Few Things

October 16, 2015

Julia Gay Groberg Blair

By Gabrielle.

What a week of ups and downs! On Monday, I reported that my fabulous mother-in-law, Julia Gay Groberg Blair (she’s the lovely little girl on the right in the photo above), was in the hospital, but stable. Unfortunately, stable didn’t last too long and on Wednesday she was back in the ICU. I’m worried sick about her. The last report is that she is still intubated, and that her liver and kidneys aren’t functioning well.

Julia is easily one of my favorite people. One thing I love about her is that she is committed to being open-minded — even in her 80s! She reads constantly, is always ready to talk about any current event, and keeps her coffee table filled with ever-changing interesting books (which she will press into your hands as you are leaving because she can’t wait for you to read them and tell her what you think). You may recognize her name, because she leaves the most supportive comments on my blog posts. I’m lucky to know her and I’m anxiously awaiting news that she will be well.

Also on Wednesday, our son Ralph passed his Eagle Scout Board of Review! And now we’re coming up with fun plans for his Court of Honor — which is the meeting where he’ll officially receive his Eagle Scout designation. We’re feeling very proud of him.

Then yesterday, I started filming a holiday video, which means our living room is stacked with piles of Christmas decorations. They’re nestled in among the Halloween decorations. Hah!

Today, the kids have school off, and the 3-day weekend comes as a big relief.

And tomorrow, it’s First Film Festival!! We’re so excited about this. In case you missed my announcement ages ago, First Film Festival is a film festival for kids under 18. It was launched this year, and tomorrow the actual festival takes place! It’s happening digitally — live-streamed on YouTube at 4:00p PST. All the winning videos will be shared. We’re super excited about it! I’ll update this post with the link tomorrow (UPDATE: Here’s the link!), in case you’d like to watch (it will also be recorded so you can watch it later, if you can’t make it live).

Anyway, lots happening at our house as usual. I’m sure there’s lots happening at your house as well! But before I say goodbye for the weekend, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- The difference between these two brains.

- Such a good essay: How to get away with no makeup and hair.

- How doctors take women’s pain less seriously. (Especially thinking of my mother-in-law in the hospital.)

- Incredible advice one father gave his gay son back in the 1950s.

The legacy of LiveAid.

- 158 families. (I find this stressful.)

- I’ve heard of the glass ceiling, but this is the first time I’ve heard of the glass cliff.

- I’m not a boy, I’m not a girl either.

- Cure for Type 1 diabetes imminent? Awesome!

- We are women and we’re sorry.

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



La Farine Fruitvale

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

I present to you another installment of random thoughts that have been on my mind and don’t quite merit individual blog posts. : )

1) Yesterday morning, my wonderful mother-in-law, Julia Blair ended up in the ICU. Reports are that she is stable now, but will be in the hospital for several more days. Apparently she is in very good spirits. My sister-in-law Margaret said that when the nurse came in for the necessary tests and asked Julia the normal questions (“When were you born?” “Do you know where you are?” “Do you remember what happened?”) Mom answered all of them well, and then said, “Now, tell me about you.”

2) The other day, my friend Karey posted a quote on Instagram and it instantly plunged me into all sorts of emotions. I love it so much! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it:

I hope that in the future they invent a small golden light that follows you everywhere and when something is about to end, it shines brightly so you know it’s about to end.

And if you’re never going to see someone again, it’ll shine brightly and both of you can be polite and say, “It was nice to have you in my life while I did, good luck with everything that happens after now.”

And maybe if you’re never going to eat at the same restaurant again, it’ll shine and you can order everything off the menu you’ve never tried. Maybe, if someone’s about to buy your car, the light will shine and you can take it for one last spin. Maybe, if you’re with a group of friends who’ll never be together again, all your lights will shine at the same time and you’ll know, and then you can hold each other and whisper, “This was so good. Oh my God, this was so good.”

— Iain Thomas, I Wrote This For You

3) On Thursday last week, a small dog showed up at our house in the late afternoon. She had a collar and tags. She was hungry and scared, so we fed her, but she was shaking hard and wouldn’t let us get close to her (close enough to check her tags) for a couple of hours. Eventually we were able to get her name — it’s Chiqui! — and her owner’s number from the tags. We called and left a message, but didn’t get an answer back. So we made a little bed for her and she stayed over. According to her tags, her home is about 4 miles from our house. The kids were over the moon to have such a cute little sleepover guest!

The next morning, we sent the kids to school, we left another message for Chiqui’s owner, and Chiqui wanted to snuggle with me on the sofa while I worked. But the poor girl was filthy dirty. We could smell her from a mile away and when I petted her, my hand would turn black from a layer of city grime all over her. I wanted to get her clean, but had never given a dog a bath before! So I asked my Facebook friends for advice and happily, the bath was a success. Chiqui was a total champ. Afterwards, she settled right down on my lap.

Shortly after the bath, we heard from the owner! She is traveling in Italy, and her friends, who live just a few minutes from us, are taking care of Chiqui. They came right over to pick her up, and they brought another dog who lives with Chiqui as well. Chiqui was DELIGHTED to see them. And I was glad we were sending her off in good hands.

When the kids got home from school that day, and Chiqui was gone, little June was absolutely broken hearted. I didn’t realize how attached she had gotten in such a short time. In June’s head I think she figured Chiqui had been fully adopted by our family.

It ended up being a happy little adventure in our week, and it has me wondering if it’s time to get a dog. But that’s a topic for another time. Hah!

4) Today marks the 28th day I’ve gone to the gym since August 29th. Which means this is the most consistent I’ve been about working out since high school! So I’m feeling the need to give myself some high fives. Woo hoo!

5) As I mentioned on Friday, one of my weekend goals was about mums. But I did some shopping and can’t seem to find good-looking ones anywhere. Is it just my neighborhood? Do mums not do well in the Bay Area? Or maybe I just need to find a better nursery.

6) I added Halloween links to my sidebar if you need some inspiration. And costumes have mostly been decided. It sounds like June is going with mermaid, Betty with Pippi Longstocking, and Oscar wants to be a pillow monster. I don’t know he’s picturing when he says pillow monster, but I’m sure it will be fantastic. How about your kids?

That’s all for now. As usual, feel free to respond to any topic above, or introduce an entirely different topic. I like it when these posts become an open thread!

P.S. — Find other random thoughts posts here.


A Few Things

October 9, 2015


Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you doing? Was it a good week? Ours felt totally regular in that really good way. This weekend we’re down by two — Ralph is in Yosemite helping my brother’s company, Vacation Races, put on a half-marathon. And Maude is in Fresno for a cross country meet. But we’re also up by one — our niece Lindsey Madsen is coming to visit!

One of my little goals for the weekend is to get the porch looking fresh for fall. I didn’t use mums last year and missed them. So I’ve decided to go for mums and orange pumpkins. How about you? Any weekend plans you’re looking forward to?

I’m off to make up the guest bed, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- Super cheap flights to Europe? Yes, please!

- Ten words every girl should learn.

- Mixed feelings watching these deaf children praying in sign language — it seems so private I feel like I shouldn’t be watching, but it’s so beautiful I don’t want to look away.

- The pros and cons of IVF.

- The science of kindness.

- Do you ask questions when your kids get a playdate invite? Do you have a pool? Do you have guns in the house?

- Loving the bomb and sucking out the poison.

- Conversations between a father and child.

- Halloween at its most gorgeous.

- Why do we work?

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




Photos and text by Gabrielle.

We have a pile of Halloween books we like to pull out in October. Some really are specifically Halloween themed, others are just sort-of Halloween-ish — like The Spider and the Fly. It’s really not Halloween focused at all, but it fits in well with the stack of other books. This year, I added two more titles to our stack.


First up, Leo, A Ghost Story, by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Christian Robinson. This is one of those books that really isn’t Halloween, but it has a ghost, so it totally counts. Hah! It’s a terrific little story about an unwanted ghost that finds a new friend.

Not everyone can see Leo — he seems to appear for those who have especially good imaginations. Will your kids see him?


Next up, Only a Witch Can Fly, by Alison McGhee, with illustrations by Taeeun Yoo  This is a book that’s more poem than story. Beautiful illustrations, and the soft words carry you along like a song.

One brave little girl wants to fly more than anything. This book tells her tiny tale of trying and triumph.


If you’d like more Halloween book recommendation, here’s an earlier post with 10 titles, plus more of my recommendations here and here. You’re sure to find something your kids will love!

How about you? Do you have any Halloween books your kids especially love? Please do share favorites in the comments! We’re always looking for good ones.


Call It A Day: Erin Allan

March 11, 2015

By Gabrielle.

Do you remember Erin Allan’s home tour? If you need a refresher, she was the one living in the outskirts of Nairobi, running a community-empowering company and…hmm, what else was I going to tell you about her? Oh, yes! Sometimes she chooses not to bike her kids to school because of lion sightings or a wayward bunch of baboons. Now do you remember?

I’m so happy to follow her through a random Thursday. It’s the similar yet so strikingly different things we all do that makes this so interesting to me. How we errand, how we balance work and play, how we stay home or venture out, and how we avoid the dangers in our path like it’s no big deal. It’s all fascinating, isn’t it? (I hope you are nodding your head.) Please enjoy Erin’s day!

Q: Good morning! How did your family wake up?

A: It’s Thursday, so the kids don’t have to be at school till eight, which means we all wake up pretty naturally at seven. As we are on the equator, it gets light the same time every day and the chickens outside are a natural alarm clock.

Tor wakes first. He’s eight and seems to have a large quota of words he has to say every day and starts right away. This morning it’s ‘You are not allowed to fly on the platypus plane!’ There’s no stipulation that the words he says have to make sense! He’s got a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humour, so he is able to get everyone laughing at an early hour.

Nina is next. She’s ten and needs a few more minutes to start her day, like her dad. She might have a few minutes on her tablet or play some piano before breakfast.

Jan is the slowest waker upper, but that’s allowed; many mornings he’s out of the house at 5:30 to go to a site. He designs and fabricates tents for luxury safari camps and lodges, and spends a lot of time in the bush. He’s just got his pilot’s license and can now fly himself to site, which means his days are far more productive. He has a workshop at home so he can get up later and still be in the office by eight today.

It is a good thing they didn’t bike to school today! See why, straight ahead.


Zazzle Home Fall 2014

By Gabrielle. This post is brought you by Zazzle

Last year I wrote about the Zazzle’s revamped home decor department, and happily, it just keeps getting better and better! They offer pillows in square, rectangle and round shapes, with several size options. They have fun kitchen stuff like cutting boards, serving trays. wooden coasters, and tea towels. You can find pendant lamps and table lamps. Also, stickerspoufs — even light switch plates!

Every items is available in thousands of designs. And the extra special thing about Zazzle products is that you can customize them any way you like — you can even create your very own original design that other people can order!

But the main thing you need to know is that Zazzle is running their Warm Winter Wishes Sale right this minute! Get 20% Off All Orders + 50% Off Mugs & Ornaments with the code: WARMWISHES4U. Hooray! Just in time to get our homes freshened up for Thanksgiving.

Tell me, Friends. Have you turned your attention to Thanksgiving and the December holidays yet? Or are you letting Halloween hang around for another week or so? We’ve put Halloween away, but I’m still thinking about what I want to do for Thanksgiving. I really like this Autumn in the City tea towel and am toying with the idea of using it as an inspiration starting point. What’s inspiring your November?

P.S. — I featured some of my current favorites in the collage above. Here are links:

Row 1: Grey & Yellow Pillow, Bike PillowI’m Not a Morning Person Pillow

Row 2: Heart Cutting BoardGreen Triangles Cutting BoardVintage Cutlery Cutting Board

Row 3: Black & White StripesFrench Throw PillowVintage Santa Pillow

Row 4: Gray Floral Pendant LampNavy Houndstooth Pendant LampPlum Blossom Pendant Lamp

Row 5: Modern Colors Round PillowElephant Dandy Round PillowBlack & Yellow Round Pillow


A Few Things

October 31, 2014

Homemade Annie Costume DIY. Perfect for Halloween. Little Orphan Annie!Homemade Annie Costume DIY. Perfect for Halloween. Little Orphan Annie!

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Bet your bottom dollar — it’s Halloween!!

We’ve got a big full day ahead. Costumes, school parades, trick or treating, Maude’s friends are coming for a sleepover, and my parents are staying with us for a couple of days. It feels like a finale for October! How about you? How are you doing? And what’s Halloween like at your house?

I have to say, it’s so strange to have Ralph and Olive gone during a holiday. Olive is having a particularly fun Halloween. She’s on school vacation and is spending it with her cousins in England. Ben Blair’s sister Carol, and her husband Dan, are stationed near Cambridge on a military base, and lucky Olive is spending the week with them. She said it’s like a miniature U.S.A. and trick or treating headquarters! And Ralph is having a sort of non-Halloween. He’s in France and keeps forgetting it’s Halloween season because it’s simply not a big holiday in France at all. As you can imagine, we miss them both like crazy.

Homemade Frankenstein Halloween Costume DIY. Cheap and easy!

For costumes this year, Oscar chose Frankenstein, Betty chose a vampire, and June chose Annie. These pictures were taken last Saturday before our church Trunk or Treat party. Maude is also dressing up. She went to school as Raggedy Ann. She looks adorable, but she rushed out the door so fast I don’t even have a photo! Hopefully we’ll get another chance this evening.

We have one other twist to our Halloween. Our elementary school is transforming into Hogwarts for the day, so of course, Oscar and Betty wanted to join in the festivities and dress up as characters from the Harry Potter books during school. Betty is going as Ginny Weasley. And Oscar is going as Neville Longbottom. We stayed up late last night making super cool wands and they are both delighted with their get ups.

Gosh it’s fun to see how much my kids like Halloween!

Halloween 20142

I’ll be away from my desk for most of today, but before I head out, here are a few things I wanted to share with you:

- Inspiring Old Masters.

- We need to stop saying babies ruin our bodies.

- I love this Dear Prudence answer — “Stop being callous and miserly and go to Costco, you cheapskate…” Thanks, Michelle.

30 sobering facts to mark the last day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Thanks, Lisa.

- This costume!

- Gruesome violence is a reality for the women of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This Saturday, you can join with people around the world to fight back. All you need is your yoga mat.

- Creepy food! See more of the artist’s work here.

- “We are rounding up and silencing a generation of schoolchildren, and terrifying those who care for them. We are giving away precious time to teach and learn while we cower in fear.” On lockdown drills from a pre-k teacher. Thanks, Beccah.

From the Onion: I don’t support feminism if it means murdering all men.

- 10 greatest changes of the past thousand years.

- Step away from the screen and make something! Olive Us and SAFTSAMS have a fun promotion going on. Take a photo/video of your kid with something they made, and it could be included in a super cool video! Details here.

Homemade Costumes perfect for Halloween. Little Orphan Annie, Count Dracula, and Frankenstein.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend and a Happy Halloween! I can’t believe tomorrow is November. Is it really time to talk pilgrims and turkeys? Amazing! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.



Better Water

October 30, 2014


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

Question: how do you guys handle water drinking in your family? Do you drink from the tap? Favor ice? Use a fridge door dispenser? Drink bottled water? Or perhaps you prefer juice or soda and skip the water altogether? This is how it goes at our house: during our France years we changed up our water drinking in two ways: 1) we stopped using ice, and 2) we started keeping our drinking water in the fridge in glass bottles with spring top lids — which kept it ready and cold (and was part of why it was easy to stop using ice).

But I’ve been wanting to figure out a new system, because the spring top lids are tricky for the youngest 3 to open, the narrow bottle necks make them difficult to clean, and overall I feel like we could and should be drinking more water. I think I’m especially feeling it because the week of Halloween is a candy fest, and I’m wanting to combat the sugar with fresh, clean water.

Then, last week I had a serendipitous moment. I was learning about the critical need for clean water in developing countries and about organizations like charity:water who are dedicated to solving that problem, and on the same day I heard from the folks at Soma, who support charity:water with every purchase. I took it as a sign. : ) My Soma carafe + filter was delivered over the weekend and we’ve been using it non-stop all week.


So far, the whole family is really liking the Soma. It’s easy to pour — even for the four year old, easy to fill, and easy to clean. All key things I was looking for to help our family establish better water drinking habits. Plus it’s gorgeous! But it’s also a sustainable company that I’m excited to support and promote.

We all know that drinking filtered water instead of buying plastic water bottles helps to reduce waste, but Soma’s sustainability goes much further. Soma’s award-winning filters are 100% biodegradable and are made from all-natural Malaysian coconut shells (awesome!), and plant-based resin. They reduce chlorine, lead, selenium, arsenic, and contaminants that harm your immune system.* And best of all, the filtered water tastes so good!

One of the main reasons I thought it could really work for our family is that the new filters are delivered to your mailbox every 60 days so you never forget to replace them. It’s really appealing to me that replacing the filter is automated and doesn’t become an extra errand on my list. Plus, as I mentioned above, every filter you buy from Soma includes a donation to charity:water to support their essential work around the world. So fantastic!

My one concern is that the glass looks so delicate that I wondered if it was easily breakable. But I read that it’s shatter resistant, and is tested with drops from 8 feet! I’m no longer concerned. : ) I was thinking it would be a really good gift for the holidays — one of those gifts that keep giving.


If you’d like to give Soma a try, here’s a fun incentive: Click here and the first 50 readers will receive $15 off their purchase using code DM15. Go for it!

Now back to my original question: how do you handle water drinking in your family? Are you trying to drink more water? Or are you guys already pros at staying healthy and hydrated? And what’s your take on water filtration?

*Soma is serious about water filtration. The Water Quality Association (WQA) tested Soma to NSF/ANSI Standard 42 requirements for materials safety, and chlorine, taste and odor reduction. PACE Analytical tested more specific contaminants both at EPA contaminant regulation levels and at NSF Standard 53 levels. The Soma water filter has been third-party verified to reduce lead, selenium and arsenic levels as well.

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