From the category archives:

Secrets to Living Well

Text and Images by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.

You’ve probably met a handful of people in your life whose scents have stayed the same for so long that they’ve somehow become part of their very essence. Your mom, who smelled of vanilla and dark chocolate. Your boyfriend-turned-husband who smelled of whichever Ralph Lauren cologne was current and cool. Your ballet teacher who smelled…French. Signature scents are more than pretty; they’re your calling card to everyone you meet and comfort for everyone you love. Finding yours is our goal today. I know it’s out there, and I’m going to break down the basics of perfume to help you sniff out the perfect scent for you.


Before you head to the counter, here’s a little guide (and some terminology) that will help as you’re choosing a perfume and keep you focused on what you want amidst ever-spritzing aromas!

All the secrets, straight ahead!

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Text and Images by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.

There are two ways to answer that dreaded five o’clock “What’s for dinner, Mom?” question: one includes the phone number of your neighborhood pizza place, and one requires a little more planning. I promise that the latter option is so worth it, and I have a few secrets to ensure that your local delivery people never learn your name! It should be noted that I love planning menus, and I love grocery shopping; it’s honestly all about the planning.





Secret Number One is identifying all of the main dishes and side dishes your family likes to eat. The less surprises, the less scowls and growls! Sit down with a notebook and make a list of all of these foods — everything from spaghetti to stir fry. Be sure to ask each member of the family for their input.

Find out all the secrets! Click here.

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By Lindsey Johnson.

Oh, man I love making goals each new year! It feels like a fresh, clean start.

I used to throw out traditional goal-making in favor of one all-encompassing goal: Be Better. And while that seems worthwhile, I never really knew if I had accomplished the goal. When was I finished? When could I mark it off my list? So I decided to take another look at goal-making and found two methods that work really well.





Grab a notebook and pen (Write it down. Make it happen!) and let’s get started.

Click here to find out all the secrets.

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By Lindsey Johnson.

If you’ve ever stood in the cheese section in any grocery store, you’re well aware that creating a fantastic cheese plate can be super intimidating. There are literally thousands of cheeses from all over the world! And apparently, some of the very best ones smell awful! How do you narrow it down? What cheeses go well together? How in the world does one pronounce Gruyère?






I might not be able to help you with your French accent, but I’m here with a guide to creating a cheese plate extraordinaire. I promise it won’t be so intimidating once we cover a few basics.

All the secrets, straight ahead!

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gift wrapping 101 - easy tutorial

This post is brought to you by Method. Get Method Holiday Happy, and win fun prizes by joining Method in their first ever Pinterest contest. More details below!

Text and images by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.

We covered tying bows last week, now let’s talk about wrapping the presents themselves. I get a little giddy thinking about all of the combinations of paper and ribbon bows. So much prettiness this time of year!

It’s an assumption that every person in the world knows how to crease the wrapping paper just so and wrap a gift, but I’ve been surprised on several occasions to hear friends confess they never actually learned, and that they buy gifts based on shop gift wrapping services or accessibility to gift bags. : )

how to properly wrap a present
how to properly wrap a present
wrapping paper plus boxes - 4 secrets to getting it right
wrapping paper plus boxes - 4 secrets to getting it right
how to properly wrap a present
how to properly wrap a present

In case you are in the same boat, or in need of a little refresher, I’m here to help. And I have a few secrets to make wrapping more enjoyable.

Find out all the secrets! Click here.

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How to tie a perfect bow.

By Lindsey Johnson.

I confess I hoard ribbon. I have a big basket chock full of all kinds of pretty ribbon I’ve been collecting over the years. To me, a pretty bow on the top of a gift is almost as important as what’s inside! But a bow is a bow is a bow, right? And it’s no different than tying a shoe, yes? Well. Yes and no.

How to tie a perfect bow.
How to tie a perfect bow.
How to tie a perfect bow.
How to tie a perfect bow.
How to tie a perfect bow.

I’m going to show you three bow-tying techniques — each one achieving a slightly different look for different purposes. I’m also going to show you the trick to getting your ribbon to lay flat on the bottom of your gift box. Professional gift wrappers use this very same method. (Fancy!)

Click here for all the secrets.

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By Lindsey Johnson.

Friends, we’ve covered a few basics like ironing dress shirts and polishing shoes, and now that the Holidays are upon us, I’d love to show you — with some help from my expert husband — the proper way to tie a necktie.



The two basic knots everyone should know how to tie are the Four-in-Hand knot and the Full Windsor knot. If this sounds a little intimidating, don’t worry a bit! I’ve got lots of pictures demonstrating each step. You’ll be an expert yourself in no time at all.

Knotty tutuorial ahead. Click away…

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A guide to stocking a holiday pantry.

By Lindsey Johnson.

Can you believe Thanksgiving is only a week away? Hannukah and Christmas are right around the corner too!  I’m getting excited. Maybe even a little too excited for holiday baking. Confession: I am a Holiday Bake-a-Holic. Sure, I get excited for the gift shopping and the decorating, but my real love lies in stocking my kitchen with goodies for Holiday baking, cooking and entertaining.



holidays
chocolate for the pantry
holiday coffee break

Grocery stores run all sorts of specials on pantry items at this time of year, so this is when I love to stock up on essentials — and a few special items to make the Holidays extra festive and memorable.

Click here for all the secrets.

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tutorial for the best Thanksgiving Turkey

By Lindsey Johnson.

It can seem like a daunting task to roast a turkey! I know I was a little panicked when I hosted my first Thanksgiving dinner. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I wanted the turkey to steal the show. (I knew the sides would take care of themselves.)

After consulting my gigantic stack of cookbooks and foodie magazines, I felt prepared. As I slid the roasting pan into the oven, I wiped my hands on my apron and said, “Well, that was easier than I thought it would be!”

Follow these tips and you’ll be saying the same thing!

tutorial for the perfect Thanksgiving Turkey
tutorial for the perfect Thanksgiving Turkey
tutorial for the perfect Thanksgiving Turkey
tutorial for the perfect Thanksgiving Turkey Plus, you and your guests will be enjoying the juiciest Thanksgiving turkey ever.

Click here for all the secrets!

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By Lindsey Johnson.

Between school and church activities, parties and trick-or-treating we always get way too much candy in October. I’m sure it’s no different at your house. The question is: what on earth do you do with all that candy?!

Don’t you worry, I’ve searched out the cleverest ideas to help you deal with the sugar overload.

Click through for all 6 secrets!

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This post is sponsored by Nestlé® Toll House® Morsels, the perfect special ingredient for all of your family’s favorite treats!

Chocolate chip cookies. Could there be a more perfect cookie in the world? And in my book, knowing how to bake them — and get a consistent outcome every time — is a basic life skill every bit as important as knowing how to properly iron a shirt.

tutorial for the perfect chocolate chip cookie
tutorial for the perfect chocolate chip cookie

Baking chocolate chip cookies is a satisfying task, but baking them with your kids is pretty much heaven! There are lots of steps kids can help with. They’ll enjoy cracking the eggs, spooning the flour, balling the dough. But most of all, they’ll love sneaking chocolate chips to snack on while the first batch bakes, and waiting (impatiently) for the cookies to cool just enough to handle without burning their tongue.

tutorial for the perfect chocolate chip cookie
tutorial for the perfect chocolate chip cookie

There are variations. Thin and crispy with loads of butterscotch flavor. Soft and cake-y, dotted with a few chocolate chips. Or my favorite, irresistibly chewy and chock-full of dark, gooey chocolate.

tutorial for the perfect chocolate chip cookie
tutorial for the perfect chocolate chip cookie

For this tutorial, we’ll go with chewy chocolate chip cookies. But I’ll also share tips for creating different kinds of cookies (like I mentioned above) and include my troubleshooting advice as well. In no time at all you’ll be confidently playing around with your own recipe to make The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Pour a cold glass of milk and click here for the full tutorial.

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This post is sponsored by Nestlé® Toll House® Morsels, the perfect special ingredient for all of your family’s favorite treats!


By Lindsey Johnson.

The holidays are just around the corner, so it’s the perfect time to practice your pie crust skills (and enjoy eating any failures : ). Don’t be intimidated! Follow my secrets and you’re sure to find success.









To prepare this post, I made 7 double-crust pies, so I promise, you can trust me on these instructions. : ) And hey, if you’re my neighbor, I’d love to share a piece of pie with you!

Click here to discover all the secrets!

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This post is brought to you by The Martha Stewart Home Office by Avery. Get beautifully organized and get back to routine! Find a 40% off coupon for the new line at the bottom of this post.

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By Lindsey Johnson.

I’ve always loved books! Add that to being married to a librarian, and as you can imagine, there are a lot of books around our house. My husband-the-librarian has gently impressed upon me the importance of taking care of books. Dusting, properly storing, and when necessary, covering them as well.

DIY Guide to Book Covers

As a high-school student, covering my textbooks was always something I looked forward to, (so that I could fill the blank covers with I heart Morrissey), but I assumed that ended when I graduated. Turns out, we still frequently covers books in our personal collection to help protect them and keep them in the best shape possible.

With school starting, it’s the perfect time for a little refresher course on covering books, don’t you think?

Find out all the secrets! Click here.

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Clothes Patching Guide via DesignMom.com

By Lindsey of Café Johnsonia.

Sigh. It’s true. We live in a throw-away clothing culture. We pick up inexpensive pieces, fully aware that they’ll wear out and need to be replaced next season. But with new interest in slower, sustainable living, choosing clothes that last, and maintaining them so they’ll last even longer, is gaining momentum. Which means patches are back!

Clothes Patching Guide via DesignMom.com
Clothes Patching Guide via DesignMom.com

And I say hooray. The thought of wearing a favorite piece of clothing over years instead of months is wonderfully appealing. And if your pockets are feeling empty after back-to-school shopping, the idea of dungarees that will handle a thousand hours on the playground, sounds especially smart.

Clothes Patching Guide via DesignMom.com

So here’s a useful patching guide that will aid even the non-sewers among us. In this post, I’ll cover three patch types: A simple no-sew patch in both fabric and leather. A contrasting “under patch” that will add a nice texture — using iron-on fusible web and a few decorative hand-sewn stitches. And third, a patch that works with knits (like sweaters) and can be hand-sewn in minutes.

Keep reading for the full patching guide…

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How to Properly Wash & Store Produce. Handy guide via DesignMom.com

This post brought to you by Method. I’m gaga over their gorgeous new collaboration with Orla Kiely! You too? Find out how you can win an Orla Kiely handbag full of Method products at the bottom of this post.

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By Lindsey of Café Johnsonia.

Is your garden full of vegetables and fruit? This is what’s happening at my house: I can hardly keep up on my zucchini, my neighbors’ have generously shared the fruit from their trees, and we’ve been stopping by farm stands to support our local agriculture. Vegetables and fruit everywhere!

So let’s get down to business. Here is my not-at-all-comprehensive-but-very-helpful-guide to Properly Washing + Storing Fruits and Vegetables, to help you make the most of your summer produce.




Secret #1: Some vegetables and fruits should never be refrigerated.

Click here to find out all the secrets!

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By Lindsey of Café Johnsonia.

A good pair of shoes that is properly cared for will last a lifetime. That may seem like an exaggeration, but it’s not, I promise! Not only that, a pair of good, polished shoes is a key to feeling well-dressed when you walk out the door. It is one of those details that is easily overlooked, but makes all the difference.

Brushing away dirt and dust will help keep the leather looking good, and polishing them with good quality creams and waxes will help condition them and prolong their life by protecting against water damage, etc.





My husband is somewhat of an expert at polishing shoes — he spent years studying shoe shiners in Grand Central Station, as well as reading up about proper methods.  I’ve taken my cues from him to keep my shoes looking great.

Find out all the secrets! Click here.

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This post is brought to you by Method. Glitter, glue and paint all you like, then get clean with Method hand soap.

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Hello, Friends! Lindsey of Café Johnsonia here with the second installment of Secrets to Living Well. Before school ended, I started making plans to stock my art supply cupboard, to keep my very active children busy this summer. About that time, Gabrielle sent me an email from a reader that said: Hi Design Mom, I would LOVE it if you would consider doing a post about art supplies. I always wonder what staples I should keep on hand.



If you’ve never set up an art supply cupboard before, it can be intimidating. Craft stores and art supply stores are huge! How do you know where to start? I thought this topic would make a perfect Secrets to Living Well post, because a well-stocked art supply makes it a thousand times easier to get creative with your kids.

So I got on the phone with Design Mom — she’s been raising creative kids for 14 years —  and we came up with a list of 15 Art Supply Essentials + 4 Helpful Secrets. Keep your cupboard stocked with our suggestions, and you’ll be ready for pretty much any idea your budding artists come up with.

These 15 items represent a beginners kit, geared toward younger kids, but I’ve included suggestions for upgrading the kit for older kids too.

Our 15 picks (plus 4 secrets!) below. Click here.

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Hello, Friends! I’m pretty darn excited about this week at Design Mom. I’ve got lots of fun things to share with you! Starting now, when I introduce another new column. It’s called Secrets to Living Well. Woo hoo!

Each week, Lindsey of Café Johnsonia, will be sharing a new skill, how-to, or guide to help you live a beautiful life — those little things that really up the quality quotient as you go about your day. First up, 6 Secrets to a Properly Ironed Shirt. There’s nothing like leaving the house in a freshly ironed shirt you help you feel put together!

I hope you enjoy the new column. If you have ideas you’d like to see covered, let us know in the comments! We can’t wait to hear your ideas. — kisses, Gabrielle

Throughout high school and college, I worked at a dry cleaner. Part of my job was to prepare the men’s dress shirts for laundering, and once they were laundered, to prep them for ironing.  After they were ironed, my job was then to inspect the shirts and touch them up if necessary. Needless to say, I learned a lot during those years, and today, I’m going to share the secrets I learned with you.


Find out all the secrets! Click here.

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