Design Mom The Intersection of Design & Motherhood Fri, 29 Apr 2016 19:06:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Few Things Fri, 29 Apr 2016 16:00:41 +0000 Design Mom


Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I’m working from a swanky hotel in Southern California today. And I’m very happy to be here — the shot above? I snapped it from my hotel room. Not too shabby. I’m at the Mom 2.0 Conference, and it’s been a really wonderful gathering of peers and colleagues. Lots of late night talks about the work we do online and how to do it better. Since I don’t really have co-workers, I truly treasure these work conferences, and the chance to talk shop with pioneering, entrepreneurial women. (I’m sharing images from the conference on Instagram if you’d like to see.)

Oh. And yesterday, I interviewed Rita Wilson!! It was the closing keynote of the day, and she was simply delightful. Gracious. friendly, talented, smart. And such an inspiration! While she continues to act, a few years ago she launched a second career as a singer-songwriter, and she’s put out two albums. In fact, she’ll be touring with Chicago this summer if you’d like to see her! I love witnessing the kind of bravery it takes to try something totally new, and I felt incredibly lucky to interview her.

I was also super impressed at how hard she worked to remember names and make personal connections with each person she met. When she heard I was from Oakland, she mentioned that her husband (Tom Hanks) had grown up in Oakland too, and I said, “I know! My kids go to the same high school and middle school where he attended!” She lit up like that was the greatest thing ever. Made me feel so good. I love people like that.

I’ve got more conferencing to do today, so I’m going to put down my laptop, but here are a few things I’ve wanted to share before I say goodbye for the weekend:

- Did you see the #MoreThanMean video? Made me weep. “We wouldn’t say it to their faces, so let’s not type it.”

- And now I’m obsessed with these new floating sustainable homes.

- Perks of signing up for the woman card. Hah!

- The mother of Sandra Bland gives a powerful speech.

- The Whopper sign language commercial is very smile inducing — and made me want to learn sign language! (And no, I’m not working with BK, I just like the commercial.)

- Child, Bride, Mother. (NYT)

- Two monks.

- Just because it’s beautiful to watch.

- The Children of Syria. I want to watch this as a family when I get home.

- A little dose of inspiration: Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.

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


P.S. — While I’ve been here, I had the chance to have my aura read and photographed. Have you ever done it? I think I might need to write a post about it.

]]> 4
Futurists Wed, 27 Apr 2016 16:58:33 +0000 Design Mom


By Gabrielle. Image from NASA’s Astronomy Pic of the Day.

The other night Ben Blair and I had dinner with two professional Futurists.

Did you know that was a thing you could be for a job? For a career? A futurist? A professional futurist? I was not aware of this until very recently and I find it super fascinating.

Our dinner mates were Mike Courtney and Jason Swanson. As Ben has been presenting on Teachur and the Blockchain, he’s met lots of interesting people, including these two. We got together with them when they were in town for a conference.

No one can predict the future, and futurists don’t claim to. But they do look at research and create models that help people and companies consider future possibilities, and plan for those possibilities.

At the end of the evening, after I’d asked a million questions about what they do, and how they do it, and how it coincides with other strains of future thinking (like The Singularity), I asked one last question: With all the future work you’ve done, and all the developments and inventions and research you can see coming down the line, what’s the thing that you’re most excited about future-wise?

Jason talked about things that are happening with DNA, that will allow people to “turn off” their cancer genes, and manipulate different physical qualities (like eye color). Mike talked about new technologies that would allow us to control the way we think — technologies that will make us want to exercise, and want to skip the donuts, and more profound, allow us to “turn off” our depression or other mental illness.

So crazy to think about! I know this is a bit of a random post, but our dinner conversation has been on my mind and I thought you might find it interesting too. Do you happen to know any futurists? Is it a career your kids might like?

I think about that sometimes — what sort of jobs-I’ve-never-heard-of that will be available to our kids. I mean, I have one of those jobs. Blogging didn’t exist when I was choosing my career! I wonder what job titles are coming down the line, or exist already, and I just haven’t heard of them.

P.S. — Have you ever taken Gretchen Rubin’s quiz about what kind of habit personality you have? Well fun fact: Mike was one of the people who developed it. 

P.P.S. — Speaking of future predictions, did you see this post about terra-forming Mars?

]]> 12
Picking Out the Perfect Mother’s Day Card Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:00:13 +0000 Design Mom

Gorgeous Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. Cute 3-D elements.

Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Hallmark Signature — click here to shop now for #NoOrdinaryCard or find a store near you.

Yes, it’s still April, but May is coming up quicker than we realize. It’s sneaking up on us this year, and I know why: it’s because April ends on a Saturday.

Gorgeous Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. Cute 3-D elements.

I realize that sounds too simple and ordinary to be causing problems, and I suppose it depends on what sort of calendar you use, but for me, any time a month ends on a Saturday, it wreaks total havoc, because I can’t “see” the next month until the current month is complete.

In contrast, if a month ends on a Tuesday or Wednesday, then I can see the first few days of the new month the whole time. It never surprises me. I know it’s coming, I can see it there, the days already filling in with to-do items and deadlines.

Beautiful Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. Love the watercolor and glitter combo.

Anyway, all that to say: May 1st is happening this coming Sunday whether we realize it or not. Which means Mother’s day is the following Sunday, May 8th. That’s essentially a week and a half away. So soon! Consider this a public service announcement: it’s time to send off your Mother’s Day cards.

Beautiful Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. Love the watercolor and glitter combo.

And speaking of cards, let’s talk about the pleasures of picking out a particular card, something really special, for someone you love (like your Mom! Or your Grandmother!). You can easily picture it: walking up and down the card aisle, picking up the card with the colorful baked goods on the front — because one of your favorite memories over the last year was learning how to make pretty frosted cupcakes with your mom as you prepped for your sister’s baby shower.

Adorable Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. You can pop this one right into the scrapbook.

But then, another card catches your eye — the one with the watercolor flowers. My mom is a genius with her paints and watercolor images always remind me of her. This card is definitely gorgeous.

And then you see the card with the cut paper flowers — it has lazer-cut wood, beads, jewels, glitter — it’s perfect for popping right into a scrapbook (and you know how much your mother-in-law loves scrapbooking).

Adorable Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. You can pop this one right into the scrapbook.

Or maybe you’ll choose the card with black and white stripes. It looks so Parisian! Which would be awesome, since you’re saving up right this minute for a grandma-mother-granddaughter trip to France. A Paris-inspired card would be such an inspiration.

Charming Parisian-inspired Mother's Day Card from Hallmark.

That might be the one! You’ll know for sure as soon as you look as the 30 other cards that are equally tempting. (Perhaps the one with the stitching — because Mom taught you how to sew!)

Honestly, they’ve really knocked it out of the ballpark this year, design wise, with their Hallmark Signature Cards. They are simply stunning. Each one is elevated and embellished in thoughtful ways. They start with thick, quality paper, then feature gorgeous 3-D elements, and pretty non-paper textures — like a bit of ribbon or cloth or wood or real stitching.

As Hallmark says: Because there are no ordinary moms, these are no ordinary cards.

Charming Parisian-inspired Mother's Day Card from Hallmark.

When you’re ready to pick out a card that is beautiful, unique and as as full of dimension and sparkle as your mom, let me do you a kindness, and direct you straight to the Hallmark Signature cards. You can find them in the card aisle, wherever Hallmark cards are sold.

These are the substantial kind of cards, the ones that feel like a gift.

Lovely Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. Super cool real-life stitching!

Oh my. I really do love the card aisle! Pretty paper products are a weakness of mine. I like studying the designs and materials, and I like seeing a card and realizing it reminds me of someone in particular. There’s so much inspiration to be found there!

How about you? Will you be sending a card to your mother or grandmother or mother-in-law or aunt this year? Anyone else enjoy searching the card aisles for the perfect one? Something beautiful, something with a sweet and simple sentiment. Do you like to add a personal note/letter? Or do you let the card do the talking and simply sign your name? And lastly, is May speaking up on anyone else, or am I just weird that way?

hallmark_signature_logo (1)

]]> 7
Living With Kids: Jan Scarpino Tue, 26 Apr 2016 15:00:48 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

Jan Scarpino has the most pinnable kitchen! I’d catch sight of it here and there on Instagram, always stop and sigh, and so I reached out to see if she’d show us the rest of her home. It’s all completely pristine and very pretty, which is something rather important to Jan — but maybe not in the way you may think!

Come see what she has to say, won’t you?

My name is Jan, I am 33, gluten-free and mother of three. I was working full time as a hairstylist in a local Aveda salon when I met my husband Danny. I fell for him hard. He is a man of many talents. He has worked in architecture, film and animation, health and wellness, product development, and marketing. He is currently the CMO for Rain International. I have always been smitten with his creative mind and his strong work ethic, but the thing that drew me in to him the most was his generous heart and seeing how involved and present he was as a father to his little girl Gabrielle.

I learned quickly that whether it was my best day or my worst, he was the man that I wanted next to me. He has given me the blessing of experiencing motherhood in two beautiful ways, both as a stepmother and birth mother. Both wonderful and challenging in different ways! I can’t imagine a better fit for myself than having our family exactly the way it is.

It was meant to be. Our oldest Gabby is 12, Rohme is six, and Nixon is three.

I will say that the hardest part about having a blended family is sharing time. It’s difficult to see my boys sad on those days we don’t have Gabby in our home. We aren’t complete.

The best part is seeing the bond that our children share. When I was pregnant with my oldest son, we had discussed naming him Rome as a sort of homage to our family’s Italian heritage. But when Gabby was five, she wrote ROHME on a white board in our office in the first home we shared together, and it stuck with me. I feel like she was waiting for her brothers’ arrival and the beginning of the growth of our family.

The best part about being a mom is the tight neck squeezes, and the nose licks, the morning snuggles, and the instant forgiveness when I make a mistake, the tiny hands that reach for mine when needing help, the smell of freshly bathed babes, and the wildness that fills our home.

The things that drive me crazy are constantly stepping on trucks and small Lego pieces, fishy crackers in every nook and cranny and — my favorite— scrubbing little boy pee pee off the floor in every single bathroom because…for the love…they just can’t aim!

We live in Vineyard, an area close to Utah Lake. It was a farming community where my husband spent a lot of time in his youth. Playing in the lake, helping the local farmers to earn extra money, he always liked that it had a small town feel while close to everything.

Although it hasn’t completely lost that feeling, it has been growing rapidly and will soon have a pond behind our home next to the running trail that frames our yard. The area is currently under construction building a neighborhood pool and splash pad to spend summer days. Parks and pathways are being added along with protected and undeveloped areas to keep the open and natural feeling about the whole community.

I love the simplicity here. I love our neighbors, we all are in the same stage in life, children playing out in our cul-de-sac while us parents bbq and sip on Diet Coke — although I finally quit my Diet Coke addiction!

We first fell in love with the area of Vineyard. Before we lived here, we would visit often and spend time by the lake and enjoyed the quiet.

When we decided to build it was because we couldn’t find what we were looking for in an existing home. We would spend Sunday afternoons driving around looking; the kids hated sitting in the car for what seems like hours, but we kept coming back to one new development that had lots of open area and was a bit secluded.

Once we found a lot and builder, the process began and we were excited! We began with making changes to the house plans that allowed us to make it our own and give it a signature of our taste and sensibilities. This quickly went away with all of the delays and time extensions.

Once construction finally began it seemed to have a set of problems all of its own — framing repair, wrong finishes, exterior touches that just never fit what we wanted. I was pulling my hair out and losing sleep. I quickly added our builder to my speed dial to constantly work through issues on a daily basis.

The kids always loved coming to see the progress of our home, and it was fun to help them visualize each new stage. They would run through the house and pick their rooms, while dreaming of what they wanted for their new space. Tree houses and forts were always in the mix, along with a list of animals including Nixon’s monkey that needed a room.

I remember in the very beginning, our daughter seemed disappointed when we finally broke ground and we showed her the hole. She was like, “That’s it?” As if we were going to live underground!

My son Rohme would comment on how he was so excited to be in a house that wasn’t stuck to other houses, speaking of our town house we lived in while under construction.

My style is a mixture of contemporary meets classic. I have always loved the antebellum styles from the South. Large open spaces, wrap-around porches, places for people to gather. I love indoor-outdoor living spaces, and I can’t get enough windows spilling natural light into a room.

My husband and I tease back and forth because he says he needs to have his own separate rooms in the house to prove that a man does in fact live here — I think my style can be very feminine. I love fresh flowers in the house as much as possible; it just gives it a calming and happy feeling.

Any time I leave the house, my husband asks if I’m buying more ‘pots and pillows,’ his go-to phrase meaning literally anything house-related. My boys are getting really good at chopping throw pillows to keep them shaped and styled after sitting on the couch. Ha! I guess from watching me follow behind them and restyle the room.

My feeling on keeping a tidy home is this: there is so much clutter and chaos outside in this world, I really make it a priority to keep our home put-together for my children. It is so important to me that they can always count on a safe haven within our doors. It is hard work to keep up on the house, while being a mama to three messy kids with different needs and schedules, but I do it every single day in hope that they will learn by watching my example and take care of the things that we have.

My husband says I need to mess up the house a little to make it look like someone lives here. Everything has to be in its place and I love to keep it in order. Although I do have my junk closets for things without a proper place.

The kids love to mess up their rooms, and we built this floor plan with the idea that the upstairs would be their own space; they each have their own bedroom and a playroom. It was intended to get messy and be functional while keeping the other two floors clean as much as possible, but they mostly want to hang out in Mom and Dad’s room and snuggle up in our bed and watch movies. I guess we didn’t need the extra space after all!

My boys must have their favorite cars lined up in their rooms along with the latest Lego projects that must be displayed and not played with. My daughter though, she just HAD to have her vanity to flat iron her hair and get dolled up for school. She is turning 13 soon and has all the new tendencies of a tween. She loves her cozies (soft blankets), collecting dance trophies, and having a place to listen to music loud, dancing and tumbling on all of the furniture.

When I hear someone say that my Instagram feed is beautiful — I mean — it is filled with my story, my life, and each square means something to me, so that is truly a compliment that I take to heart. All of my followers know that my kids are my inspiration. I love sharing snippets of their personalities and having an outlet to connect with mothers going through similar stages and challenges. It is a way for me to share everyday experiences and keep connected with family and friends that live far away.

I love interior design, and I’m inspired to share my own personal style. I open up my home to my followers, so they can really get a sense of who I am. I feel like that is so personal.

I love Instagram, although it can also be a BIG distraction. I don’t want my children to remember me as always having my phone in my hand, I want them to feel as though I’m always right there present in the moment. I may be known to bribe my kids with Mambas to snap a pic from time to time, but for the most part I try to keep it real and candid to share those moments in my life where I see beauty.

I hope my feed promotes positivity and inspires my friends to want to be collectors of happy! We all worry too much about being pretty and perfect. So many lose touch with reality and ‘gram as a way to say “Look at me!” This ideal is the antithesis of sharing with others.

Instead, let us be pretty kind, pretty smart, pretty strong, and pretty selfless. If we put as much time and effort into kindness and generosity as we do worrying about if our photos are edited and filtered just right, it would take the pressure away and make room for more positive energy in all of our little squares.

My kids ages are spread apart. Having a soon-to-be teenager this summer changes everything! Although, we do finally have a babysitter so Danny and I can enjoy an occasional date night! (Happy dance!) Gabby likes to babysit. She is a great little money saver, and she recently bought herself an iPad! She was thrilled and worked hard to earn it. I think having your kids earn money for the things they want most is such a great learning experience for them and teaches them to respect the things they are blessed with.

Let me paint you a quick picture: dinner at our favorite place Oteo, that serves contemporary Mexican food that will change your life. A trip to Alice Lane, my favorite home furnishings boutique, Yogurt Land for chocolate with strawberries and a whole lotta chocolate sprinkles, and then a late night movie.

My routine is pretty normal. We wake up, I blend up a healthy smoothie before I send my man off to work with a kiss. Breakfast for the kids, which at our house is usually pancakes and waffles with peanut butter, Nutella, and strawberries.

I prefer a hot bath over a shower any day, but I don’t even remember what privacy is like! Who gets to bathe alone? Is that even a thing for moms? The second my hot water is running, I have two little boys all up in my grill. Nixon would be perfectly happy living as a nudist. He’s a full-blown streaker and he loves every bit of it. It takes a team effort to dress him, then you can bet I find his undies lying on the floor somewhere and there is a naked bum to be found!

I do homework with Rohme before school starts. I found that he does so much better completing his assignments earlier in the day; for some reason, his excuse is always “My legs are tired” by the time 5:00 pm rolls around!

I also volunteer in Rohme’s classroom each week, which sadly got Nixon out of his routine of napping, but I love being involved and connected to his classroom. It is fun to watch Rohme socialize with others and hear him be polite and stay on task.

Before I know it, I’m cooking dinner, bathing children again, jams, stories, tickles, singing Hush Little Baby, and family prayer. Sometimes, I’m trying to remember what I accomplished that day other than managing my time to play with my babies, while completing what seems to be an endless list of chores as a homemaker.

We love to plan Mommy/Daddy date nights with each of the kids to have one on one time with them. I believe in the benefits of spending alone time, staying connected, but honestly we just like being all together as a gang the most!

If there is anything I hope for my kids to remember about our home, it’s that it is safe, cozy, and always filled with love. I also want them to understand the sacrifices made to get this home; it was important to my husband and me to buy a home so that our kids have the sense of putting our roots down. We aren’t going to be moving anytime soon — we’ve done our share of moving — but we made a goal together to create a home.

This may not be our forever home, but it is a place for our little ones to call home for many years to come. A place where they are free to be themselves, to know that everything is ok here. I want them to understand how much thought I put into creating their spaces; we still have bare walls, but that’s the fun part! Hunting for treasures that have meaning and speak about each individual.

I want my kids to remember the messy side of me, too, the side that can be silly and playful. The side that turns music up way too loud in the kitchen to have dance parties while cooking. Playing make-believe with my little boys, talking in my MineCraft creeper voice with the best of them. I want them to remember Pancake Sundays. I want them to remember the smiley faces I draw with ketchup and the way I spell out the shape of their initials on their plates with fruit.

I want them to always remember Peak and the Pit — going around telling the best and worst part of our days.

I want them to remember the words to the lullabies that I sing to them at night.

I want them to remember my touch, so they can feel it even when I’m not around.

I want them to know they are my greatest adventures.

I wish someone would have told me not to dwell on the things that I cannot control. I used to really feel the pressure of other peoples’ opinions and impressions of me. As I have grown older and become a little wiser, I learned a little secret: those thoughts belong to the other person and not to me.

I can control how I choose to treat others and the type of person that I really am inside. At the end of the day, I am happy with that. I like who I am, but I am always hopeful for improvement. This is some advice that could have saved me from a few migraines!


Thank you, Jan! I love the game Peak and the Pit! Adorable. Also, that point in your life when you hopefully learn that other peoples’ opinions belong to them and not to anyone else is one of the greatest moments, isn’t it? “I like who I am, but I am always hopeful for improvement.” So good.

I had to laugh at your MineCraft creeper impression! Anyone else have a voice only their kids hear? I’d love to hear about your secret alter ego!

P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me knowWe love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

]]> 11
Come Say Hello! Mon, 25 Apr 2016 23:58:11 +0000 Design Mom

ritz carlton dana point

By Gabrielle. Photo by Marla Trevino.

Two things I’m excited about (especially because I might get to see you!):

1) It was just announced this afternoon, so this news is super fresh, and I’m totally goosebumps about it — I get to interview Rita Wilson at Mom 2.0 on Thursday!!! I seriously can’t wait. Our conversation will be the closing keynote, and it’s going to begin with a musical performance from Rita’s self-titled new album. So fantastic!

I’m working on the questions for her right this minute, and I can already tell the interview is going to go too dang fast. There are so many topics I want to discuss with her. Honestly, I’m confident we could talk for a good 4 or 5 hours (maybe days?) and not run out of interesting things to cover, but I’ll take whatever time I can get!

Are you coming to M0m 2.0? It’s taking place at the resort featured above. Not too shabby.

2) This coming Sunday, May 1st, I’ll be speaking in Oakland — and you can come if you like! The event is totally free and you don’t need to reserve a spot. All are welcome. Bring your friends!

Our congregation has recently hosted an 8-week class on the History of Women in the Mormon Church, and to finish it off, I’ve been asked to join a panel of four women, to discuss the topic of Mormon Women Online.

Writer Kathryn Pritchett will moderate the discussion, and my three fellow panelists are Heather Farley, Meg Conley and Hannah Pritchett. You can find more info here. Should be really fun!

So, I guess the main point of this short little post is: if you’re going to be in Orange County this Thursday, or the Bay Area on Sunday, I hope I’ll get to see you! I’d really love to meet you and say hello. Woo hoo!

]]> 10
Four Picture Books You’ll Love Mon, 25 Apr 2016 15:48:16 +0000 Design Mom


Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I’ve got some gorgeous, interesting, entertaining book recommendations for you today. And even though the title says 4 Picture Books, my last pick isn’t a picture book at all — it’s about kids + money. But we’ll get to that at the end.

First up, I want to introduce you to Strange Trees: And the Stories Behind Them by Bernadette Pourquié, with dreamy illustrations by Cécile Gambini — both based in France.


This one is for your little future botanist. This book features very real trees, with nicknames that sound completely made up — Ghost Tree, Rainbow Tree, Chocolate Tree, Upside Down Tree, Sausage Tree, and many, many more. Each tree gets a two-page spread, with fascinating facts and tidbits about the tree on the left, and an imaginative, beautiful illustration on the right.


Next up is Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color, by well-known illustrator Julia Denos. This book introduces a vibrant new character, a wonderfully wild girl named Swatch, to your children’s world.


This book is perfect for little artists. Swatch is a color tamer — she can train colors to do anything! The illustrations are amazing. The text is brief, but smart — lots of good vocabulary. Every page will make your kids (and you) want to pull out a paint brush and put some of your own colors on paper.


And now we have Follow The Moon: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles. Written by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson, with illustrations by Meilo So.


This one is a book for those kids who are looking to save the world but aren’t quite sure how to start. Viv is new to town, and discovers there’s a simple thing the town can do to help the local sea turtle population.

In the book, we see what it looks like when a community comes together, and we see the real things kids can do to make a difference.


Last up today is How to Turn $100 into $1,000,000: Earn! Invest! Save!, by James McKenna and Jeannine Glista, with Matt Fontaine.

It’s a comprehensive guide to earning, saving and investing — but it’s written for kids, so it’s encouraging and funny and easy-to-understand, instead of intimidating or overwhelming.


This one is aimed at kids in the 10 – 14 age range, but we gave it to Maude when she was 16 and she still found it useful and inspiring.

If you’re looking to raise financially savvy kids, this book is a good one to add to your collection. I would have loved something like this as a kid!

Now it’s your turn: What are your kids reading this month? Anything especially good that you’ve been recommending to friends and family? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — Here are all my children’s book recommendations.

]]> 5
A Few Things Fri, 22 Apr 2016 17:08:43 +0000 Design Mom


Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. Happy Friday! How are you? What’s your weekend looking like? I feel like ours will be sort-of usual. Lots of stuff — a birthday party, a track meet, Betty is speaking at church — but nothing too major or out of the ordinary. The main thing on my mind is prepping for the Mom 2.0 conference next week. Will I see any of you there?

Some Fridays are laid-back for me work-wise, but not today. Turns out I’ve got back to back meetings and phone calls all day long, so I’m going to keep this note short. But before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- So cool! Remember the Mormon Transhumanist Association conference that Ben Blair just spoke at? Well, the New Yorker just published a really terrific article about the group.

- In an experiment, inclusion of a person with ADHD greatly improved the problem-solving ability of groups, even though it led to more off-task behavior. Thanks, Ann.

- 50+ picture books featuring mixed race families.

- Inflatable bag monsters.

- Accidentally raising a bully.

- A new beehive that harvests honey without disturbing the bees. I love inventions like this! So innovative.

- “This is the white supremacist fantasy. This is the stereotype about black people and our endless forgiveness of the transgressions of white supremacists and anti-black racism that many white people secretly hope holds true.”

- The funniest thing I read all week — a conversation with The Internet.

- Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill! (NYT)

- A reader sent in a link to Sophi nail polish. Apparently, it has no smell! And if you follow the directions correctly, she says it lasts her as long as OPI or Essie brands. And supposedly, it doesn’t discolor or weaken the nails. Anyone tried it? Thanks, Ann.

- A message from your exhausted token brown friend.

- On public shaming.

- Ski treadmill!

- What does sex ed look like if you have a disability?

I hope you have an excellent weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.


P.S. — Like so many people, I’m feeling the shock of Prince’s death. I got the news from Ben Blair yesterday morning, and then I wasn’t willing to get online to read about it until late in the day, as if that would make it not true. 

]]> 8
Recipe: Homemade Almond Berry Granola Bars Thu, 21 Apr 2016 17:00:12 +0000 Lindsey Johnson

Recipe: Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars

By Gabrielle. Photos by Lindsey JohnsonSponsored by Blue Diamond.

Friends, we’ve officially reached the time of year when having on-the-go snacks at the ready becomes essential. Anyone else feeling it? At our house, from mid-April till school’s out, it feels like everything is building up to an end-of-the-year finale. I’m talking fieldtrips, nature camp, science fair, track meets, and recitals. And of course, the gorgeous weather is also tempting us out of the house as often as possible. It’s all good things! No complaints, I’ve been a parent long enough to know it’s just the nature of the school year.

To help keep the kids satiated (fed kids are happy kids!) over these next few weeks, I was thinking I would whip up a batch of homemade granola bars — made with ingredients I know my kids love — to have on hand.

Recipe: Homemade Berry Almond Granola BarsRecipe: Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars

Once again, I’ve teamed up with Blue Diamond, to bring you another great snack option — one that’s specifically made to be easy to grab and go. Homemade Almond Berry Granola Bars anyone? They’re sweet and a little salty, crunchy, and chewy. And they’ll hit the spot when you’re looking for something to nosh on. This one is good for anyone with a sweet tooth, especially if you’re a fan of dried fruit.

Blue Diamond’s Oven Roasted Sea Salt Almonds are perfectly crunchy and salty, so they are a great addition to homemade granola bars. The best part is that these come together quickly and the hardest part is waiting for them to be ready to cut into bars.

Recipe: Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars - with 3 kinds of berries!Granola Bar Ingredients. Click through for the recipe.Recipe: Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars

Ready to make something yummy?

Fresh ingredients for Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars

Here’s what I’ve used: pure maple syrup, a little honey, and brown sugar along with some butter to create a syrup that will help keep all these yummy ingredients together. You do need to either microwave or heat the syrup ingredients up on the stove just long enough for the sugar to melt. A good minute or two does the trick. And then you just pour it over the oats, almonds, chia, flaxseed meal, and dried fruit. Then these go into the oven for about 25 minutes. This helps the bars hold together, though I’ve seen other recipes that don’t require a separate baking step.

Let's make granola bars. I'll chop the nuts.

Also, this recipe uses a combination of three different kinds of dried berries — strawberries, blueberries, and cranberries. Any combination of dried fruit, or just one kind can be used instead. Use your favorite! I’m thinking of a dozen other varieties that would be equally delicious. And if you’re a chocolate fan, you can also give these a little dunk or a pretty drizzle of melted chocolate.

Instead of granola, let's turn this into granola bars!Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars. Cooling and setting, waiting to be chopped into bars

As I said, the hardest part is waiting for the bars to finish cooling. You’ll want to let the bars cool for several hours, even overnight, or pop the pan into the fridge for an hour or so to help them set up. After that, it’s finally time to sample one — unless you dug into the bowl before pressing the mixture into the pan. : )

Recipe: Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars

You can cut these into different sized bars depending on your preference, but the recipe yields between 8-12 bars. Super easy to make a batch and keep them around during the week to drop into your purse or gym bag, or as an after dinner treat.

Fresh ingredients for Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars

Homemade Almond Berry Granola Bars


1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup Blue Diamond Oven Roasted Sea Salt Almonds
1/2 cup crispy brown rice cereal
1/4 cup flaxseed meal (ground flaxseed)
3/4 cup mixed dried berries, roughly chopped (cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, etc.)
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (optional)

Fresh ingredients for Homemade Berry Almond Granola BarsInstead of granola, let's turn this into granola bars!Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars. Cooling and setting, waiting to be chopped into bars


1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper, allowing enough to hang off the edges to work as handles. (Cutting two 8-inch wide, long rectangles out of the parchment works really well.)
2. Chop the almonds and dried fruit. Place the almonds, dried fruit, rice cereal, chia seeds, and flaxseed meal in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
3. Place maple syrup, brown sugar, butter, honey, vanilla, and sea salt in a small sauce pan. Heat over medium-high heat, watching carefully and gently stirring, just until the mixture comes to a boil and the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and pour over the almond and cereal mixture. Stir well to coat.
4. Press the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the edges and top are golden brown. Place pan on cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes. The bars should be a little warm, but hold together in a block. Use the parchment handles to lift the block out of the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut into 8-12 bars. (A serrated knife works well too.) Leave the bars on the cutting board and don’t disturb them for 1-2 hours while they cool completely and set up. Wrap individually in parchment paper and store in an airtight container for a few days, or refrigerate for 2 weeks.

Recipe: Homemade Berry Almond Granola BarsRecipe: Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars - made with Almonds

These are so dang yummy! Really, I need to like quadruple the batch because we love them so much.

Tell me, Friends, have you ever made granola bars from scratch? Any tips that you would add? And what do you like for add-ins? Any fruity combos that you especially love? I want to hear your ideas!

BD Almonds Logo

This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond. Credits: Images, styling & recipe by Lindsey Johnson

]]> 0
Growing A Family: Sarah Ventura Thu, 21 Apr 2016 16:37:56 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

Sarah and her partner learned they were expecting a baby together just after moving to separate cities to work on their university degrees. From that moment until Samuel arrived, Sarah’s story is a wonder of unexpected happenings and fresh observations. I enjoyed her recounting of it all so much.

Welcome, Sarah!

My name is Sarah and I’m currently 26 years old. I live in Germany with my wonderful partner and our beautiful son, Samuel who was born in April 2014. When I first wrote his birth story I did it only for myself, but I’ve since realized that I love to share it because we so often only hear about births that go terribly wrong. So, to take the fear out of giving birth, here comes the story of Samuels beautiful entry into this world.

Every birth starts with a pregnancy, and mine and Samuel’s particular pregnancy started and ended with a shock. We hadn’t planned on having children for many, many years. We didn’t even live in the same city at that point and we made sure nothing baby-related would happen to us — or so we thought! This little baby of ours, however, made it pretty clear he wanted to be in our lives, as clear as two purple lines and a little bean that had called my belly his home for four weeks already.

Quite a shock for two people in their mid-twenties who had both just moved to new, separate cities and had planned to start working on their university degrees! It’s safe to say that we both struggled to accept the implications for a while, which made the first three months emotionally challenging. I don’t want anybody to think that we didn’t become happy, thankful, and very, very excited as the pregnancy progressed, but the start was rocky to say the least.

Apart from some health scares that turned out to be nothing at all, the second trimester was pleasantly uneventful. Towards the third trimester I started to feel more uncomfortable — but really, who doesn’t? Back pains became a constant factor of my every day and I was more than just a bit stressed out when heartburn and, yes, incontinence joined the list of common pregnancy symptoms that apparently I wasn’t going to avoid. As annoyingly slow and dependent on my boyfriend I was, I still LOVED being pregnant. The excitement, the planning, the whole mystery around it — which was magnified even more when we decided not to learn the sex of the baby — made me adore (almost) every second of it.

By Easter 2014, at 36 weeks, I felt huge and immobile but still insisted on accompanying my mother to see a play at Thalia Theater in Hamburg. The weekend was slow and gorgeous and filled with sun-soaked walks, coffee dates, and an extended brunch with my godmother. Still, when I returned home I entered a new phase of exhaustion that I couldn’t shake off no matter how many baths and naps I took.

At this point I should mention that we always assumed this baby to come at least a week late. How we came to this bogus idea, I’ll never know.

On a Thursday, now 37+3 weeks along, we had our last birthing class which left us none the wiser but a whole lot calmer as we started to prepare for the — as we thought — long period of waiting. The next evening I remember being quite annoyed. Annoyed by the never-ending sense of mental and physical fatigue, the extreme heartburn that I had stupidly decided to ignore when I had pizza that evening, and annoyed by the fact that I was annoyed.

I took a long bath to help with my back pain, which didn’t make the slightest difference, and when I got out of the tub I felt a bit of pressure on my pelvis. I didn’t give it more than a second of attention, though. Just before we went to bed at around 11:00 pm, my heartburn got even worse than usual. Due to the level of exhaustion I’d been feeling, I went to sleep quite quickly despite the pain. After only an hour and a half I woke up, annoyed by the fact that it still felt like fire ants were going for a stroll in my upper torso. The situation got even more unpleasant when I realized that I was slowly, steadily, but surely peeing my pants without having any control over it.

Between complete amusement and overall exhaustion I told the father-to-be about what was happening, got up, which in my hippo-esque state must have looked very funny, and went to the bathroom to change. Only then did I notice that I was still getting more wet and the stream of pee was not coming to an end. I crawled back into bed to inform my boyfriend, hoping he would comfort me by saying that our estimated delivery date was more than two weeks away, which he did.

You have to understand that 1. We didn’t expect the birth to start for another 2-4 weeks; 2. We hadn’t packed a single thing, no meditations were memorized, no music was burnt on a forever-to-be-kept CD; and 3. We were as mentally prepared for what was to happen as Galileo Galilei would have been if he were invited to watch Formula One. I might exaggerate a bit on the last point but still, our baby’s birth seemed as far away as it had been the last couple of months — it just seemed so completely surreal.

After a few minutes we both grew more uncertain. I called our midwife, feeling immensely guilty for waking her up in the middle of the night for something that was possibly absolutely nothing. She went through a catalogue of questions, and in the end determined that indeed I was in labor. However, since I didn’t have any contractions up until then she told us to get some rest, sleep through the night, and meet her at the birthing center at 10:00 in the morning. This made complete sense to me as we had learned that it isn’t unusual for a first-time birth can take days!

So back to sleep we went. After only five minutes or less, I felt a cramping in my lower abdomen, which kept getting stronger and more painful with every second. Even though I knew that these probably were contractions, we also remembered that people who run to the hospital or the birthing center in a panic at the first sign of the birth, are often asked to go back home. I was determined not to have this happen to me! Instead, I tried to tell myself that what I was experiencing was only the beginning and that things would only get worse.

However, I soon realized that there were absolutely no breaks in between contractions, not one tiny second. And I started to feel sick. And after only 20 minutes I wasn’t able to stand or sit or lie down. Absolutely nothing gave me comfort anymore.

In our birth preparation class we had learned that in order to determine whether the contractions you are feeling are Braxton-Hicks or actual you-will-have-a-baby-soon-contractions, you should take a warm bath. Getting into the bathtub however made things a hundred times worse; this was a clear sign that we were in labor.

By this time I had finally accepted that maybe, probably, I was going to meet our baby a tiny bit earlier than I had anticipated. It might be that only women who have already experienced labor know what I’m talking about when I tell you it takes a moment or two to mentally embrace that you are going to push a little human being out of your body. Yes, there is that huge junk of time called pregnancy which should be more than enough — 40 weeks, give or take, to be exact — to prepare for this moment, but really I don’t think many women realize what labor physically means and what it feels like before they actively go through it.

While I threw up two more times, tried to find relief in different positions, and did a whole lot of swearing, my poor boyfriend ran about the apartment and tried to collect everything from a what-you-really-need-in-your-hospital-bag list we had been given at the end of our birthing class.

At 3:00 am, two hours after the contractions had started without a break in between, I threw in the towel. I was in full-blown labour and I sure wasn’t going to risk having this baby at home completely unplanned! So again, we called our midwife Stephanie. When she heard how close together the contractions already were, she agreed that we should meet rather sooner than later. And so, one hellish taxi ride later, we found ourselves in front of the birthing center at a quarter to four in the morning.

After our midwife arrived, we went to the birthing suite and she checked my cervix and the strength of the contractions. To our surprise, I was already four centimeters dilated! At hearing the good news I was able to let go.

The pain was overwhelming but, and I know this might sound strange, only in the most positive way. I could feel my body work and felt like I could trust the process. My body knew what to do, and my baby did exactly what he was supposed to do to finally arrive safely in my arms. All I had to do was focus and breathe, and that was all I really did for the next hour.

We tried different positions to make me feel more comfortable. Some included holding onto my boyfriend, some required the assistance of a birthing stool, and all of them had the same result: the pain couldn’t be helped. It was all part of the process.

In the end, both Stephanie and my boyfriend would tell me that throughout the entire birth I made almost no sound of discomfort. I think in the moment it would have disturbed my concentration, so I never felt the urge to scream or moan.

Later on, Stephanie filled the birthing tub with warm water. This time being surrounded by water was exactly what I needed! While I could still feel the contractions and they still hurt, the pain became so bearable that for the first time during the last few hours I was able to talk and even laugh. After this point,what had been an okay experience turned into a wonderful, exciting process.

At around 5:15 in the morning, I took a deep breath and told Stephanie and the boyfriend that I was pretty sure the baby was very close. Sure enough, two or three contractions later, Samuel’s head, after slipping out and back in a few times, came out.

What followed was the weirdest feeling I’ll never forget! His body still inside me, Samuel turned his head from the left to the right a few times, always looking down. All we could see was a teeny tiny thing, almost furry, that was moving and very much alive! Only 20 seconds and another contraction later, our son came into this world and was immediately placed in my arms.

The first thing I saw was his incredible hair.

The first thing I said was “We have a son!”

The first thing I did was kiss his sweet face.

There he was after only five hours of labor, all 2780 grams and 48 cm of him.

My boyfriend cut the cord and took him to the other room in a pile of blankets. I delivered the placenta and finally left the water after that. Samuel was then weighed, measured, dressed, and breastfed for the first time just 30 minutes after his arrival on this planet.

We left the birthing center at 9:00 am as a small family of three.

The next day we gave him the name Samuel Bruno. We love him very much.


Thank you, Sarah! Your final five words say it all. And how funny to think that you had around 37 weeks to wrap your head around the fact you’d be delivering a tiny human at some point, but it only fully kicked in a few minutes before Samuel arrived!

P.S. – Find all the stories in this series here. Do you have a story about birth, pregnancy, adoption or infertility? Send your story to me, will you please?

]]> 1
The Year of the Period Wed, 20 Apr 2016 20:05:46 +0000 Design Mom


By Gabrielle. Image from poet Rupi Kaur’s Instagram series about period stigma.

Did you see today’s Newsweek article about periods? It covers a range of ideas, but one of the big themes is how people are actively trying to change the long-standing historical stigma around periods. I was going to include the article on this week’s link list, but then decided it really deserves its own post.

There’s so much to discuss in it! A few quotes:

“For something that has over 5,000 slang terms (shark week, Bloody Mary, red wedding), the period is one of the most ignored human rights issues around the globe—affecting everything from education and economics to the environment and public health—but that’s finally starting to change. In the past year, there have been so many pop culture moments around menstruation that NPR called 2015 “the year of the period,” and Cosmopolitan said it was “the year the period went public.””

“Across the U.S., you can buy food, doodads and necessities without being taxed: Pop-Tarts in California, BBQ sunflower seeds in Indiana, Mardi Gras beads in Louisiana, Bibles in Maine and coffins in Mississippi. But in these and 35 other states, menstrual products are taxed anywhere from 4 to 10 percent.”

“In rural India, one in five girls drops out of school after they start menstruating , according to research by Nielsen and Plan India, and of the 355 million menstruating girls and women in the country, just 12 percent use sanitary napkins.”

While reading it, I teared up several times thinking about girls around the world not having access to basic period hygiene options, and having to quit school because of that.

And I was also super inspired reading about all the innovation happening around periods at the moment. Long overdue in my opinion! I know we discussed period innovation last month, but there were so many companies featured in the article that I had never heard of, doing work all across the globe. I wanted to cheer!

Most of all, it made me realize that I’m holding on to some of the stigma around periods myself. I’ve caught myself hesitating to speak openly if the topic of periods comes up. I’ve gotten better in the last few years — for example, I would never have posted about tampons 5 years ago — as if it was inappropriate or something. But I know I still have a long-way to go. I suppose the “shame” of periods has been ingrained in me for too many years.

This fact really struck home the other day, when the whole family was in the car and someone mentioned tampons, which led to a conversation among all 8 of us, about menstruation. I noticed two things: 1) I had to carefully fight my first instinct — which was to change the subject, and 2) 14-year-old Olive could talk about it super easily, with zero shame or hesitation, which made me happy. It also made me want to commit to letting go of any remaining stigma I’m holding on to.

I hope you’ll read the article, because I’d love your thoughts on it, and I’d also love to know how open you feel about your period. Are you able to talk about menstruation without shame? Maybe only in certain company? If you needed one while out and about, would you ever ask a stranger for a tampon? Do you feel that talking about periods is gross? If yes, what’s the gross factor for you? Do you associate it with “potty talk”? Or are you grossed out by blood (I know it makes some people faint)?

Do you speak openly about periods with your kids? Both boys and girls? If your daughters need supplies, do they whisper it to you discreetly, or shout it out when you’re making a shopping list after dinner? If you have a husband or boyfriend, do they ever buy your period supplies? Would that freak them out? Do you like the more open, practical attitude about periods lately? Or do you wish everyone would stop talking about it already? Do you consider your period a curse or a blessing? A strength or a weakness? Does this whole conversation stress you out, or do you find it empowering?

I look forward to reading your thoughts.

P.S. — Did you see hear about Chance Ward? He keeps tampons in his fanny pack and backpack in case any his menstruating friends might need one. His Facebook post is pure gold. Seriously, go read it. 

]]> 37
DIY: Tree Branch Planter for Succulents Wed, 20 Apr 2016 18:44:54 +0000 Amy Christie

tree-branch-planter 1.1

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.

Hooray! I’ve got another gorgeous DIY to share with you. And it coincides so nicely with the gorgeous spring weather we’ve been having. This project is the perfect excuse to get outside and interact with nature.

tree-branch-planter 10tree-branch-planter 7

I’m so delighted with how these turned out. Completely over the moon! They would be gorgeous inside or out. I can picture them in our living room, and also on the balcony. I really want to make like 35 of these and line my front walk with them! I think they’re so cool.

tree-branch-planter 12tree-branch-planter 8tree-branch-planter 9

I’m going to tell you right now, that this project takes a few bona fide tools and some muscle, too. But it’s actually pretty easy and straight forward. If you can handle a drill, than you can handle this project.

Before we jump in to the instructions, I have one question: Do succulents do well outdoors in your neck of the wood? Or do you consider them houseplants? They flourish like crazy here in our Oakland landscaping, but I don’t remember seeing them as outdoor plants in France (although it’s very possible I wasn’t paying attention). How about you? Do you have any succulents at your house? Indoors or out? And do you find them to be as carefree as their reputation? I’d love to hear!

tree-branch-planter 6

Here’s Amy Christie with the how to:

We have lots of trees in our back and side yard (which are all of a sudden covered in green buds! Hooray!) and the children are always finding “the best walking stick”, “the coolest stump”, “the most interesting chunk of bark”. It inspired me to check out the woods and I found found lots of “bests” and “coolest”. One of my favorite bits of interior design advice was the suggestion to have a piece of nature in each room and because of that, I’ve been thinking about how to get these natural pieces in my house.

Because of my love of succulents, I used a branch to make a planter for the little green cuties. You ready to get started? Head out into nature and let’s make something!

tree-branch-planter 2


- tree branch
- hand saw, table saw, sawzall
- cleaner brush
- power drill
- forstner bit — we used bits ranging from 1″ to 1 5/8″
- polyurethane or polycrylic
- mini succulents (or air plants, if you wish)

Find a tree branch. We picked this one because it was already on the ground, it wasn’t too weathered (aka. falling apart) and was the right size. Our branch is about 4-5 inches in diameter and had cool bark!

Using your preferred saw, cut the branch down into varying heights, your choice. The pieces pictured here are between 5 and 7 inches tall.

tree-branch-planter 3

With the forstner bit on the power drill, hollow out a space for the succulents to sit. Note, this produces quite a bit of saw dust, so do this in a place where you can make a mess.

Succulents don’t need much water so the branch doesn’t need to be completely hollowed out. However, to keep the mini plants supported and surrounded by enough soil to keep them happy, the diameter of the hollow space should be wide and deep enough to fit the root system and some soil. Make the holes based on the size of mini succulents you wish to use: itsy bitsy plants can live in a 1″-1 1/4″ space. Larger ones need the 1 1/2″-1 3/4″ size. If you want to make them even bigger, combine two hollows together.

tree-branch-planter 4

A couple things about forstner bits:

- Bring your patience. Forcing a bit into wood is challenging, especially a non-manufactured piece of wood with its natural knots. Concentrate initially on just getting the circle space set, as opposed to making it to the center of the wood instantly. Once a shallow hole has been formed, then concentrate on going deeper.

- You will need some muscle to hold the piece of wood in place (or equipment like a vise). We will be forcing a wide metal object into a log. There is going to be a little kick. Make sure you have a good grip on the branch piece and have some power behind the power drill.

- It gets hot! The drill, drill bit AND wood will get hot. If you see or smell smoking wood, pause for a bit and let things cool.

- It doesn’t need to be perfect and the wider in diameter the forstner bit is, the more challenging perfection will be. It’s okay. The succulent will sit in it and no one will know if the hole doesn’t have perfectly clean lines!

tree-branch-planter 5

Use a stiff brush to clean the branch segments and hollow space. Use polyurethane or polycrylic to seal the branch everywhere but the hollowed out space.

tree-branch-planter 16tree-branch-planter 13

Transplant mini succulents to their new home. We find it easiest to spritz our little green friends with water each day.

tree-branch-planter 15tree-branch-planter 14tree-branch-planter 11


See what I mean? Aren’t these gorgeous? Thank you so much for the awesome tips, Amy! And I love that you started with a found branch. Such a great use of resources.

Okay, Friends, if you make one (or more) or these, I want to hear about it! And I want to know where you would display these as well. Are you thinking the family room? Master bedroom? Kitchen windowsill? They’d be so cute pretty much anywhere!

P.S. — Enjoy making things? Here’s a link to other fantastic DIY projects.

Credits: Images, styling & text by Amy Christie.

]]> 2
Living With Kids: Sarah Waldman Tue, 19 Apr 2016 16:00:05 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

When Sarah asked if I’d be interested in sharing her island life with my readers, I jumped at the chance. I thought it would be great fun to learn how a family is living with kids in a 1924 cottage on Martha’s Vineyard, and after interviewing Sarah, my thought was correct! It’s really lovely and interesting. You’ll see.

Hi, Sarah!

Hi, and welcome! I’m Sarah and I live year-round on Martha’s Vineyard with my husband Nick and our two young boys: Dylan is five, and Gray is two. Nick and I met in college but we were just friends then. A year after graduation, he moved back East after surfing in Hawaii for the winter, and came with me to a concert in Boston. He never left after that concert.

As a couple, we first lived in Boston in the dark basement of a beautiful Beacon Hill brick building, then moved to Providence, Rhode Island for Nick to attend RISD, where we lived on the first floor of a classic three-family home. We moved to the Island four years ago.

Our first son, Dylan, was born in Providence. He is obsessed with chocolate, wild animals, and building things. Our second son, Gray, was born on Martha’s Vineyard and is obsessed with farm animals, pears, and swings.

Nick is an architectural designer who works with a local architectural group and makes a lot of stuff on the side — furniture, objects, surfboards, art — and surfs a lot. Even when the water is only 34 degrees! I am a stay at home mom who blogs healthy family recipes and writes cookbooks while my kids are at pre-K or asleep upstairs. My first book Little Bites:100 Healthy, Kid-Friendly Snacks came out last year and my second book Feeding a Family: A Year of Simple and Healthy Family Dinners comes out next year.

Our house is in Vineyard Haven, on a dead-end street a short walk from the center of town and the main ferry dock. We can hear the ferry horn from inside! Our neighborhood has many year-round families which is really nice. Often, island houses are deserted after Labor Day and you find yourself surrounded by empty buildings without any life to them, which is kinda depressing.

There are many cottages in our neighborhood that originally looked exactly like ours but have slowly been neglected or renovated in different ways. I heard a rumor these cottages were built in 1924 to house Wampanoag families who were being moved from their land. I don’t know if this is true but I would love to find out. Our neighbors are all down-to-earth, hard-working people. Our street has a police officer, many carpenters, a grocery store employee, a barber, and a gardener.

As you can imagine, home prices on Martha’s Vineyard are SHOCKING! The average home is $1.1 million!

Full disclosure: we bought our cottage for $375,000. It kinda looked like a dump and many people didn’t see the potential in it. We have a small guest house in our backyard that we rent out year-round to a lovely young woman who wakes up early to bake bread at a local farm. This rental income going directly to our mortgage is the only way we can afford living here.

Despite the insane home costs, people love living here and get very creative in finding realistic ways to make it happen. Obviously, there is a huge summer market for rental housing so many of our friends move out of their homes in the summer and rent them out to vacationers. With their homes rented, our friends camp, live on boats, stay out of state with family, or live in shacks.

In relation, in the summer you will find seasonal employees, from all over the world, living in tents, campers, or in dilapidated homes with dozens to a room. Of course, this isn’t always the case but I think it is important to realize the reality of island life. There is  — and has been for a long time — a big push to build more affordable housing on the island, which is something we desperately need.

We feel very lucky to have been able to buy this house considering all of  the housing challenges. We love living here and don’t take our luck for granted. Here are some of our favorite things about living on Martha’s Vineyard…

Children lead very innocent childhoods immersed in nature. The kids in Dylan’s school grab big sticks and head out into the woods after school, or comb the beach for sharks’ teeth, or go to the docks to catch crabs if the weather is warm.

The Island is removed from many aspects of modern America — there are no chain stores, for example — and you can see how the simple, relaxed way of life is embraced by the kids. I feel like the childhood years here are longer and less complicated.

The public schools are great. Next year, Dylan will be entering Kindergarten with a whopping total of five kids in his GRADE. There are five elementary schools on the island, but he happens to be attending the smallest. The schools offer plenty of time to play, be outside, and take field trips. As a food lover, I am especially impressed by the relationship between the schools and local farms who work together to teach and feed island children a variety of local produce, seafood, and meat.

The Island community is extremely tight-knit and supportive. At first, it was hard to break into the community as almost everyone here has grown up with each other or is related somehow! That said, I now feel completely a part of it. If a family has a new baby, needs help with medical expenses, or suffers a house fire, there will literally be hundreds of people helping in a variety of ways. It’s truly unique and comforting. Everywhere we go whether it’s the library or grocery store, the employees know the boys and welcome them with open arms.

The Island’s natural beauty is so impressive. We drive 20 minutes to pre-K each afternoon and pass farms, stone walls, the ocean, animals grazing — it never gets old. When I see the boys in the pond chasing frogs, climbing rocks in the woods, or building forts in the beach dunes, I have to pinch myself. We get to live here and the land is their playground.

But, the Island isn’t perfect. Here are some of the biggest challenges we’ve found…

Housing prices are crazy. For families, buying is often out of the question and finding an affordable year-round rental is really tough.

As Martha’s Vineyard is an island, and in many ways disconnected, career choices are slim. Many of our friends have traditional blue-collar jobs, work multiple seasonal jobs, work for themselves, or travel a lot to make a career work.

Things are expensive! Groceries, gas, regular goods, everything is expensive! It makes sense when you remember everything has to take a plane or boat to get here but still! When I see strawberries for $11, I want to cry.

And sometimes, things just are not available. Recently, I went to the grocery store for dill to test a cookbook recipe and they didn’t have any. I would have to wait until the following Friday for the next delivery.

Also, you need to take a ferry to get here. Sometimes relying on a ferry is really annoying. You have to pay to take your car on, and in the summer car reservations are hard to make on short notice. This makes it difficult to be spontaneous and escape when we feel like it. If you are coming home and miss the last boat of the day, you are out of luck. And when it costs $100 round-trip to leave, which is the summer cost for a car, you think twice about it. During a hurricane or snow storm, the ferry stops running and the airport closes. Then we are literally stranded on an island which is very strange to really sit and think about.

Finally, there is little diversity here, in terms of people, places, food, culture, everything. I worry about this.

My mom started coming to the Vineyard as a teenager in the 1970s. Soon after, my grandparents bought a house here, then my parents. The Vineyard always felt like home to me and I knew I wanted to end up here.

When Nick and I first moved to MV, we lived in my parent’s house to try it out for a year. After a year, we knew we wanted to stay and have our kids grow up here. I think we got totally lucky on our house as sometimes there are no real estate listings under $500,000. I saw it for sale in the paper, called, we looked at it, and put in an offer right away. We knew we wanted — and could only afford! — a house that needed a lot of work and had a rental unit.

We bought it in March and immediately Nick and my dad got to work tearing down walls and building the kitchen addition. I was due with our second baby on September 14th so I insisted we move in before that. We finally moved in on September 9th and luckily he was eight days late so we had some time to unpack.

My sister, mom, and brother-in-law helped us paint and clean up the yard. I have to say, looking back at the pictures of the house when we bought it I can’t believe we did it! The walls were bright purple, yellow, and teal green. The windows were chippy and drafty, the kitchen was an old sink built halfway up a window.

I don’t know what made us think we could do it but I am so glad we did.

Nick did all the design work himself and the building too, with the help of my dad and a few friends. He really made this house ours. Everything from the complete kitchen addition, living room side tables, our headboard, our computer desk — he made it all himself in our basement or yard. He is really good at using leftover or inexpensive materials like plywood to make the projects affordable.

Those are the pretty projects, but there is so much he did that we don’t notice as much from putting in new windows to replacing our bedroom ceiling with white-washed wood. There were months that Nick worked on our house every night after work, weekend, and vacation day he had. We didn’t get any family time and sometimes it was really rough. Over the years, we have saved our extra money for house projects by forgoing cable TV, gym memberships, vacations, and kids extracurricular activities.

I think the hardest part of owning an old house is that it is a never-ending project, although in New England, 1924 is honestly not that old. We started our first winter with plastic over our old drafty windows but still, four year later, don’t use the upstairs bathroom in the winter because it is too poorly insulated and freezing! It is the only window we haven’t replaced yet. The new one is sitting in the basement waiting for a free weekend. That is the bathroom where our only bathtub is, so the boys have gotten used to the shower!

As much as we have done, there are still so many parts of our house that look awful, from missing shingles to a torn-up bathroom wall, broken base heaters, ugly tile, and a weedy yard. Besides those practical projects, Nick always has a creative idea for something else to do. Last year it was an outdoor shower, and this spring we hope to put in a patio.

In terms of decorating the space, we painted, replaced the light fixtures, and filled it up with our stuff. Almost all the furniture was either homemade or purchased at yard sales then repainted. Most of the art is by Nick and friends. Dylan’s dresser is from my childhood friend’s bedroom, my mom sewed Gray’s crib bumper, and my Dad made our dining room table. Dylan’s bed was mine was a kid — my Dad made that, too — and the Surfer Magazine poster on his wall has been Nick’s since childhood. My mom found Gray’s crib on the side of the road. Score!

In 2009, while pregnant with Dylan, I went back to school at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition because I knew I wanted food to be my work and I wanted a career that would allow me to be home with my kids. At that same time, I started writing my blog.

In 2012 when we moved to MV, a friend from Providence asked if I wanted to propose a cookbook together, which became Little Bites. We both had young kids at home and wanted an exciting project to balance out our work as parents. In 2015, I proposed a second book on my own, Feeding a Family: A Year of Simple and Healthy Family Dinners, which hits shelves in 2017, published by Roost Books.

The focus of my work is to help busy families find ways to cook more at home and to get a variety of whole foods into their diets. I love the freedom to make my own schedule and work when I can. I often work and cook when Dylan is at pre-K and Gray is napping upstairs. Elizabeth Cecil photographed all the recipes for Feeding a Family at my house. That’s her stunning ocean print in our living room!

Sometimes, as writing and recipe development is such individual, personal work, I get lonely and wish for a bustling office. I guess the grass is always greener. In general, I love what I do and feel really lucky to combine what I am passionate about with a schedule that works for my family and allows me to live where I want. It is an added bonus that I write about family food because I learn and practice so much on my own family. They also don’t mind the copious amount of recipe testing!

When our first son was little, our apartment was filled with toys. It drove me crazy but I didn’t know what to do about it and was too tired to care. This house was a clean slate for us. Our home is small and we don’t have a playroom, so all the boys’ toys are in our living space. This makes us get creative about toy storage. I use a lot of baskets, space under beds and the sofa, and Ikea storage units. Of course, we have a few scary closets, mainly this one. Now, I am really picky about what we bring into our house and always donate old toys when new toys come in. The open shelving in our kitchen has also made me pare down because you SEE everything we own. I donated many a college pint glass when we moved in!

From his work as an architectural designer, Nick has a great knowledge of products so he always knows where to look for affordable, nice looking things. He is really picky and exacting about stuff, so when he makes a design decision I know it is the right one. He would like more color in our house but I just can’t do it, not yet. I am a sucker for white walls. If we had more open space I would love to try some fun wallpaper but I am too nervous that it will look busy. In general, I try to really stick with the popular mantra “if it doesn’t give you joy, get rid of it.”

Island life can be quirky. Even though I thought I knew the island well before moving here year-round, many things have surprised me about living here. Like when I had my last midwife appointment while pregnant with Gray, she mentioned calling the hospital before coming in. I thought she just wanted us to tell the staff we were on our way, but really, families have to call so the maternity ward can be OPENED and the nurses called into work! It is often empty and closed until a laboring woman calls in. When we arrived, one other mom was there resting, having given birth the day before, but we were the only ones there for the next two days.

Last summer, Nick and I were drinking wine outside with the boys asleep upstairs. I had the baby monitor next to me and it kept getting fuzzy and making strange noises. We quickly realized it was because the Obamas were driving nearby so secret service radios interfered with our system. After that, we always knew when the President was on his way to dinner.

When we are off-island, I see the boys’ island upbringing come out — something I am not used to as I was raised on the mainland. Gray screams “GOOOOO!!!!” when we stop at red lights because there are no stop lights on the Island so he’s not used to stopping for long in the car. Similarly, I took Dylan off-island to a show in a city theater. I held his hand and started up the escalator and he started to panic! Even at five years old, he had no idea what an escalator was.

We do see celebrities a lot in the summer. They are just walking around town or at the beach like normal people. We have seen a wide range of people from Meg Ryan, Bill Clinton, Bruce Willis, the Gyllenhaals, Spike Lee, Bill Murray, and Larry David.

I hope our boys remember everyday details of their childhood here, from measuring and marking their heights in the upstairs hallway, to sitting on the big kitchen window bench watching the crazy wild turkeys in the yard. I hope they remember the birthday parties we hosted, with painted dragon murals and ice cream cakes. I hope they remember calling for me every morning from their beds and seeing my face open their doors. I hope they remember planting the daffodil bulbs randomly around the yard and the sunflower seeds in the back garden. I hope they remember making fresh pasta, pressing tortillas, and peeling carrots while sitting on the kitchen counters. I hope they remember stepping inside and feeling completely safe to be themselves.

I hope I remember the long, dark, lonely winter days we spent in this house together, trying to make the most of it but sometimes thinking we would explode. I hope I remember watching the boys naked and sandy in the outdoor shower together. I hope I remember the mixed feelings of pride and dread seeing Nick pull out his ladder and tools to work on the house…again!

I am a very emotional mother so just the idea that our kids will leave our home someday is too hard to think about. I can’t imagine life without them here.

I wish someone had told me — and I had listened! — that the old saying “The days are long but the years are short” is so true. I already forget those long newborn nights spent upstairs in the rocking chair and the winter weekend we stayed with friends because our house had no windows. Just holes. Those moments felt so huge and permanent at the time, but are now just happy memories.

P.S. — If you want to visit Martha’s Vineyard you can read all about my favorite places here!


Thank you so much, Sarah! I absolutely enjoyed learning the insider’s scoop on living on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s a whole different lifestyle, especially the renting out of properties in the summer months and the creative ways of living elsewhere for a bit. Fascinating.

Island life! Are you in or does it give you heart palpitations? To consider: a hundred dollars to get your car off-island, and no chain stores…and the off-chance of spotting Bill Murray out on a stroll. (I’m in.)

P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me knowWe love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

]]> 19
Dessert for Two: No-Bake Berry Cheesecake Cups Tue, 19 Apr 2016 15:00:31 +0000 Amy Christie

no-bake-cheesecake-cups 1

By Gabrielle. Photos by Liz Berget for Design Mom.

I’m thinking we’re way overdue for a new Dessert for Two recipe, right? And I’m also thinking that a dessert involving fresh berries sounds like absolute perfection at the moment.

no-bake-cheesecake-cups 2no-bake-cheesecake-cups 5

No bake? Fresh berries? Cheesecake? This sort of dessert is right up my alley! I was in Salt Lake City for meetings all day yesterday. I flew out very early in the morning, and flew back late at night. When I arrived home, all I wanted to do was catch up with Ben Blair over a treat. Dessert for two for the win!

no-bake-cheesecake-cups 3

Speaking of fruity desserts being right up my alley, now I’m curious: When presented with a dessert menu, are you more likely to favor chocolate based desserts, or fruit-based desserts? I definitely favor fruit-based. My second choice would be anything carmel. Ben Blair typically orders chocolate — it’s not my very favorite, but I’m always happy to steal a bite or two. : ) How about you?

no-bake-cheesecake-cups 6

The lovely Liz Berget came up with this Dessert for Two recipe, and here’s what she says:

It seems like spring has finally sprung, and I could not be happier. Last week in Minnesota, we had this ultra-weird day that included sun, relative warmth, clear skies, then clouds, sleet, snow, and wind, mixed with intermittent sun. As I looked out the window at the circus show of weather, I was fairly certain the apocalypse was coming. So, it was a comfort when the snow and sleet faded into nearly 80-degree weather, just in time for the weekend.

My family and I celebrated by firing up our grill, wearing shorts and t-shirts (complete with ultra-cool compression tights for this pregnant mama), and heading to the park Saturday morning. As we ate our picnic lunch, I tried telling my three-year-old son about two years ago when our April held two late but beautiful snowstorms, and we hiked through the park taking pictures with him strapped to my back. He just looked at me like I was crazy as he swatted another gnat away from his face and asked when we could go swimming.

All this warm weather has me craving summer foods — everything light and easy. I want salads and fresh tomatoes, but mostly I want berries. If I would let myself, I could probably eat a solid pint of strawberries on the daily. And so these desserts. Light and fresh and berrylicious.

no-bake-cheesecake-cups 8

Let’s talk cheesecake. I’m assuming you love it? Okay. Good. But there are two types of cheesecake eaters in this world. There are those who want their cheesecake slice to act as a sugar-bomb, satisfying every ounce of sweet tooth they have. They top their cheesecakes with syrupy fruits or decadent chocolate and caramel. And then there are those who really just want to sit down with a bowl of berries and slightly sweetened freshly whipped cream (possibly because they already had three cookies with their afternoon coffee earlier), and so they want a cheesecake that represents the best of summer freshness.

I definitely fall into the latter of those two categories, and this dessert reflects that. It’s as simple to put together as it is fresh-tasting. The graham cracker crust comes together easily, with slight sweetness from both white and brown sugars, giving it a bit more of a sweet depth. The cheesecake mixture is on the fresh side, balanced with a pinch of lemon zest, but still plenty rich with that heavy cream, whipped into goodness. And then the berries come through in a jam layer as well as fresh berries on top.

I assembled these in several layers. I really wanted a crust layer in the middle because it’s one of my very favorite parts of a cheesecake, and I wanted a little crust in every bite; I didn’t want to have to dig my way to the bottom.

no-bake-cheesecake-cups 9

These no-bake cheesecake jars are perfect for a summer night, for you and the one you love to sit by your backyard fire, cheesecake cups and spoons in hand, maybe a glass of red wine nearby. They are perfect for an afternoon with a friend, and I may or may not have eaten a portion of one of my test runs of these along with my morning coffee. And if your kids happen to glimpse these chilling in the fridge, they will beg and beg to try these little pretties until you cave and whip up another easy batch to share with them.

no-bake-cheesecake-cups 4

No-Bake Berry Cheesecake Cups:
(yields 2 large cups or 4 small)

8 graham crackers
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar

8 ounces full-fat cream cheese, softened*
Pinch of fresh lemon zest
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar**
1 cup heavy cream

Other Layers
10 fresh raspberries, or more to taste***
1 cup raspberry jam****

no-bake-cheesecake-cups 7

Ingredient Notes:
*Get a block of cream cheese, and be sure not to use a tub of cream cheese spread.
**I prefer a fresher, lighter cheesecake that’s berry driven, but if you’re looking to satisfy a serious sweet tooth, use up to 3 tablespoons sugar in the cheesecake mixture. You could also use an additional tablespoon of brown sugar in the crust.
***Don’t limit yourself to raspberries here; the summer produce world is your oyster: your berries and jam could be strawberry, blueberry, or blackberry…or a mixture of one kind of a jam and a different kind of berry. I think these would also be excellent with peach or apricot jam, topped with fresh peaches!
****I used a barely sweetened jam and loved the results, but again, if you’re looking for something super sweet, you might want to look for a jam with a higher sugar content.

For the Crust: Grind your graham crackers into fine crumbs using a food processor. Add melted butter and white and brown sugars and pulse several times until you have a coarse, sandy mixture. (Alternately, you can place the crackers in a ziploc bag and use a rolling pin to crush them finely. Then just transfer the crumbs to a bowl and stir in your melted butter and sugars.) Set aside.

no-bake-cheesecake-cups 9

For the Cheesecake: Place softened cream cheese, lemon zest, vanilla extract, granulated sugar, and heavy cream in a large bowl. Starting on the lowest speed to avoid splatter, blend thoroughly (scraping down sides as needed) until mixture is thick and stiff.

no-bake-cheesecake-cups 10

To Assemble:
The portions of your layers will totally depend on the size of your glass cup. The measurements given here reflected the size of the stemless wine glasses I used, but please adjust accordingly if you’re using something larger or smaller!
Also – If you’re aiming for beauty and not speed here, you’ll want to use a paper towel to wipe down the sides of the glass after spreading each layer.
For ONE cup, from bottom to top:
Layer 1: ¼ cup of graham cracker crust. Press into the bottom of the cup with a narrow bowl or cup, or use your fingers.
Layer 2: about ½ cup of cheesecake mixture. Use a spoon or small rubber spatula to smooth this layer and press it all the way to the edge of the glass; do your best not to mix the crust layer up into this layer.
Layer 3: ½ cup jam. Smooth to the edges.
Layer 4: ½ cup cheese cake mixture. Use a spoon or small rubber spatula to smooth this layer and press it all the way to the edge of the glass; do your best not to mix the jam layer up into this layer.
Layer 5: heaping ¼ cup graham cracker crust. Gently spread with your fingers, and lightly press.
Layer 6: ⅓ cup of cheesecake mixture. Use a spoon or small rubber spatula to smooth this layer and press it all the way to the edge of the glass; do your best not to mix the crust layer up into this layer.
Layer 7: fresh berries!

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, ideally 3 — or up to a day before enjoying!

no-bake-cheesecake-cups 5

Thank you, Liz! This is pretty much the perfect dessert in my opinion. Gorgeous to look at. Delicious. Rich. Not too sweet. Thank you for adding some fruity goodness to the Dessert for Two column!

Credits: Images, styling & recipe by Liz Berget. Assistance by Amy Christie.

]]> 2
A Few Things Fri, 15 Apr 2016 18:45:26 +0000 Design Mom


Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? Anything fun happening for you this weekend? On our schedule: Ben Blair is in Houston, Texas till Sunday. Ralph is going to a concert in Santa Cruz. Maude Blair has a track meet. Olive Blair has a field trip in San Francisco. Oscar & Betty are going to an Oakland A’s baseball game. And little June? I guess she’ll just be hanging out with me. : )

My goal is to get that outdoor furniture I mentioned repainted. Last weekend it was too rainy, but this weekend looks like it will be gorgeous. How about you?

I’m off to get my hair trimmed, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

- For anyone who has lost a complicated parent.

- I have an irrational fear of spiders. Wondering if I could handle this spider catcher.

- “Before we could even talk about the crime, we had to make sure Lyne wasn’t culpable somehow.”

Storage bed.

- The permanent temporary solution.

- 7 spray-painting tips.

- A racist stereotype is shattered.

- I’m obsessed with these Strandbeest Wind Sculptures that seem like living creatures.

- European food according to Italians.

- Why is America pulling down the projects?

Inky the Octopus escaped.

I hope you have the loveliest weekend! Wishing you strawberry-rhubarb pie a la mode. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.


]]> 18
18 Tips for Traveling With a Big Family Thu, 14 Apr 2016 18:45:08 +0000 Design Mom

18 Tips for Traveling with Kids — From a Mother of Six!

Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Alamo. Have you signed up for the Alamo Insiders program? Details below!

I’m working with Alamo on a family travel series (first post here). And today, I want to tackle traveling with a big family (related Pin board here). But that’s a really broad topic! So I’m going to focus in a bit. This post isn’t about time on the plane or how to pack or where to go or where to stay. Instead, I’m going to share everything I’ve learned about what the days are like (and how to make them awesome!) once you are at your destination. Sound good?

I have lots of tips, so I put them in list form. And I hope as you read them, they’ll remind you of your own tips — which you should totally share in the comments, because I would LOVE to learn from you! Also, as the title declares, yes this is about travel with a big family, because that’s what I know best. But the reality is, most (if not all) of these tips would work for small families, too. So really, this is about travel with kids.

Traveling with Kids — 18 Solid Tips from a Mother of Six

Here it is! All my travel knowledge, in no particular order:

1) When thinking about your day, plan based on the lowest common denominator, meaning the youngest in the group. If you’ve got a little one, they can’t walk all day and they don’t suddenly have new or different schedule needs because they are in a new place. So keep the schedule really simple and be ready for lots of stops. In Rome, we’d take gelato breaks like 5+ times a day.

2) Only put ONE big destination/activity on the schedule each day. That’s it. Only one. “Visit the Van Gogh Museum.” “Go horseback riding.” “Take a city bus tour”.

Yes, if it was just grownups, you could pack the day and see a million things. But with kids, it pays to be less ambitious. Keep it simple. If things go wrong, and they often do — maybe you get on the wrong bus, or have a hard time finding a lunch spot, or the weather turns crummy — it won’t wreck your schedule. You’ll feel great that you accomplished your one big thing, and when you’re done, if the family still has lots of energy, you can always add on a bonus activity.

3) On the way to your big event or tourist spot of the day, stop at every park you encounter along the way. Why? Partly because it’s fun and part of seeing what this new place is like. There are so many different kinds of parks, big green spaces, urban asphalt parks, tiny neighborhood play spaces. Your littlest kids probably won’t remember the trip, but spending time at parks will make sure they have a wonderful day, and that helps the whole group.

It’s also a way of losing time, or of filling the day in a positive way, without stressing anyone with a packed schedule.

Traveling for Big Families. 18 Tried-and-True Tips!

4) Bring water. It should be the only heavy thing in your pack. If you don’t want to carry it, know where your water sources are quickly and easily. Having clean water on hand is essential. First, for thirst, but also for rinsing scrapes and cleaning off sticky hands.

5) Instead of packing them ahead of time, buy snacks in local grocery stores. It’s a small adventure in the larger day. Use it as an opportunity to explore a non-touristy piece of the place you’re visiting. There’s nothing like going to a grocery store — especially in another country — to give you a glimpse of what it would be like to live there. What do their milk bottles look like? Do they refrigerate the eggs? How are the fruit and vegetables packaged and sold? Any new veggies you’ve never seen? What does the toothpaste look like? Is it a huge supermarket or a tiny corner grocery? Any familiar brands? Maybe with different flavors/products than you have at home? How about the candy aisle?

6) Even if you’re past the diaper stage, always carry a package of wet wipes. They come in so handy! They can wipe down a table at a restaurant, and they can wipe down a bottom when the public restroom is out of TP. You already know how awesome they are.

Traveling for Big Families. 18 Tried-and-True Tips! From a Mother of Six.

7) As you wander and explore for the day, only carry one day bag for the whole family. Make it a backpack, so that you can keep hands free. And pack light — only the essentials for that day or that outing. I mentioned water and wipes, and we also carry sunscreen, sunglasses, and a tiny pouch with Advil and a few bandaids. Sometimes we’ll add a small guidebook or map. During diaper days we would add a few diapers and a spare romper.

Try to leave it mostly empty so you can throw in stuff throughout the day — like your toddler’s jacket when he gets too hot, or maybe a souvenir.

If there’s only one bag, and it’s light, everyone (or at least the big kids and grown ups) can take a turn carrying it and no one will get worn out.

8) For breakfast, know what you’re going to eat the night before. Have cereal and milk, or pastries, or yogurt ready to go. Or if your hotel includes breakfast, eat that. Knowing what breakfast is ahead of time relieves pressure in the morning when everyone is getting ready and might be cranky from hunger. And if there’s a change of plans — sick kids, rainy day — you’ll know that at least everyone can eat something while you figure out plan B.

9) For lunch, an impromptu picnic is our go-to. If you see a farmers market, use it. Buy carrots or snap peas, a loaf of crusty break, whatever fruit looks good. If you have a pocket knife on you, maybe you can add a small block of cheese. Eat your picnic at the nearest table or green space.

You can also do this same meal with items from any grocery store. Think easy open — a jar of pickles, a can of olives with a pop top — and don’t forget to buy a small package of napkins.

Family Travel Tips: 18 Ideas to Make Traveling With Kids Awesome!

10) For restaurants, go during off hours, so the place will be mostly empty and it will be easy to sit your big group. When everyone is finished eating, have one adult take the kids outside, while the other adult pays. I don’t know what it is, but those last 10 minutes while waiting for the check is when things often fall apart. So skip that scene, and get the kids out of there.

11) As you plan your day remember this is what you’re up against: The kids are going to get hungry, tired, bored, too hot or too cold. So you need to plan for those moments, or plan around them.

12) At art museums, start in the gift shop, have each child pick out a favorite postcard from the collection, then make it an adventure finding the original in the museum.

Big Family Travel Tips: 18 Ideas to Make Traveling With Lots of Kids Awesome!

13) Depending on location, size of family, and age of older kids, it’s often best to skip the stroller. We found this to be especially true throughout much of Europe, and at National Parks too. Too many stairs. Too many cobblestones. Not enough space on the public transit. No where to stash it during a tour.

Use an on-body baby carrier or sling instead. Or, if you have older kids, you can even skip that and everyone can just take turns holding the baby. In France, there were five of us who could carry baby June. No stroller necessary.

14) Every time you see a restroom sign, point it out to the whole group and take a moment to asses if anyone needs the potty. You’ll see signs in parks, at restaurants, at museums and tourist spots. Even if you’re tired and want to get out of there, take a moment and do a potty check. Emergency restroom searches are a nightmare. Oh. And make sure everyone has used the bathroom before you set out on your daily adventure in the first place.

15) Remember, going through the day in a new city or place IS the adventure. I mentioned putting only one big event per day on the schedule, and that’s because all the stuff leading up to and around that event are also activities. Navigating with a city map is an activity. Eating is an activity. Walking somewhere and taking photos is an activity. Getting lost is an activity.

Big Family Travel: 18 Tips to Make It Awesome!

16) Put on your adaptability hat. Things happen. Traveling can be frustrating. So make a good plan, but be willing to adapt in a snap.

17) Remember: SEEING and BEING in the new place is the goal. Traveling means a break from your normal schedule and routine. It means a fresh view for tired eyes. If you do nothing but just be there — in a park, or on a bench, or on an aimless walk — that’s still traveling and it’s still wonderful. So even if you thought you would do twice as much as you actually end up doing, no stress. It was still worth it, I promise!

18) One of our favorite traditions: Recap on the way home. Someone be the scribe and write notes, while everyone calls out highlights from the trip.

Kid-friendly Travel Tips! For Families Big & Small.

Do it right away as you travel home. In the car or while waiting for the plane. Yes, it makes a nice little record, but that’s not really why we do it. We do it because recalling the highlights of the trip together, cements all the best, happiest parts in our minds. Even if it was a sort-of mediocre vacation in the big scheme of things, we walk away saying, “Wow! That was an awesome trip!”

Okay. Now it’s your turn! What would you add to this list? And since every family is different, is there anything you disagree with? What works best for your family travel-wise? Chime in!

Also, are you planning your next vacation? Check out the Alamo Insiders program. It’s a loyalty club with free membership, that offers 5% off retail rental rates! You can sign up here.

]]> 46
Call It A Day: Samantha Hahn Thu, 14 Apr 2016 14:42:08 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

Today we’re peeking in on a lovely and talented friend of mine, Samantha Hahn, a Brooklyn-based illustrator and author (her newest book just came out!) and all-around interesting person. I get really inspired poring over her current work, and I hope you’ll feel the same; a little creativity is a good way to start the day, right?

Samantha mentions below that her daughter “never hesitates to ask for what she wants and needs in life.” I love that, and it happens to be one of the characteristics of Sam herself that I admire most! Asking for what you need, or in a business sense, asking for what you’re worth, is hard for so many women. And Sam is a great personal model for me in that regard.

Also, the way she describes the street on which she lives gave me a visual I can’t quite get out of my head! It’s been making me smile ever since. Welcome, Sam! I’m so glad to spend your day with you!

We wake up pretty early around here! My 18-month old daughter Vivian woke at 5:00 am. She calls out “Mama! Mommy!” in her sweet little voice. One of us goes into her room, changes her, and then brings her into our bed. I nurse her a bit and then she falls back to sleep in my arms. It’s the most heavenly part of my day…or life for that matter.

Henry wakes 30 minutes later. He thinks he’s being quiet doing his morning routine but I hear him spritzing his plants and brushing his teeth. He joins me and Viv in bed for a few minutes until she wakes up and climbs down off the bed and into the kitchen with her dad. Then I get to have a brief cuddle with Henry; I still love cuddling him when he’ll let me. I give Henry a shower, which entails standing outside the curtain and squeezing shampoo and soap onto his hands and telling him when to rinse.

For breakfast, my husband made us scrambled eggs and a frozen blueberry, banana, almond milk and cocoa powder smoothie. After breakfast we cleared the table and got Henry set up with his homework. We drink coffee and keep Henry on track while Vivian climbs onto my lap with some of her board books to do her own baby homework like her big brother. Henry’s studying insects in first grade. This morning he reads us a fascinating book about them, telling us about his favorite, the Goliath beetle.

At 8:00 am I strap Viv onto my chest in her carrier and Henry puts on his backpack, and we set out to daycare and school. Both are a short walk from our place. We live in a lovely neighborhood in Brooklyn called Park Slope. It’s been called one of the most livable neighborhoods in the city. There’s a park nearby, playgrounds and a lovely community vibe.

I joke around that it’s like living on Sesame Street.

On the way to school we feel like we’re in a little parade of kids with backpacks. Viv loves doggies and birds so we point out each and every one we encounter on our walk. Viv’s first sentence was “Where’s the doggie?” Henry’s school is five blocks from hers so I drop him off right after her. We usually talk about which animals are faster or stronger than one another, Peregrine Falcons or Bald Eagles?

By 8:40 both little ones are safely settled in their respective schools and I head to my little home illustration studio. I love working from here. It’s peaceful, sunny and my husband runs his business from home too so he brings me coffee and kisses throughout the day. I usually have a number of projects going at once.

Today I’m doing some outreach for my book that just came out, A Mother is a Story. Mother’s Day is coming up so I’m reaching out to friends, bloggers, and editors to see if they want my publisher to send them a book. I’m also doing some editorial projects. Marie Claire is one of my favorite clients and they came to me to see if I’d illustrate a coloring book of New York scenery for them to place photographs of a model into as a spring lookbook for Timberland. It’s a really fun project. I love that people will be able to pull it out of the magazine and color it in.

I’m also working on illustrations for Seventeen Magazine. I work with them a lot. The illustrations go along with a story about sisters. Another project on my desk is a really unique collaboration with this amazing store called Story, here in New York. They have the point of view of a magazine, sell things like a store and change like a gallery. They’ve asked me to hand-letter all of their signage and do portraits of the people they’re featuring in their Feminist story. They’re featuring incredible entrepreneurs and foundations that support and celebrate women. I love seeing my work in a space not just on the printed page.

I’m so grateful to be able to make my living as an artist. I studied illustration in college, but when I graduated I had no idea how to make it in the difficult marketplace. So after my first job at a magazine I went to graduate school at Columbia University and got my MA in art education. I thought I could be happy just doing art at night and teaching during the day. Somehow that was not enough for me. So I wound up doing little projects for indie jewelry designers and for friend’s events and things which eventually led to work for clients like Glamour Magazine.

During my maternity leave when I had Henry, I decided to ramp up my freelance work so that I could go back to teaching part time and do more illustration. I worked really hard on the days when I wasn’t teaching and at night when Henry went to sleep and eventually I was able to go solely freelance. It’s been five years and I still feel like I’m learning and growing as an artist in the ever shifting field of illustration. I just found out that two pieces I did, one for the CFDA during NY Fashion Week and one for Lenny Letter were chosen to appear in American Illustration 35. They’ll be two of 339 out of over 10,000 submissions. I’m very honored and humbled.

To me, there’s no greater honor than the approval of peers I admire. This is a really hard business, though. It’s tough not to get caught up in the competition and to ride the wave of either validation or rejection. I am working hard on focusing on the art and the work and creating longevity. I find that it’s super important to generate my own projects like my book for example, rather than solely doing client work.

In addition to doing my work I’m always poking around online for inspiration. I look to Instagram to see my friends’ projects and point of view. I use Pinterest like a personal mood-board of inspiring images. Today I came across . I don’t even know what the title is but I love the composition and flat colors. It reminds me of Paul Rand.

I have to admit that I’m pretty bad at taking care of myself. It’s usually my last priority after taking care of the kids’ needs and client work. I’m always anxious to get to my desk after dropping them off, but from time to time I’ll take a jog or walk and I always notice that I feel less anxious and am happier and more productive when I do. So I don’t really know why I don’t make it a priority.

Today after dropping off the kiddos I came home and sat down to my desk. Dave poked his head into my office and said, “Come on, let’s meditate…just for 15 minutes.” We went into the living room and he put on the guided meditation app, which was actually very soothing and I felt good afterwards and ready to jump into work.

I guess I feel guilty when I’m not working even though I know intellectually that I’ll be better for everyone else and myself if I carve out a little time to get fresh air or meditate. I’m grateful to my husband for that push.

Most days I pick Viv up at 4:15 and take her to the playground near her daycare. She calls the swings “Wheee!” It’s hard to get her to leave but as I mentioned she loves dogs so I tell her “Let’s go look at the doggies.” She likes to walk home so I hold her hand and we stroll along the sidewalk and point out all the dogs we see. At around 5:00 we get Henry from his after school program a few blocks away. Then, around 5:45, we pull together dinner or order in.

My work life is officially over then. If a client calls or texts I get dirty looks for paying attention to my phone. In fact I made the mistake of showing Viv some videos of herself on my phone once so now when she sees it she yells “Wibi, Wibi” which is how she says “Vivi” so it’s best if my phone stays in my pocket till after bedtime.

My husband is far better at domestic engineering, so he’s always keeping tabs on what we need and ensuring we don’t run out of things. We live in a fourth floor walk-up so we’re constantly trying different means of stocking up. We live relatively close to Whole Foods Market but not close enough that shlepping heavy packages wouldn’t break our backs. So sometimes we’ll go there, shop, and have it delivered. We’re currently trying Fresh Direct. We are probably the busiest Amazon Prime customers. We use it for practically everything other than food.

I always look forward to the end of the day when everyone’s back together again. Both kids were tired after their busy day so they played in the living room while we prepared dinner. The living room and kitchen are connected and open to each other so there’s no separation. Henry built a cool structure with magnatiles while Vivian ferried her toy animals from their barn to a little dump truck.

Dave and I pulled together a simple, healthy dinner. I made broccoli and pearled couscous, and Dave made chicken. I’m a vegetarian so I popped some tempeh into the oven for my protein. While prepping, Viv came in and wanted me to hold her which is always hard while trying to cook, so after a brief cuddle I put her in her high chair at the table with a piece of paper and pencil. She loves to scribble! That kept her busy until we had everything ready. Right before we served it up we asked Henry to fold the napkins. He loves to make them into paper plane shapes and it gives him a job to help the family.

During dinner he told us about his music class. They’re learning a Harry Belafonte song. He told us about a game he and his friend played on the yard. They each pretended to be a bug and played bug tag.

Vivi has a funny habit of asking for pepper throughout the meal. I don’t want to overdo it so I pretend to sprinkle it on after the initial time when I really do add it to her food. She’s learning new words every day and always makes us laugh with her little contributions to our conversation.

Tonight we made the mistake of leaving bananas visible on the counter. So halfway through the meal she spotted them and started begging for them. I’m such a pushover and don’t like to frustrate her so even though she had a nice meal in front of her, I gave her a 1/4 of banana even though she had it this morning in her smoothie. She’s so feisty and strong willed. I love that she never hesitates to ask for what she wants and needs in life. Actually both of my kids do, which can be exhausting, but I’m a fighter too and have found it to be useful in my career and outside of it so I guess I encourage it by giving pepper and bananas!

We have a pretty ritualized bedtime. At 6:30 Dave changed Viv and then Henry and I went into her room. Henry gives her hugs and kisses and then he and Dave go off to do magnatiles or read. Right now they’re reading The NeverEnding Story. I nurse Viv, give her one million hugs and kisses, and lay her down in her crib. We still use the white noise machine. Not only is it soothing but it drowns out the enthusiastic conversation of six year olds and their parents.

After Viv went down, I joined Henry and Dave in Henry’s room to listen to the story. Then Dave and I head to the kitchen. We make some tea and cuddle up on the couch to watch a show and chat about our day. Tonight I’m totally kicked so I don’t do any more work, but having a home studio means that I can if I have something really pressing.

To be honest, I’m an anxious person. When we climb into bed I sometimes start ruminating out loud. I know I have so much to be grateful for but sometimes I worry that I’m going to lose it all, that someone will get sick or that all of a sudden nobody will want to hire me as an artist anymore. My husband is so sweet; he tells me to stop worrying, that worry is not going to solve or prepare me for anything. I’m so thankful for him in these moments.

When the wave of anxiety passes I’m usually ready and happy to put my head on the pillow and look forward to my 5:00 am cuddle and another day with the people I adore.


Thank you, Sam. Your 5:00 am start is a little less painful when your babes head to bed around 6:30 pm! And your grocery shopping challenges are interesting, especially to those who may just head to the shops once a week or even less often. I hope Sesame Street has a grocer as wonderful as Mr. Hooper’s Store!

The way we errand is really dependent on where or how we live, don’t you think? When we lived in France, I enjoyed shopping daily for dinner ingredients — instead of a hassle, it was simply a way of our new life — and now in Oakland our shopping methods are a little different, though we still grocery shop more more often than when we had several under five (it was hard to errand in those years!). What’s your process for stocking up your pantries and prepping for dinner? I love talking about stuff like this!

Oh! And I want to mention, that I love Sam’s book! In fact I gave one of the blurbs on the back cover. It would make a super sweet gift for Mother’s Day or for anyone who’s just had a baby.

P.S. – You can see all my Call It A Day posts right hereAre you interested in sharing your unique day with us? Let me know! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! 

]]> 10
3 Personal + Practical Mother’s Day Gift Ideas Wed, 13 Apr 2016 17:00:00 +0000 Design Mom

Custom Photo Charms for your charm bracelet.

Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Shutterfly. Celebrate mom this Mother’s Day with the perfect customizable photo gift made with Shutterfly.

Okay, Friends. Let’s talk Mother’s Day gifts. Gifts for your mom, your mother-in-law, your step-mom, your grandmother, your godmother — and maybe a little something for you, too! When coming up with gift ideas, my hope is always to find something equal parts pretty and practical. I love good-looking objects, and I love them even more if they are totally useable! For this post, I’ve partnered with Shutterfly, because they have lots of ideas that fit my criteria, plus they go one step further. These ideas are pretty, practical, and personal.

Custom Photo Charms and Initial Charms for your bracelet. Custom Photo Charms in squares and circles for your bracelet.

Idea number one: Photo Charms!
How about sending gorgeous charms with photos of your kids? You can get them as squares or circles, in silver or gold, or even surrounded with crystals. They are adorable! You can hang them from necklaces, or add them to a charm bracelet or bangle.

Personal Photo Charms in squares and circles for your bracelet.

And speaking of charm bracelets, you can create one from scratch! Pick the bracelet then customize it to your heart’s content. You could start simple, gifting the bracelet with one or two charms. And then, you could send new charms for each birthday and holiday. I find that so appealing, because it means you don’t have to keep thinking up new gifts. You simply send a new charm!

Custom Photo Charms in squares and circles. Would be fun to add photos of places we've traveled.Personal Photo Charm, surrounded by crystals. Personalized Photo Charm Bracelet, with birth stones and a Monogram Charm.

Or you could even create a full bracelet like I did here. I’ve got photo charms for each of the kids, an initial B for Blair, two birthstone jewels representing important dates to me, and a special one of Ben Blair, surrounded with crystals. Wouldn’t it be fun to team up with your siblings and create a special charm collection for your mother? You could have photo charms of all the grandkids, maybe birth stones or initials too.

Monogrammed Mason Jars - you choose the font

Idea number two: Monogrammed Mason Jars!
Talk about some super charming drinkware. I love these! I want to fill them with lemonade and add a striped paper straw immediately. They’re available in all sorts of designs — my favorites are the simple, crisp, two letter and three letter monograms, and you can choose different fonts too.

Monogrammed Mason Jars - you choose the fontCustom Monogrammed Mason Jars - you choose the font

I went with the two letter option and had a set of 8 made — one for each member of the family. Since we have some repeat initials (Betty Blair and Ben Blair, Olive Blair and Oscar Blair), I used two different fonts, one serif and one slab-serif to differentiate.

Monogrammed Mason Jars - make one for each family memberMonogrammed Mason Jars - cute personalized gift!Custom Monogrammed Mason Jars - cute personalized gift!

My thinking is that if we all have an assigned cup, we can use it throughout the day and lighten up our dishwashing. I’ll tell you how it goes. : )

If you’re into useable monograms, you can also try the stemless wine glasses.

Scented Candle with a Personal Photo added

Idea number three: Photo Candles!
This might be my favorite of the three ideas. Actually, I like them all, but this one is very, very cute! You can have any photo added to a candle and there are tons of designs to choose from. Again, I was drawn to the simplest one, the Photo Gallery Candle. I used a black and white image, but you can use color too.

Scented Candles with Personal Photos added. Great gift idea.Custom Candles. You pick the scents and the photos. B&W or color.

As an added bit of fun, you get choose a scent for the candle! And depending on the scent you choose, the candle will have a different color. For example, Grapefruit Blossom scent is white and Fireside Spice is red. The candles are high quality, made with an all-natural soy blend and essential oils, and they burn for 50 hours.

Add type to your custom photo candles.

I ordered two of these candles and added an Eagle Scout photo of Ralph to each one. As you can see, I included a type overlay (Ralph Blair 2016) on one of the photos, and left the other blank. There are tons of options and fonts!

Since Ralph’s grandparents couldn’t make it to his Court of Honor, I thought it would be fun to send them one of these candles to commemorate the occasion. And the scent I picked is Evergreen Forest. Perfect right? I think the green looks very scout-y.

Custom Candles. You pick the scents and the photos. B&W or color.

These make such a terrific gift! I like them because the recipient can use them up and then say goodbye. No pressure or guilt to have them out on display forever. And sending a new photo candle a few times a year, featuring a recent picture of your darling baby, to a favorite aunt or godmother, could be such a fun tradition!

Alrighty. That’s 3 ideas to get the conversation started. Now I’m curious, how do you approach Mother’s Day gifts? Do you have lots of people to buy for? Is it hard to come up with thoughtful ideas, or do you have some angst-free traditions in place (like the charms)? And if you’re a mother, what about gifts for you? Do you make a wishlist so your spouse has something to start from? Does your heart go pitty pat for homemade gifts from the kids? Or maybe all you want for Mother’s Day is a long luxurious nap?


This post is sponsored by Shutterfly.

]]> 5
DIY: 3 Simple, Beautiful Clay Earrings — Even Kids Can Make These! Wed, 13 Apr 2016 14:00:30 +0000 Amy Christie

polymer-clay-earrings 18

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.

Homemade earrings that don’t look homemade at all! And so easy that your kids can get involved too. How does that sound?

polymer-clay-earrings 1

Amy Christie, who is the established queen of polymer clay, sent me this idea for 3 different earrings and I loved it immediately. I’m perpetually on the hunt for sweet, pretty, usable, handcrafted projects. Ideas that are perfect for a rainy afternoon, or for a Ladies Crafting Night, or for a birthday party activity, or to make as a gift. And this project definitely fits the bill!

polymer-clay-earrings 20

Before we jump into the instructions, I’d love to hear: have you ever made your own jewelry? In my experience it takes a particular patient frame of mind from me, because the elements are so small and can escape my fingers easily. Maybe that’s why kids take to this kind of project so well — they have smaller hands!

polymer-clay-earrings 19

Here’s what Amy says:

Earrings are my jewelry of choice. I rarely wear necklaces and bracelets because as a mom of toddlers, they are either a nuisance, in the way or irritating on my skin. Little hands like to pull on them as well which is no good. So earrings, I love them. As it is, polymer clay, another one of my loves, is a fantastic medium to make earrings from (as well as other jewelry pieces, if you are so inclined).

I put together steps for 3 easy earrings made with polymer clay. These are so simple, little hands can do them with a small amount of assistance from an adult.

polymer-clay-earrings 27

1) Circle Posts
A very simple circle earring post with little hatch marks for interest.

You need:
- polymer clay (we like Sculpey Premo)
- rolling pin, brayer or pasta machine
- small shape cutters or punches, optional
- dull edge
- earring posts
- strong adhesive (a two-part epoxy or E6000 is best)

1. Roll the polymer clay. Thick is good. If using a pasta machine, use the 9 setting.

2. Cut out shapes with a cutting blade or clay punch.

3. Using a dull edge, make hatch marks radiating from the center.

polymer-clay-earrings 2

4. Bake according to the manufacturer’s directions.

polymer-clay-earrings 3

5. Allow to cool before attaching the earring posts with glue.

polymer-clay-earrings 26

2) Cut “Gems”
I love these post earrings because they are so easy, they look really fancy and they don’t have to be perfect!

You need:
- polymer clay (we like Sculpey Premo)
- cutting blade
- gold pen
- earring posts
- strong adhesive (a two-part epoxy or E6000 is best)

1. Cut down the unconditioned block of polymer clay into a cube by removing the outer edges of the clay.

polymer-clay-earrings 8polymer-clay-earrings 9polymer-clay-earrings 10

2. Next, cut the cube into a “gem”. We gave ours 6 sides but the number is up to you.

polymer-clay-earrings 11

3. To make the facets, lay the gem on its side. Take the cutting edge and, setting it at a 45 degree angle, slice a facet. Repeat for each edge.

polymer-clay-earrings 13polymer-clay-earrings 12polymer-clay-earrings 14

4. Bake according to the manufacturer’s directions.

polymer-clay-earrings 14.1

5. Once cooled, use a gold pen to trace the edges.

polymer-clay-earrings 15

6. Allow to cool before attaching the earring posts with glue.

polymer-clay-earrings 28

3) Gold Crinkle Disks
A little shimmery shine.

You need:

- light colored polymer clay (white or pearl) — we like Sculpey Premo
- rolling pin, brayer or pasta machine
- gold leaf
- circle cutter
- spoon
- earring posts
- strong adhesive (a two-part epoxy or E6000 is best)

1. Roll the polymer clay very thin. If using a pasta machine, use the 1 setting.

2. Add gold leaf to the polymer clay.

3. Use a circle cutter to make two circles.

polymer-clay-earrings 4

4. With the backside of a spoon, gently thin the edges even more. This makes the clay even more flexible.

polymer-clay-earrings 5

5. Using your fingers, gently pinch and squeeze the clay into a wavy, crinkled circle.

polymer-clay-earrings 6polymer-clay-earrings 7

6. Bake according to the manufacturer’s directions.

polymer-clay-earrings 7.1

7. Allow to cool before attaching the earring posts with glue.

polymer-clay-earrings 25


Aren’t those fantastic! Thank you, Amy. I think the faceted “jewels” are my favorite, but I really love the crinkled gold ones too. I can’t wait to make some!

P.S. — Looking for more projects? Find all our DIY posts here.

Credits: Images, styling & text by Amy Christie.

]]> 1
Living With Kids: Emily Rosenfeld Tue, 12 Apr 2016 16:00:11 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos by Shannon Quinn.

Emily wrote to me after a friend introduced her to Design Mom. In her words, “I loved seeing real people living their creative lives with their kids. Seeing the lives people have put together throughout your Home Tours section — one beautiful map, accessible shelf, and cool color at a time, but all clearly real, worked for, and functional — has kept me up into the wee hours. And your invitation to participate has inspired me to write. I feel like your blog is filled with friends I haven’t met. I’d love to share my own home and story and join the party.”

There was a big yes from me, and crossed fingers that she’d send beautiful photos and more gorgeous words — and she sure didn’t let me down on either front! You’re going to find such love in this one.

Emily, welcome to the party!

Hello, everyone! I’m Emily. I live with my 11 year old son Jasper, and he lives with me, his 52 year old mama. He is passionate about soccer, has just listened to the Harry Potter series without pause, draws animals, is learning to put the salsa away after using it, and to take a shower more than once a week. He is also deeply perceptive, smart, and has won almost every hand of Rummy 500 he has ever played. We are both good listeners and are always in the mood for a good story.

Every night we read together at bedtime. It always feels like just the moment we have waited for, snuggling under the heavy covers talking about the day, asking questions. Was China an ally during WW2? If you have written a book about yourself is it a biography? We just finished Birds, Beasts and Relatives, the second in the series by Gerald Durrell about his family’s time on Corfu, just before the war. I loved loving this funny, articulate portrait with Jasper, laughing at the same passages, absorbing the same beautiful descriptions of the sea breaking into a galaxy of stars as the moon’s light shone onto its surface.

On my last birthday, a friend welcomed me to my full deck year, and that has felt both auspicious and right; Life feels very comfortable and sweet these days. I am passionate about my kid, my deep and many friendships, and my work. I have been supporting myself as a designer and maker of jewelry and of Judaica for 25 years. I am also a reckless but avid gardener who believes in moving things around, a lot.

Cooking for me is both reflexive and joyful. Standing at the stove feels like my rightful place, and when friends come over for dinner, it’s the spot from which I visit. At an early age, I was trained by my mom and my grandma to thrift shop and antique. So my house is filled with finds that tell not only a story of my aesthetic, but also of the day I found them, usually with my mom in some little shop or from the acres of Brimfield booths we visit twice a year. I find objects intriguing as well as pleasing. How they reflect their time or how their maker turns them into storytellers. Who made that sampler? Who originally — and perhaps without irony — owned that Native American couple statuette?

Though my mom, Joyce, does not live in my house, she lives near it and we drift in and out of each other’s homes on an almost daily basis. I could not have gotten luckier in the mom department. She is the most truly accepting person I know and throws the best dinner parties, with votives glowing in old crystal glasses and great conversation sparkling around the table. She has been a dancer, a teacher, a therapist, an artist, a saleswoman, and most recently an Airbnb host. And, of course, a fabulous grandmother with treasure troves of art supplies, a great sense of humor, and powerful love to give and give.

We live in Florence, Massachusetts, a village within the very cool town of Northampton, home to Smith College. It is a deeply progressive community — filled with artists, creative thinkers, farmers — and is the only city to have its trash hauled away by a bicycle collective! It was a Utopian community in the 1840s, home to abolitionists and pioneering activists like Sojourner Truth; I think those deep roots continue to shape the area today. Within a ten minute walk we have, among other things, the very swimmable Mill River, an independently owned hardware store cum general store, the library, playing fields, community gardens, Miss Flo’s diner, a Pie Bar, and a brewery. Our street is a block long with clapboard houses dating back to the 1880s. During our own renovation, we found newspaper that had been used for insulation, dated 1887.

Our block is close-knit and very friendly. Our kids play together and some of my closest friendships have developed here. My dear friend Mary lives across the street and is the person who originally anchored me here. Magically, my neighbor Lise opened a Reggio Emilia inspired in-home preschool, right when I needed one. Jasper went there, and Lise and her daughter have become like family.

Even with the neighbors who are private, there is a connection. Last night, I came home dreading the six inches of heavy snow I needed to shovel, to find that my shy neighbor Joe, the grandpa of Jasper’s good friends, a man who barely nods hello, had cleared the whole thing and the sidewalk, as well! In every way it is a sweet little street to have landed on.

I bought my house in 2000, right before prices exploded and after three especially good years of catalogues featuring my work. I feel very lucky to have gotten my place for just a little over $125,000, although much and very unsexy foundation work had to be done at great expense and huge effort — almost all of it by Jasper’s dad! But now there is almost nothing in my neighborhood for twice that amount, but lots for much more.

I chose my house the weekend after my 37th birthday. The night of my birthday, at 11 o’clock, the woman I was renting from came out to break up the quiet dinner party I had set up in the yard under lanterns and candle light. I was suddenly and completely finished being a tenant. My mom was visiting and encouraged me to call a realtor. We saw houses that needed a lot of work. Then my friend Mary called to say her neighbors were putting their house on the market the following week. The house was not only across the street from my dear but around the corner from my studio building. They were away but she had the key if I wanted to take a look. My mom and I spent an hour alone in the house!

Despite wall to wall carpeting, valances on every window, and my own anxiety at taking such a big step, it felt right. I saw as many more houses as I could in that week and decided this was the one. The owner sold it to me, probably for a little more than I should have paid, but it felt direct and easy. After my building inspection, scared about making a huge mistake, I asked the building inspector if I should buy it. Carefully and kindly he said, “It was a house built over 100 years ago for mill workers to afford. Now it is something an artist can afford.” I am so glad I did it!

I love the scale of my house. It is about 1100 square feet and the rooms are just big enough, though I wish the ceilings were about a foot higher. Half the house has beautiful light. My bedroom windows frame the sunrise. My kitchen is flooded with light all afternoon and its windows frame the sun as it sets behind the hills. The other half of the house is pretty dark and right next to a neighboring house; those curtains I just never open.

I’ve had some good surprises. When I took out the carpets, there was wide pine flooring in the front, oldest section. I had the battleship grey paint stripped and the honey colored planks that remained immediately made the house warm and filled it with character. Jasper’s dad, Keith, added on to what was a tiny kitchen to make the heart of our house. It is where you enter and it is where you stay. There is a couch, and a kitchen table, games, artwork, Jasper’s snow globes, and my stovetop altar made from a carved antique Indian lintel. Keith made the cabinet faces to look like they were from the 1930s and happened to have the perfect deco handles, and enough of them to finish the look perfectly. I based the cabinet color on Fiesta Ware orange, the one made with uranium.

I’ve also had some bad surprises! The foundation did not need re-pointing but essentially replacing. If I could wave a magic wand, I would add a working fireplace to the living room and a bathroom upstairs.  Also maybe a stone patio for the backyard if the magician is feeling generous. Maybe someday.

I am a designer who makes jewelry and also Judaica. I sell to stores, at craft shows, and through my website. I have been self-employed since I was 27 and feel incredibly grateful to be part of the American craft world. I started my business from a murphy bed closet in Oakland, California after graduating with an English degree and no desire to teach. It was so hard to claim that space when I had no craft to speak of! It has been a pretty cool  journey to my fourth floor studio overlooking the Mill River.

I make work that I want to wear, and that reflects what’s going on in my life. When Jasper turned two and I started traveling to shows without him, I needed to make myself something that was about him, that was a reminder and a connector. So, I designed a delicate ID style bracelet on which I stamped his name and birthday, combined with a bar that said Love. When he was four and learning his letters, he got that my bracelet was about him. For the next year or so he would play with it while we read, fingering the letters, saying them out loud. I have had that bracelet on for nine years and never take it off.

I have expanded to include multi charm necklaces, and these personalized pieces have become a primary focus of my line. I am in love with being able to tell personal stories with charms, gems, names, words, and initials. When customers share with me why they have chosen a certain collection of charms  it can be incredibly moving; crying is not unheard of in my booth at craft shows.

I can see my studio building from my kitchen window. It’s a former mill that made toothbrushes, and now houses about 80 artists, craftspeople, and small businesses. Every day, I walk into my big corner studio, with huge windows on two walls, and feel thankful. It is my second home. For me designing is energizing and deeply satisfying, and the bursts that happen to create a new collection for wholesale markets is inspiring and sustaining. But I also love the daily work of making, of sitting at my bench cleaning up castings, setting stones, and stamping names into personalized pieces.

My assistant, Anya and I are fantastic team and she is a huge part of why I enjoy my day and how I sustain my business. There would be no designing and making without showing and selling. I really enjoy this part of the process. My retail shows let me connect directly to customers, which nourishes me in an incredibly important way, not just financially. Seeing people respond to and ultimately buy what I make is not only gratifying, it animates the work and brings it fully into being. Doing shows mean I travel at least one long weekend a month, but it is a routine that I am used to and that has been part of Jasper’s life from the beginning. I like that he sees me committed to what I do and that he knows that it is what supports us.

My style is eclectic for sure. It is anchored in vintage finds and colors that pop. I’m definitely drawn by the story an object tells as well as by how it looks. My assumption is, if I love it, it can be friends with the other things I’ve chosen. So in my room, a water color of camellias from the 20s hangs near a framed handwritten list I found in Italy, hearts by ceramicist Sara Bressem, a huge self portrait in ink, acrylic, and glitter by Jasper, an old five-cent grocery store price sign and painted banner by Amy Johnquest, the Banner Queen.

Even though I have lots of things to look at, I want the overall feeling of my house to be soothing, so that it feels inviting and intriguing at the same time. There is something in every room that Jasper has made. As an enthusiastic and devoted mom, integrating his creativity and expression into the mix of my collections has been satisfying and necessary. Kids are prolific! But also I think it’s great for Jasper to see some of his own work chosen and used in the house; that I appreciate it for real.

It is just in the past year that Jasper has started to curate the look of his room. When a huge dragon that he made from a slice of bark needed a home, he decided where it would go and what needed to come down to make it fit. I loved taking down the prints I picked when he was a baby to make way for this new creation and this new stage. We are both people who like stuff; he gets it from both his dad and I. He makes careful arrangements of his menageries of lego constructions, geodes, and felt animals, and the countless and shifting stray bits. Arrangements have also become his signature cleaning style. On appointed clean up mornings he will order the coffee table jumble into a kind of store display of books, magazines, and a choice game or two. I love how conscious it is and how inviting he makes the objects!

I had Jasper at 41, just in the nick of time. And though we ended up doing in vitro after two ectopic pregnancies, the process seemed strangely easy for being so hard.

After my first doctor, with all the sensitivity of a stone, drew me two pictures, one of the plump ovaries and eggs of a twenty year old, and one of the shriveled ovaries and dried eggs of a 40 year old, I lost my sadness and fear and got determined. We got lucky with the first attempt and then the pregnancy became mine. I could move away from the intensely medical world into the hands of a midwife group I trusted and an acupuncturist I loved. Oddly, I felt more comfortable in my body than I ever had. I worked and did yoga right till the end. Although one show, during my tired first trimester, I had to sleep in the grass behind my booth while my mom took care of customers.

The day I went into labor I had plans to meet with my friend, Sara, who was going to my most important wholesale show for me because it fell on my due date. We were going to go over all the important stuff. My water broke at five in the morning and slight contractions started an hour later. Keith and I were giddy. Just as I was trying to go back to sleep, I remembered Sara. At 7:00 am I got up and started writing down every detail for her, then called her and went over it all. I realized that the minute I started working, all the contractions stopped. After we finished, within the hour they started again and at four in the afternoon, Jasper was born in the birthing tub, just as I had hoped.

Although I had always pictured having a baby earlier — 36 was my ideal age — as always, things worked out just as they needed to. That my professional life was firmly established has allowed me to parent and maintain my creative life. It also meant I could take care of us in that real world kind of way.

I’ve been single parenting for the last two years. Even though I only have one, very easy, reasonable, organized kid, there are still a lot of balls to keep in the air. My biggest challenge is to run my full time business often on part time hours. I have an amazing community of friends: at work, through Jasper’s school, old friends, dear friends who are there for me and for us in little and big ways! And, I have my secret weapon: my mom. She helps catch the loose ends, like when he’s sick and can’t come to the grocery store or the studio. When I’m at shows, Jasper is always with his dad, which maintains our family’s pattern and gives great continuity and support. Then there is the pretty simple, easy rhythm that Jasper and I have. I feel like it carries us.

I also leave dishes in the sink and leave the laundry unfolded — this is the key to my success! My priority is to get done what I need to, then have time with Jasper. I am really ok with what I can’t get done.

Picking a favorite thing about living with my son is too hard. I am in awe of the closeness that keeps growing between us. Every stage feels like the one that I will miss, but as he develops and matures, the richness of my experience of and with him deepens. It also becomes more broad.

The thing I’m afraid of missing is the intimacy of how connected we are. My goal is that his world keeps getting bigger, wider, more full. Right now it breaks my heart to think of not being central to him. But we aren’t there yet. When Jasper was about to start kindergarten, he asked me about college: what it was, how it worked.

“But I wouldn’t live with you?” he asked haltingly from his carseat. “Then I don’t think I want to go to college,” he decided after I explained the concept.

“Luckily,” I said, “you don’t go to college when you are five. You go when you are 18 and are ready to move!” Who knows how I will feel when he is 18.  Right now I am happy to have my 11 year old want me to run my fingers through his hair as he falls asleep and teach him how to make a quesadilla. I’m glad that bridge is years from having to be crossed.

I hope that Jasper remembers this time in our lives together, in our home, as happy. That completely trite and simple wish actually feels like the ultimate goal. I hope he remembers me being game: to play hacky sack soccer, a game he invented and I have never won, to listen to his playlist, to watch his newest soccer move. I hope my tired edginess is less front and center when he looks back on now — that, and the how smelly the refrigerator sometimes gets.

I wish someone had told me that when our family reconfigured, that I would not be alone. Well, actually I knew that first hand; I was raised by a single mom whose remarkable group of friends were our family and I never wanted it to be any other way. But, in the face of my own separation, the sadness and loss were edged with a growing panic that I would have to do everything by myself.

Not only would I have to care for Jasper’s heart but I’d also have to clean the gutters! I would fixate on the most mundane tasks, like mowing the lawn, and think, “I won’t be able to do this…” It was paralyzing and absolutely terrifying.

The good news is I am not living on a desert island, alone with my boy. As my life with Jasper unfolds, my community of friends has only gotten more involved, more precious. They help with the logistics of school and work, we spend holidays together and vacations, too. And what I experienced in my own childhood, Jasper is experiencing now. He has adults, in addition to his parents who love him, from whom he can learn and with whom he can explore ideas and interests. He has a circle of amazing role models to help him grow into his best self.

Jasper’s world has gotten bigger and mine has, too. I could not have guessed how good it would feel to see him fall in love with other grown ups. I also could not have guessed how how ok Jasper and I are, just us. We are fine, we are together, and we have many arms waiting to catch us or shovel our driveway if the need be.


Thank you so much, Emily! Northampton sounds lovely, as does the life you’ve created for you and yours. The scenes captured in these photographs would make for a really fantastic treasure hunt book! I spy with my little eye a kewpie doll, three pirate ships, and a snowy arch. Your turn!

I read the way you described getting pregnant at over 40 at least two times: “…the process seemed strangely easy for being so hard.” That seemed so poetic and just right to me, so thank you. Your home and mindset were exactly what I needed today.

P.S. – Are you living with your own kids in a unique way? Are you interested in sharing your home and experiences with us? Let me knowWe love to be inspired! And it’s a lot of fun…I promise! I should also mention, I have a goal to bring more diverse points of view to Design Mom this year. So if you don’t see yourself or your community reflected here, let’s make it happen — send in your details, or recommend a friend! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

]]> 36
Little Black Dress: From Day to Night Mon, 11 Apr 2016 17:00:39 +0000 Design Mom


By Gabrielle. Photos by Ralph Blair. This post is brought to you by Schoola. You can shop the Design Mom Schoola collection — 10 items from our family’s closets.

Last month, I introduced you to Schoola, and this month I’ve partnered with them on their Versatile Style campaign. They asked 3 bloggers to style a wardrobe essential for night and day. One styled denim, one styled an oxford shirt, and one styled a little black dress (that would be me). There’s an interview with me, too!

As part of the campaign, I donated 10 items from our family wardrobe, and you can shop the collection! I’ve been told by Schoola that they may sell out fast — apologies in advance if you click over and everything is gone. Though I’m keeping the school name private, the proceeds will go directly from Schoola to the awesome-but-under-funded Oakland Public Elementary School where Oscar, Betty and June attend.


As you may already know, Schoola is part online thrift store and part fundraising platform. It’s well known that school programs like art and music and PE have had huge budget cuts, or been dropped altogether, and Schoola is focused on saving and supporting those types of programs.

This is how Schoola works: 1) Request a free donation bag. Or if you’re feeling ambitious, organize a school-wide clothing drive — any school in the contiguous US can participate! 2) Clean out your closet and fill the bag with gently used kids’ and women’s clothing. 3) Send the bag to Schoola and tell them which school you want to benefit. Oh. And the donation bag comes with a pre-paid shipping label, so there’s no shipping cost for you! 4) 40% of the proceeds from the sale of your clothing goes directly to your school to help fund programs like art, music, field trips and physical education.


But back to the Versatile Style campaign — it’s all about everyday essentials! Pieces you can wear any season, over several years, for all sorts of outings. These are the real workhorses of your wardrobe, and I definitely consider a little black dress to be one of them.


I confess, I have more than one little black dress in my closet (this comes as a surprise to no one). They truly are so versatile and wearable — and on days where I’m feeling a bit rumpled, they add instant polish. I pair them with tights and boots in the winter. I love them with sandals and bare legs in the summer. Here in Oakland, the weather pretty much always calls for a flexible layer on top, so I often pair a little black dress with a cardigan, or a denim jacket, or a wrap, or a blazer.


And after wearing the dress around all day — at the grocery store, at the bank, at the school — I can throw on some heels and switch up the accessories, and I’m ready to meet friends for dinner or go to a show with Ben Blair.

When you think of your closet, what pieces come to mind that fit in the versatile style category? I have a pair of modern, stylish sweats that have joined my essentials, my black penny loafers definitely qualify, a simple light blue button down, my denim jacket too. What about you?

]]> 10