Design Mom The Intersection of Design & Motherhood Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:50:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Few Things Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:50:12 +0000 Design Mom

Union Square from the 30th floor

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you today? Ready for the weekend? I sure am. It was a jam-packed happy week and I feel like we’re ending it on a happy note, too. Which is great. Tonight the cousins are coming for a sleepover!

I have two siblings that live in the Bay Area and we’ve decided to make it a monthly tradition and rotate houses. Last month was at Jordan’s house, this month we’re hosting, and next month it’s Liz’s turn. We LOVE having the cousins over! It’s a funny thing, here we are in the same area, and you’d think we’d see each other constantly, but we’ve found putting specific plans on the calendar works best, otherwise, we get too busy and never get together. Do you live near any of your family members? Have you found the same thing to be true, or do you see each other often?

The other thing I’m excited about is that I’m working with photographer Kristen Loken today. I’ve worked with Kristen on two other occasions and she’s terrific. So it should be a really good day. But before I get to work, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

Win pajamas for your whole family! Just in time for your holiday pj tradition. Did you know tomorrow is National Family Pajama Night? It’s true! And The Company Store is supporting the big day by contributing a portion of every pair of pajamas they sell through December 22nd to the Ronald McDonald House Charities. The Company Store is also donating 3000 pairs of pjs to the RMHC! Such a great way to support families who are dealing with critical illnesses. Bonus: You can WIN pajamas for your family from The Company Store on my Instagram feed. It’s a 24 hour contest, so act fast!

- What do you think of this science-based approach to kids and screen time?

- “As a nation, we choose subsidizing corn syrup over childcare.” A very thought-provoking read on what’s being dubbed “the mommy problem.” Thanks, Vrylena.

- 11 Shared Bedrooms your kids would love!

- So goes the middle class, so goes the church. Thanks, Tom.

- Did you see the New York Times‘ list of 50 Thanksgiving dishes from all 50 states? Turns out, it’s a prime example of how cultural mapping can go wrong. (Grape salad, Minnesota?) Thanks, Sarah.

- Hilarious – how to pluralize your last name this holiday season. Thanks, Ainsley.

- Do you think you’re looking for perfection in all the wrong places?

- Our favorite fairy tales are actually even darker than we originally knew.

- How to turn your princess-obsessed toddler into a feminist. Ha! Thanks, Barbara.

I hope you have a really wonderful weekend. Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week? I just got goosebumps I’m so excited for the holidays this year! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.


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Minted Giveaway Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:00:06 +0000 Design Mom


By Gabrielle.

We were super excited to work with fabulous stationery company, Minted, on the latest Olive Us video, Love Letter to the Year. And we’re also super excited that they’re sponsoring a giveaway today.

Do you know Minted? They are a community of independent artists and designers who create paper goods like holiday photo cards, invitations, party supplies and art prints. The prize they’re offering is a very generous $350 store credit!!!


Minted was the perfect fit for the story we wanted to tell in Love Letter To The Year. We were looking for really gorgeous envelopes to use, because envelopes played such a big role in the video, and Minted had so many ideal options.

The Minted Envelope is brand new this year. You can choose from a ton of beautiful envelope designs, and huge bonus: for a limited time, recipient addressing is FREE! Such a time saver, and such a fun way to add some festivity before the card is even open.


You can choose The Minted Envelope for all holiday cards (except postcards and petite cards). I really love that the envelopes coordinate with Minted card designs.

Speaking of which, have you checked out Minted’s new holiday card line up? They have several new backers and interior options, plus new ornament format shapes, and even a totally new product called the Booklette™. So many awesome choices! How will you pick?! : )

To enter the giveaway, go here. It’s open until Wednesday night (11/26) at 11:59 PM PT. Good luck!

P.S. — If you haven’t seen Love Letter To The Year yet, I’m including it here. Don’t miss my sister Jordan’s appearance!

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Olive Us: Love Letter to the Year Thu, 20 Nov 2014 22:02:13 +0000 Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle.

It’s our holiday Olive Us episode! And it’s a charmer. It’s called Love Letter to the Year and we hope it will have you thinking about your own year, and feeling nostalgic about exchanging holiday cards. Betty’s narration is sweet as can be. And it even features my sister Jordan of Oh Happy Day, and her son Roman! I hope you enjoy the video.

Love Letter to the Year

I LOVE getting holiday cards in the mail. It’s definitely one of my favorite parts about December. I know it’s a tradition that can seem old school since so many of us connect throughout the year on places like Instagram and Facebook, but there’s just something about getting a paper card in the mail!

What’s your take on holiday cards? Do you send them? If yes, do you send them every year? And are you a early sender or a late one? Have you ever delayed, and sent out New Years cards instead? I always love hearing how different families handle common things like this.

P.S. — We worked with Minted on this episode. More on our collaboration tomorrow! Photos featured on the holiday cards were taken by Justin Hackworth and Sarah of Modern Kids. Also, curious about Olive Us? You can find all my Olive Us posts here.

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Join My Gift Boards! Wed, 19 Nov 2014 19:54:21 +0000 Design Mom

Design Mom's Gift Wrapping Pin Board

By Gabrielle. Image is a screengrab from my gift wrapping board.

Last year, I tried something new. Instead of sharing gift guide blog posts, I created gift guide boards on Pinterest. Though I confess, I sometimes missed seeing the pretty gift posts on my blog, overall, I really liked the advantages of sharing the ideas on pin boards. It allowed me to include a whole lot more ideas than I would be able to on the blog. And even better, I could keep sharing new finds throughout the holidays. Sometimes I find the perfect gift late in the game, and it was great to know that I could still share it.

So I’ve decided to use my gift boards again this year. But I thought it would be more fun if I made it a group effort. So I’m opening up the boards to all my fellow gift shoppers out there! When you spot something fantastic that you think Design Mom Readers would love, you can add to a gift board so everybody can see it. How does that sound?

Here are the 5 boards I started last year. As I shop for my kids and friends and husband and relatives, I’ll continue adding to them daily. I hope you’ll join the boards and add your picks too!:

Gifts Kids Can Really Make
Give handmade! And get your kids involved, too. These are smart, useable, good-looking gifts that kids can really make — for Teachers, Coaches, Friends, Siblings or Mom & Dad.

Gifts That Make the World Better
These items help people who are struggling. They create opportunities to learn a paying skill, and to provide the basic necessities for a family. These products feed the hungry, work toward abolishing poverty and make homes for orphans. Plus, they’re beautiful, high quality items that are easy to give and to receive!

Gifts for Your Bestie, Your Sister or Your Mom
Terrific gifts that the women you love will adore. Some to make and some to buy.

Gifts for The Men in Your Life
The coolest gifts to surprise and delight your boyfriend, husband, brother, uncle or dad (and your grown-up sons too!). Some traditional, some modern. 

Gifts for Kids
Find something awesome for your kids this year. Cool, unusual gifts that kids would LOVE to receive. Store bought gifts for kids, and handmade gifts for kids.

You can join any of these boards! Email me with your Pinterest username (or the email you use for pinterest) + the name of the board, or boards, you want to join, and I’ll add you to the group right away.

I want to add new boards too! I created one called All The Best Gift Wrapping Ideas, that you can join in on. And I’m thinking about a Gifts for Teens board, but I haven’t decided yet.

What are your thoughts? Are there any particular gift board topics you’d like me to create? I’m game for whatever will help!


UPDATE 11/20: I’ve created a Gifts for Teens board, and a Gifts Under $10 board. Feel free to join either or both!

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Children’s App Review: Toca Nature Tue, 18 Nov 2014 17:52:44 +0000 Design Mom

Toca Boca Nature2

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

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

Toca Nature Screenshot

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

Toca Nature Closeup

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

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

Toca Boca Nature6

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

Both Oscar and Betty love the app, and enjoy adding to and rearranging the little world they’ve created. (June too! It’s designed for ages 4 and up.) When Oscar heard I was writing an app review for Toca Nature, he asked if he could tell readers about it. Here’s what he had to say:

Toca Boca Nature3

“Well, there’s no end of the game. It keeps going and you don’t have to win. When you zoom in, you can see more stuff, sometimes you can find rocks with like a fossil on it or something.

Certain trees make certain animals appear. Like there’s a tree that can make a deer appear, a tree that can make a bird appear, and a tree that can make a bear appear. There are also mountains that summon wolves, and rivers that summon beavers. Once the trees are there, you can find a bunch of berries, acorns, and mushrooms. If you have water, you can find fish. 

I like that once you make the mountains high enough, snow appears. The wolf is my favorite animal in Toca Nature, that’s the only thing mountains give.”

There you have it. A peer-review for your kids. : )

Toca Boca Nature1

Toca Nature is a paid app. It’s $2.99 in the App Store, but like I mentioned above, there are no in-store purchases and no other ways to spend money on the app. It’s a flat fee and that’s it.

Have you heard about Toca Nature already? Do you think your kids would respond well to this sort of app — an app with no speed or points? And are there any other wholesome apps your kids loving these days? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — You can see all the children’s app review posts here.

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Living With Kids: Andrea Duclos Tue, 18 Nov 2014 15:00:33 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

Most of us can look around our home and get a sense of what we love, decor wise. Maybe there is a lot of grey with peacock blue accents. Or maybe you’re a yellow kind of a family. Perhaps there are bookshelves nearly fainting with the weight of your books, and baskets hiding all of your plastic, lit up, talking toys. You could be a bring the outside in decorator, or your black thumb may discourage that design concept altogether. And maybe, if you’re anything like Andrea, you own three blue floral couches.

I love that fact about her so much, I think it should be on her calling cards.

But it’s true, isn’t it? All that surrounds you tells the rest of us a whole lot about you. It may surprise us at first – three blue floral couches?! – or it may make perfect sense once we get to know you a little better. In Andrea’s case, it makes perfect sense. In fact, I think she should own four. Please welcome the very lovely Drea, everyone!

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

A: Our family is very much into anything food based, creative and art based, and plant based. I mean plant-based in the  gardening, farm, botanical garden sense, but it also applies to the fact that my daughter and I eat a plant-based diet.

My husband, Alex, is a chef, and I wrote a family cookbook that’s to be published next year, and our daughter, Marlowe, gets so mad at us if we turn down her help in the kitchen. My husband graduated with an art degree. I went to school for Marine Affairs, but pretty much only took art courses when I realized how intensely uninterested I was in cargo boats!

And as for Marlowe? She says she’s going to be a fashion designer and live alone in New York city, which is funny to everyone considering how little effort I put into style and fashion. But hey, the girl has dreams!

When we’re not cooking or eating, we like to spend our time at markets or gardens.  And now that the weather is almost cooling off here in south Florida, we’re spending our time back in our garden doing garden DIY after DIY project to make our backyard space not only capable of feeding us, but also (hopefully!) outdoor party ready. We also have two dogs: a very old man, Jerry the Dog Garcia (he’s 14) and Waylon “dum dum” Jennings, the puppy.

Q: How did this house become your home?

A: A SHORT SALE! Oh, thank goodness for short sales. Six months of waiting surely paid off for this space. I can’t say it enough, but if you’re in any sort of position to purchase a home, it’s worth the investment. Even a small, charming home is better than a large, fancy rental.

I had two or three offers turned down before I found this house on an accidental turn one day. I put my offer in and after three or four months of waiting, I had pretty much given up and packed my daughter for a temporary move to Hawaii. Two months later, I returned back to south Florida. With fear in my head and in my voice, I asked my realtor, “What do you think about the home? Will it happen? What should I do?” and he told me, “Yeah, at this point it’s probably best you start looking for other options.”

Forty five minutes later I received a call from my realtor excitedly proclaiming, “YOU MUST BE PSYCHIC! They JUST called me! You got the house!” And just like that, I was moving out of our rental moving in to our major fixer-upper with my daughter. A few months later, my now husband joined us. It was all absolutely worth the wait.

Q: Tell us why you love the place you live.

A: South Florida is unlike anywhere else in this country. Honestly, most of the time, when I look at other blogs, I feel like my life is just so very opposite to everyone else’s. Our summer is our hibernation period and our winter is our time to escape into the sun-shining outdoors. We many not have seasons or be very up-to-date in trends, but we have mangoes, avocados, and starfruit ten feet out our door.

It’s a bit more expensive and crowded just south of us in Miami, but West Palm Beach is highly affordable and a really easy town to live in as a family. I like our palm trees everywhere, our ocean down the street, and the thick humid air that hits you in the face when you step outside the airport, and back into our warm climate. We could maybe see ourselves living outside of the states one day, but here in the US?, there’s nowhere else I would consider home. We really love it here, and it fits us better than anywhere else.

Q: How would you describe your aesthetic? What are the must-haves in your home that make you crazy happy every time you catch sight of them? (Besides your family, of course!)

A: I like things to be pleasing, comfortable, and have just a touch of tropical whimsy and color. Does that make sense?

I feel like I have two very opposing sides to my personality, and my home meets the larger half: not very serious, very colorful, and slightly off-beat. On top of all the colors and patterns, I think the thing that people notice most is my love for all things floral.

I’ve now had five floral couches in my lifetime. I currently have three blue floral couches in my home. THREE! When I asked my mom if that was excessive, she said, “No. Some people only have brown leather couches in their home. You just happen to have blue floral.” She’s right.

While my things and style has only gotten more refined, my tastes and aesthetic has always been the same: colors, patterns, plants/florals, and fun.

Q: Your home isn’t just pretty; it seems to work hard, too. Do you think about utility when you’re designing a space to share with your family? How, specifically?

A: We absolutely think about a utility aspect in design. Not only do we lean more towards arts and creativity, but my husband and I (and our daughter, too) have a strong belief that things function best when organized.

Even in our kitchen, we don’t believe in uni-tasker appliances. We look at everything in a way that can be multifunctional. We want a beautiful yard we can spend time in, but that can also grow our food. Shelves that not only hold our most-loved items, but also store our usable, maybe not as pretty items. A guest room that can double as a work room and art room.

In our heads, it just makes sense to maximize the things we already have. We don’t need a bigger space; we just need to be smart with the space we have.

Q: You’ve chronicled your life along the way on your blog; where you began is so far away from where you seem to be now. Tell us how you’ve changed, and why you’ve loved blogging through it all. What has your blog added to your life?

A: I can very openly say, I think I’ve become a better person somewhere along the way. Not necessarily because of my blog – although I do write constantly about my struggle for balance or my undeniable shyness with strangers, and I feel like those are things I’ve been working on this whole time. And while I’m nowhere near perfect, I have gotten better with my self struggles.

I’ve always been incredibly open on my space. And I’ve always felt that if you can’t be open and honest, then you’re doing something wrong. I’ve shared struggles with single motherhood, with my husband, with self doubts and fears, and I’ve found connections, support, and friendships through it. I can look back at something and say “Wow, that was tough, but here I am now!” and be grateful for every rocky step it took to get me where I am.

My blog has given me the chance to not only support my daughter, but spend time with her. It has also given me an intense creative outlet. I’m not good at long projects – I’m moody with things like that – so blogging matches my personality perfectly. It allows me the opportunity to change, and changes with me. Blogging has also brought me incredible friendships, connections, and opportunities, both for me and my family.

I don’t love every aspect of the internet and blogging, but I wouldn’t trade it, either. I’m lucky to be able to just live my life honestly, and document it after.

Q: You’ve written a cookbook! Tell us all about what led you to this project, and where you’re hoping it will take you next.

A: Yes! I did! I mean, it’s still in that whole editing process. I’ve had it in my mind for about two or three years now that I would love to one day publish a cookbook. Am I a master chef? Totally not. But I think I am a flavor wizard when it comes to a lot of things. And not only that, I’m good at making healthy and/or vegan food approachable.

I do love living off plants, but I in no way believe you have to be pushy or militant to inspire others to do so, too. I wanted to be a good example of that. Alex loves pork, and it’s a running joke that whenever we go out, I order a vegetable dish and he orders a duck entree. But I know he never feels like he’s missing out at home…and I know that, because he would tell me!

Just because something doesn’t have meat doesn’t mean it’s not filling or satisfying; there are lots of ways to please the masses without adding mock-meats to the menu. And I’m excited to show that. It’s all about real food, comforting food, not completely healthy food…approachable food that happens to skip the animals.

I’m not sure where I want to take it next. I have a few more ideas for books, some food based and some not. But I’m not in any rush to accomplish that anytime soon. I like to dabble in everything. I like to explore.

Right now, I just finished up planning a two week retreat to Northern India. The trip focuses on artisans and handicraft making, daily yoga, sight-seeing (of course), the Holi festival, and a big chunk of it revolves around food between markets, and private cooking lessons in restaurants and homes, too. So I guess I see myself potentially doing more of that.

This current trip, set for spring 2015, is pretty much booked, I think we’re opening up two more spaces this week, but I am hoping to follow this current trip with one even more heavily revolving around food and family – from farms to markets – and growing to cooking. And if I could someday combine it all together? Even better.

Q: What do you hope your daughter remembers from this very moment in her childhood in this very house? And what do you hope she conveniently forgets?!

A: I hope Marlowe remembers and loves all our special moments. From french fry dates, to staying up a little bit later than usual, to all our ridiculous art projects. From the very beginning, she’s had special places to create and let her imagination run wild, and I hope she grows up to remember that.

I was never, ever allowed to hang anything on the walls in my childhood home, so it’s pretty much a given that I will happily hand her tape to stick her artwork (almost) anywhere she pleases.

It’s sort of amusing to me sitting here now, but I can’t think of one thing I hope she forgets. She’s got it pretty good. I hope she remembers it all.

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own child?

A: Honestly? Art projects. Sometimes I let out a big moan when she’s asking for her eighth art project of the day, but at the same time, it’s been one of my most favorite parts. I love arts and crafts and having an art obsessed little girl has given me a million more excuses to make time for coloring.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…

A: I wish someone had told me…oh, I’m having a hard time finishing this sentence. Really, I don’t think there has been anything that has caught me off guard or been shocking in this whole parenting game. I think going into motherhood as a single mother was really good for me. That’s not to say any of us should hope to be single mothers! But it brought an extra uncertainty in how my life would play out as a parent.

It also forced me to be even more resilient with a lot of things. From the get-go it challenged me to embrace the belief that life could very easily go in all unexpected directions, and I would have to be okay with it.

In life, with parenting or otherwise, you have to sort of be prepared for anything: good and bad. To expect anything will almost always lead to let-downs, so you have to just move forward into the unexpected, with a positive perspective, hoping for the best. I’m good with the “should have’s” and I’m grateful for all the nice surprises we’ve had along the way.


Thank you, Andrea! I have to say, I’m most inspired by your attention to utility among the beautiful. I think your words bear repeating: “We don’t believe in uni-tasker appliances. We look at everything in a way that can be multifunctional. We want a beautiful yard we can spend time in, but that can also grow our food. Shelves that not only hold our most-loved items, but also store our usable, maybe not as pretty items. A guest room that can double as a work room and art room. In our heads, it just makes sense to maximize the things we already have. We don’t need a bigger space; we just need to be smart with the space we have.” Yes to all.

I’m excited to read Drea’s cookbook; she makes living off plants sound kind of romantic! Especially if such a lifestyle still includes french fry dates. For those of you who are vegetarian or vegan, do you ever miss a food that you’ve eliminated from your diet? Do you ever “cheat,” and is that even the right term? I love to hear about your lifestyles!

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

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Gilmore Girls Mon, 17 Nov 2014 22:30:40 +0000 Design Mom


By Gabrielle.

Something silly and fun. I introduced Maude to Gilmore Girls a few weeks ago and she’s so into it! I used to LOVE watching Gilmore Girls. It was a weekly treat for me. I loved how fast they talked and I got a kick out of seeing how many cultural (or pop cultural) references I could recognize. I recommended the show to Maude last year, but it wasn’t available on any of the online TV sources we use, and we both sort of forgot about it. Then, a couple of months ago, suddenly it was — Netflix made the whole series available all at once. Which has made for some delightful binge watching over the past month. Hah!

I’ve been sitting in on the episodes whenever I have a moment. I love that it still feels fresh and current, and I love that the character Rory is a terrific teenager with ambitious goals and a commitment to good grades. : )

It’s got me thinking about other out-of-production shows my teens might like. Freaks & Geeks for sure. (I didn’t learn about it until it was already over. It’s so good!) But I don’t know what else. I hear people mention shows like Felicity, My So Called Life, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I never got into any of those series, so I’m not sure if they’re good enough to recommend to my kids.

What about you? Have you introduced any out-of-production shows to your kids? Or maybe you’re waiting until they’re older? What are you excited to re-watch with them?

P.S. — If you know Gilmore Girls, no doubt you’ll be curious: Maude is currently Team Jess.

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A Few Things Fri, 14 Nov 2014 18:48:32 +0000 Design Mom

Colors in Soho Fall 2014

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? How was your week? I am grinning because I loved my week. It’s always wonderful to be back in New York. The weather was exceptionally gorgeous while I was there, and I was able to be highly productive, plus get to see lots of people that I love. So five stars for that trip!

As for the weekend, I expect it to be quite low-key. Most likely some quality time with my laptop while I play work-catchup-after-travel. : ) How about you? Anything wonderful you’re looking forward to this weekend? I’d love to hear!

I’m off to power through my to-do list, but before I head out, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

Successful relationships boil down to two things: kindness and generosity. Thanks, Alana.

- The Daylight Savings time change has come and gone, but I just saw this and thought it was so funny!

- An honest discussion on race in Silicon Valley.

- So cool! A font to help people with dyslexia read more easily.

- Interesting. People don’t actually like creativity.

- I’m totally geeking out about the comet landing. You too?

- Do your little girls love pink? Do your boys avoid it? Should society be rethinking how we’ve gender-assigned a colorThanks, Deb. (Related, this is a really good read from the Smithsonian on how pink came to be a “girl” color in the first place.)

- One of my new DIY projects — make a gorgeous (bargain) set of dinnerware from mis-matched dishes!

- It turns out there’s a reason why some schools are cliquey and others aren’t. Thanks, Kari.

- Loving my sister-in-law Liz’s holiday collaboration with Cauliflower Kids.

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


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Petit Collage Giveaway Thu, 13 Nov 2014 19:50:51 +0000 Design Mom


By Gabrielle.

I’ve got a fabulous giveaway for you today. I know you’ll love it. The sponsor is Petit Collage, and the prize is a generous a $200 gift card!


Petit Collage was launched by the amazingly talented Lorena Siminovich about the same time as I started this blog, and I count myself lucky that we have worked together for so many years. I’m a huge fan the the design-focused, wholesome, classic products she creates. Made with recycled materials, vegetable inks, or made using FSC-certified wood, she makes sure her products are as eco-friendly as possible.

Petit Collage Toys 2014

I know many of you are starting your gift lists and holiday shopping this month, and Petit Collage is a shop that should definitely be on your radar. Their oversize wooden push toys, mini puzzles and floor puzzles, popout playsets, fabric dolls, matching games, and nesting cubes would all make beautiful, sure-to-please gifts.


If I won, I would be tempted by the brand new Starry Sky Mobile (speaking of which, the mobiles just had their prices lowered!), the Forest Friends Jumble Puzzle and the Modern Bird Popouts.

Extra fun: In celebration of their 8th birthday this month, Petit Collage is offering Design Mom readers 30% off their full purchase at Woo hoo! Use code bday14 through November 20th.

Visit Petit Collage and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to hear your favorite Petit Collage gift. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!


Vermontmommy is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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What I Packed for New York Wed, 12 Nov 2014 15:00:48 +0000 Design Mom

Golden Tote Fall 201401

By Gabrielle. Photos by Ben Blair for Design Mom. // This post is brought to you by Golden Tote.

There are lots of times in my life where I enjoy shopping for clothes — looking for deals, trying on outfits, figuring out accessories, even returning the clothes if buyer’s remorse set in. But 2014 has not been a good shopping year for me. There’s no getting around it, shopping takes time. And I just haven’t had enough time to make it happen. But I had this trip to New York ahead of me, and I knew the weather in NY would be colder than Oakland, and I knew I needed a few fresh pieces. So I was trying to figure out what to do. Then I remembered Golden Tote.

My sister Jordan has written about them a few times over the last couple of years and I thought this was the perfect time to try it out. If Golden Tote is new to you, essentially, it’s an awesome way to get stylish clothing at amazing deals. Here’s how it works. First, you go to the Golden Tote website and choose one of two options — $49 for 2-3 clothing items, or $149 for 5-7 clothing items. The retail value is up to $200 and $600 respectively! Next you choose one or two items to go into your tote, and the team at Golden Tote will surprise you with the rest.

Golden Tote Fall 201407

But it’s not just random picks. The Golden Tote founders are clothing designers from L.A. They design some of the clothing you’ll see on the site, and they also work with fashion brands to get deep discounts that they pass along to us. Also, as you check out, you’ll be guided through a little style profile, and the Golden Tote designers will choose items for you based on your profile. It’s like the whole bag is like this fantastic surprise created just for you!

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I received my tote last Thursday (it’s an actual tote bag, by the way), and it was such a treat to open — I was super curious to see what they had sent. I tried on the pieces and started putting them together with items already in my closet. At first, I was a little wary — there was one top in particular that I didn’t think I would like and wouldn’t have picked for myself. But by the end of my closet session, it was my favorite thing that they sent! Can you guess which piece it is? The blouse in the very top photo!

Seeing my change of heart about that shirt really convinced me of the value of the whole Golden Tote concept — sometimes it’s really nice to have someone make fashion decisions on your behalf. It gets you to try new things and maybe look at yourself in a new way.

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And I was even more convinced when I realized I had 4 outfits ready to go for the trip, and I hadn’t had to run a single errand! Golden Tote is so smart for women who don’t have time to shop, and aren’t sure what to buy even if they did have time.

If you’d like to check it out, new sales launch on the first Monday of every month. I suggest you shop the site as soon as the sale launches — because some of the pieces sell out quick!

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Outfit One:
Patterned Blouse from Golden Tote. Pants from Banana Republic. Gold loafers from Sseko. This outfit is so comfortable it’s like pajamas, but I think it looks very elegant. And the top is polyester, which makes it great for traveling.

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I only had room to pack one pair of heels, and I wasn’t sure what nights I might be going out, so I tried on each outfit with the heels to make sure it could work. The heels are an older pair from the Jessica Simpson line that I’ve had for years. They’re a shade of burnished red, with a suede finish, that always feels perfect for the fall. They looked great with this outfit!

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Outfit Two:
Elbow Patch Sweater from Golden Tote. Jean from Uniqlo. Scarf from FashionABLE. Boots from Chloe (they’re vintage!). This is another really comfortable outfit. I knew I would be walking quite a bit on this trip, so I wanted to have smart shoes for each day. I wore this on Monday from morning through dinner and felt stylish and comfortable the whole time.

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Again, I tried this on with the heels just in case. Heels make any outfit feel fancy. : )

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Outfit Three:
Black & White Sweater/Jacket by Golden Tote. Turtleneck and Cropped Pants from H&M. Same heels as above. I tried these outfits on Saturday afternoon, and this one was the favorite of Maude. She already borrowed the sweater. : ) It’s a really nice layering weight and has a fun letterman jacket feel to it.

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Outfit Four:
Split Personality shirt from Golden Tote. Pants by Les Chiffoniers (found at the same vintage shop where I picked out the Chloe boots!). Scarf by Printed Village. Shoes by Vans. I don’t know how well it shows off in the photos, but I really love this top! The front and sleeves are grey knit, while the the back is cut like a classic dress shirt. It’s super cool!

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I planned this outfit for today because I knew I would be traveling this afternoon and this outfit is very travel-friendly. The vans are perfect airport shoes.

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And yes, I tried this on with the heels as well!

I really enjoyed my Golden Tote experience — I was glad to have new items for this trip, and I’ll be glad to have them for the holidays as well. What about you? Is the idea of Golden Tote appealing to you? The idea of buying clothes and then being surprised by what arrives? How do feel about having a designer that you don’t know personally pick out clothes for you? And do you feel like this would be a time saver for you like it was for me? I’d love to hear!

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Growing A Family: From Beethoven to Billie Jean Wed, 12 Nov 2014 11:00:43 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Beethoven tee available at Out To Play Kids on Etsy.

Do you remember the music that accompanied you on your drive to deliver your babies? The songs you made sure were humming through your headphones during every contraction? The soundtrack of our births are so precious, aren’t they? Whether you planned out playlists or serendipitously sang a tune the moment you caught sight of the newest member of your life, a replay even years down the road can still bring you to tears!

The music that played at the beginning and end of Katie Larson‘s birth story couldn’t be more different. That tiny detail reminds me of life as a parent; some of the most unexpectedly wonderful moments – the ones you definitely would’ve planned so, so differently – are pretty darn perfect in their randomness. Beethoven to Billie Jean? Yes, that’s exactly like parenting! Welcome, Katie!

Your story starts long before the day we met you, of course. But for today, we’ll begin when I was 32 weeks pregnant, and we learned you were a breech baby – a title you chose to keep despite my every last attempt and plea to convince you to turn. We went to a chiropractor, did inversions at home, and exhausted a number of other home remedies that now I’m almost embarrassed to admit. Turn, baby, turn, we chanted. In a last attempt, we did a version procedure at the hospital, which ended in failure and a few tears of frustration. I joked that you were already a stubborn thing, but also that your mistaken position betrayed an inheritance of your father’s sense of direction, something he will deny. In any case, you were turned your own way, right from the start.

Around 37 weeks or so, we were asked to schedule a caesarean a few days before your due date. We were given three days to choose from: September 11, 12, or 13th. The 11th was not a day we wanted, for reasons that you’ll someday understand. The 12th ended up being completely booked, but the 13th, a Friday, had a number of times open. My doctor was nice enough to offer to come in that Saturday, the 14th, to deliver you, but given that the 14th of September is my birthday, your dad was adamant we not share it. So Friday the 13th (which he reasoned isn’t taboo in Denmark) it was. I went along with it, still stunned at the idea of selecting the day that I had always, in my mind’s eye, assumed would be ushered in by contractions or waters breaking, not by hovering over our phone calendars and penciling “Hospital” in to the 6:00 a.m. time slot. It felt strange to schedule the moment at which I would become a mother to you.

The next few weeks flew by and crept along at the same time, but finally the 13th of September was upon us. We greeted it right at midnight, too excited to settle down for a decent bedtime the night before your birthday. After a few lackluster hours of forced sleep, I showered in the dark of early morning, taking in my pregnant body for the last time. Feeling you in, knowing soon you’d be out.

On the short drive to the hospital, we listened to my favorite: the 2nd movement from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. It’s beautiful – but not gentle, not soothing, not safe. Its builds and builds, the opposite of what it ought to have taken to calm my nerves, but somehow, strangely, it was exactly what I needed. I know you heard it, because we played it loud, the kind of loud that eliminates the possibility for conversation, just barely leaving room to think.

There are moments in life when you’re totally aware, so fully present, and this was one of those. Moved by the music, my awareness heightened by nerves and the poignancy of the moment – the last calm before stepping into bright lights of a sterile operating room, not to mention the years to follow it – I blinked back tears as we shuttled down the empty highway, wondering at the gift we were about to receive, appreciating the opportunity to feel it, but knowing that everything – everything – was about to change.

We parked in the hospital garage and went in through the emergency room, the only entrance open at that early hour. Stepping on to the elevator and riding up to labor and delivery, we passed your daddy’s old floor, the one for Patricia Neal, the rehab center he was transferred to after his accident. And it felt right to be back there, in that hospital, to have you. The place where he started to come back to himself, where he learned to walk again, graduating from wheelchair to walker to cane. Where we had your sister’s 3rd birthday party in a hospital meeting room. The place from which finally, after almost two months of life interrupted at two different hospitals, we went home and were a family again.

After checking in, being shown to our room, and getting into the hospital gown, I had two things on my agenda: to make sure I had a good nurse put in my IV (they terrify me), and to ask about us all staying together after the caesarean, instead of you going to the nursery while I was stitched up. This felt terribly important, to have you with me at the very beginning. We had put in this request the week before, but I was doubtful that it had made it to the right person ahead of time, so I was surprised when the doctor came in and said it had all been approved, as long as you were healthy and things went according to plan.

After a kind and compassionate nurse made my IV placement far less traumatic than I’d feared, they took me back to the OR at about 7:20. Beverly, the southern, matronly nurse I was assigned for the day, talked me through the process, putting me a little more at ease.

There were some other nurses in the room, milling about and getting things ready, and they all took the time to introduce themselves to me.

“Have you decided on her name?” they asked.

We hadn’t; not yet. There were two names we were torn between. Your dad had a clear favorite, but after months of agonizing back and forth, the only thing I felt sure of was putting off the final decision until we met you.

Sitting on the edge of the operating table, I leaned forward as instructed, hugging my arms around Beverly while I was promised only a bee sting to numb me before the spinal block. I was freezing, which made it hard to keep still, but nestling up against her helped with that, and I was too scared and cold to care.

After the spinal was in, they laid me back and soon started the tap, tap, tap around my lower half to check that it was working. I should feel it but not feel it, they said. “Ok,” I said, “I feel that, but how do I know if I feel it?” It seemed a very important thing to get right, that making sure that the block was as it should be. After a few pinches that I suppose should have hurt, I was given the all clear.

Your dad was whisked in and seated at my head. Shortly after that, they told us they were starting, and I started to feel some tugs and pulls, the rest of me sometimes moving along somewhat with those, the only indicator of what was happening on the other side of the drape. The radio was on, the pop station in town. They said you were almost out. Billie Jean had just begun. I’ll never forget that: Billie Jean is not my lover; she’s just a girl who claims that I am the one…not the song I would have picked for your debut, but I at least felt better that we’d gotten the Beethoven in earlier.

Another pull, a big tug, an exclamation from a nurse at all of your hair, and then a cry. I nearly lost my breath.

Followed by a “Whoops!” and silence. You had slipped back in, they said, so they pulled you out a second time.

So you were born twice, moments apart, at 7:46 a.m.

A nurse brought you around for a quick peek before cleaning you up. We gaped at your head full of blonde hair atop the prettiest little face. You were announcing yourself with impressively loud cries, so for the second time that morning, we found ourselves in the kind of loud that rendered us speechless.

I don’t know how to say it, but it wasn’t the you that I had pictured. I’d always assumed dark hair, like me. Like almost my whole extended family. And yet, there you were, a little blonde Scandinavian thing with the most perfect tiny rosebud lips.

She came out of me? I remember thinking.

“She’s Ingrid,” your daddy said, one of the two names we had in the running, the one I wasn’t so sure about. Was it too different? I had worried whether it was a pretty enough name in English.

And then the nurse brought you back over and placed you in the arms of your beaming, proud father. Looking over at you, the spitting image of your Danish daddy, I realized that you were indeed Ingrid Elizabeth, not the Charlotte Elizabeth I’d been expecting, and I saw that you would have no trouble at all carrying the name I’d been a little afraid of.

“Yes,” I laughed, “she’s Ingrid, isn’t she?”

Now quiet and calm, you stayed in your dad’s arms while they finished with me, and they laid you by me in the bed when they took us back to our room. You were nursing by 8:20, and other than needing a few minutes in the warmer, you showed no apparent distress at how significantly your little world had expanded in the preceding hour. I, on the other hand, was in utter disbelief at my reality’s sudden explosion to include you; I marveled at how in the span of that early morning I’d gone from worrying over an IV to breastfeeding a baby, from Beethoven to Billie Jean in between. A whirlwind of the very best kind.

And so an hour or so later, when much of the excitement in the room had died down and someone piped up with news of a hurricane brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, I shouldn’t have been surprised by what they named that spinning storm.

They called it Ingrid. Of course they did. We threw our heads back and laughed at the odds of Life handing out a coincidence of such proportions. We wondered at the gift we had received.

Keep turning your own way, sweet girl. You are our whirlwind of the best kind. We see you, we feel you – you’re our Ingrid. You were, all along.


Thank you, Katie! This was lovely. Friends, Katie’s due date options reminded me of our superstitions over traditionally “bad” dates. Were you ever faced with a scheduling decision like Katie’s? Or were you unexpectedly forced to welcome your baby on one of your not-favorite days? (I bet it quickly became a favorite, right?)

And I can’t let you leave without asking the big question: What was playing during your delivery? For those still in the planning stages, what’s on your dream playlist?

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?

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Book of the Week: Meet The Artist Series Tue, 11 Nov 2014 19:50:57 +0000 Design Mom

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Images and text by Gabrielle.

This is just a quick little post. I wanted to be sure I told you about this terrific series of books by Patricia Geis called Meet the Artist. There are 3 in the series so far: Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Alexander Calder.

I think these books are just right for kids. They’re short — only a few spreads in each one, so they’re not overwhelming. And they’re packed full of interactive details. Flaps to lift, pop up pieces, and 3-D surprises. They offer lots of good basic info about each artist and show enough of the artist’s work so that it feels familiar.

I’ve started to get questions from readers about good holiday gift options, and I think these books would be lovely for any budding artist out there! Here’s an interior shot from each book so you can get an idea of what they’re like:

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Any other great art books for kids you’ve seen lately? Feel free to add the titles in the comments!


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Living With Kids: Susan McMurray Tue, 11 Nov 2014 17:00:47 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

When Susan wrote and expressed interest in participating in a Living With Kids tour, she mentioned that she lives in Tulsa, that she teaches at a University, that she has two teen girls and a son, and that she strives to make her home a place to teach her kids the importance of hospitality.

Hospitality? That goal made me think and think and think some more, and I love it more each time. It is a learned skill for a lot of families, don’t you think? Inviting others into your space and making them feel like…well…mi casa es su casa. Easier said in Spanish than done! Perhaps Susan’s words will inspire you to open up your life a little, which I think would be a very lovely development. Welcome, Susan! I’m so glad you’re here!

Q: Introduce us to your favorite people.

A: I am so blessed to get live with my wonderful husband, Brian, and my three children. I am originally from Colorado, and currently work as a faculty member at a University here in Tulsa. Although I don’t have a lot of free time, decorating and being creative with my home is a true love of mine.

Brian and I met in college and have been married for 22 years. Brian develops and manages cancer treatment facilities throughout the Southwest.  He is an amazing husband and father and very involved in the kids’ lives. He rarely misses one of their events. He keeps us laughing and sets the tone for the fun in our family.

I have two teenage daughters in high school. Ashlyn is 16 and Madelyn is 14. Although close in age, I love how different my daughters are from each other, both comfortable in their unique personalities. If I had one word to describe each, Ashlyn, is sugar and our younger daughter Madelyn is spice.  Ashlyn is sweet, responsible, and super organized. She actually likes organizing junk drawers and closets! What an utter relief to delegate these tasks to her! She is a great sounding board for design and has her own flair for decorating. Madelyn is witty, independent, and quite adventurous. She has a competitive streak which makes her a great athlete, but don’t underestimate her love of all things girly. She also has a passion for shopping. In fact, I recently put her on an allowance to teach her the importance of saving, budgeting, and patience when it comes to her love of shopping malls.

Then there’s our son Dylan. He’s ten and all boy. Dylan was a surprise addition to our family, but we’re so glad he’s here. Sometimes things have a way of working out just as they should, as my husband and I were really on the fence about having a third child. Dylan loves all things sports. You’ll often find him watching YouTube videos analyzing plays from the great athletes. He’s quite observant and has his own sense of style. He’s definitely the strongest personality of my three, a leader in the making with a few rough edges we’re working through. I never imagined how fun it would be to have a boy, and I’m so glad to experience parenting both genders.

Q: How did this house become your home?

A: We had lived in our previous home for nearly 16 years. My husband and I moved into that home before we even had kids. It was a lovely, one-story home that served us well when we had young children, but we had long outgrown that house as the children were getting older, and knew we needed a house with more space. We needed more areas for the kids to just hang – especially with their friends. I never wanted to discourage my children from having their friends over even though our space was limited. My husband and I distinctly remember times at the old house where we hid out in our bedroom to give our kids space to interact with their friends in the living room.

We looked at existing homes for nearly two years and just couldn’t find a home with a floor plan that worked for our family. We also found many of the existing homes needed a lot of love and remodeling TLC.  We determined that a new construction would actually fit better in our budget, and we wouldn’t need to spend even more money on renovations in addition to the purchase price of the home. We wanted a house with a game room and all three children’s bedrooms upstairs. We also wanted an open downstairs floor plan. So we drew up the plans and found a builder.

Unfortunately the building process was not a smooth one for us. Our builder mismanaged the timeline and budget. The house should have been done in nine months, but a year-and-a-half later it still wasn’t finished and already 25% over budget.  After numerous delays and budget increases, our builder basically walked off the job and left us with an unfinished house. We moved into our filthy, unfinished house the week before Thanksgiving in November 2013. So, moving day wasn’t the day I had been dreaming of for nearly five years. We felt completely ignorant and unequipped to take on the responsibilities of finishing the house, in addition to our full time jobs and raising our family.


But God bless my husband for rolling up his sleeves and doing what it took to get the house finished! We approached a builder who happened to live in our neighborhood and whose kids went to the same school as ours. He was gracious to share contractor names with us. Brian was on the phone daily lining up contractors to finish the guttering, outside painting, dirt work, sod, pool, and endless odds and ends. Finishing this house felt like a never-ending job. It was certainly one of the most taxing and stressful times we have experienced. But nearly one year later, we are on the other side of it. We are starting to breathe again, enjoy the house, and get back to the place of gratitude for this home that we can create to be uniquely ours. How fortunate we are!

Q: What makes you love the place you live?

A: Considering that I am from Colorado, and my husband from Washington State, we never thought we would settle in Tulsa after college. But what a wonderful city to live in, especially with children! Also known as Green Country, Tulsa is situated on the Arkansas River at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. The best part of Tulsa is without a doubt the people! Tulsans are kind, friendly, hard-working, and family-oriented.

Between public, private, and home school co-ops, Tulsa provides numerous choices in education. And talk about cost of living! I don’t know that our house would be in our means in many other cities. As far as activities, Tulsa has something for everyone including live music venues, two world-renowned art museums, opera and ballet companies, and even an outstanding zoo and science museum. From enjoying one of Tulsa’s numerous restaurants, to attending a high school football rivalry game, there’s always something to do in our great city. Some choose to live in the trendy parts of town such as Cherry Street, Brookside, and Utica while others prefer the suburbs of South Tulsa. We actually live just 20 minutes outside of Tulsa in a more rural community. Horses and peacock-lined roads make for a fun commute to the grocery store. Tulsa definitely feels like home.

Q: What was the one design element that you wanted to be sure your family home included as it relates to living well with your kids?

A: The design element that I was going for was creating spaces that would facilitate family time and teenager time with friends. I’m not sure those are design elements, but they were serious considerations when creating our spaces. For example, when thinking about the layout in our downstairs living room, in the back of my mind I was thinking, “Do we all have a comfortable place to sit down and watch a movie?”  So two couches and two recliner chairs became the starting point.

When my children have their friends over I wanted there to be spaces that they could all just hang out and feel comfortable to linger. This took some thought and intention, and we ended up with a game room with a television, large sectional and game area and a large backyard with a pool, trampoline, volleyball court, and fire pit. Teenagers need a safe comfortable place to nurture their friendships. I wanted our house to be that place – and fun, too!

I also had to be mindful of the family budget, so I had to be creative to repurpose what we already had. I’ve spent many hours in the garage sanding, staining or repainting furniture pieces. In terms of art, many of the pieces hanging on our walls are items that are very meaningful to us. We framed special items such as my children’s artwork from school, their baby clothes, or my father-in-law’s letters to his parents when he was eight years old and had to spend eight months in the hospital. We’ve found good deals on art pieces that we almost loved. We’re not afraid to paint over the colors we don’t like, and make our own contributions to the art piece.

Q: What’s your favorite time of day in your home? When does it work for everyone best? How does the room decor contribute to this harmony?

A: Without a doubt, our favorite time of day in our home is the evening. After busy days at school and work, this is our time to regroup and relax. We strive to sit down at the dinner table together as a family and catch up. The open floor plan on the first floor allows us to all be together during the evenings. I can be preparing dinner while the kids are doing homework in the office or watching TV in the living room.

When we moved into our house with a second story game room, we thought our kids would spend a lot of time up there. To our delight, they still spend most of their time in our main living area. Our outdoor living space is also an extension of our main living area and a great place to enjoy family time in the evenings. Be it swimming, sitting out on the patio and watching the sunset, or sitting by the fire pit, evenings have become one of our favorite times in our house to relax, catch-up and recharge. Oh, and as a special surprise we’ve discovered is all the fireflies and hummingbirds that visit us at dusk.

Q: You teach at a university. Tell us all about it!

A: When I’m not at home with my own kids, I head off to work and spend my days with my college kids. I am a faculty member at Oral Roberts University, a Christian university in Tulsa. You know what they say about the best part of teacher’s job don’t you? May, June, and July! Just kidding, although summer vacation is a pretty great part of my job.

I’ve been teaching at ORU for the past 18 years. I feel beyond honored and privileged to be in this position. I’m not sure there’s any job that is more fun then teaching college students; they keep me energized and young, and I really feel I’m walking in my true strengths in this position. I teach for the Communications major and I do my best to invest knowledge and new skill sets into my students’ lives, but I must say that my students do just as much of the teaching as I do. I learn a lot from them, and I always marvel at their excitement and vision to go make a difference in their world.

I also have some of the most wonderful co-workers! This job truly has offered me the best of both worlds. I get to have a fulfilling career that offers much flexibility and margin for the other roles in my life. My schedule affords me the ability to always pick up my kids after school. And, of course, I am off during summer and winter breaks, too. I truly feel so blessed when it comes to my job.

Q: We always love a conversation about working and balancing kids…especially teenagers! How has the transition into the true teens – with more responsibility and shared trust – affected your family life?

A: Although not always easy to keep all my plates spinning, I recognize that this is the season in my life that I fully embrace as organized chaos. This season is not easy, and most days are completely exhausting, but I also know that this season will not last forever. In another decade, my children will be in a whole different place. Soon they will not need their parents as much, and we will not be able to spend as much time together. So I will treasure this time with every ounce of gratitude that I can muster. I love watching my kids grow and mature into young adults, who are working hard and making good decisions.

As far as the transition to the teenage years goes, I wish I could say I was one of those sentimental moms, all teary-eyed when my first-born drove off by herself for the first time. All I remember thinking was, “Woo Hoo! I now have a third driver in the family!” I realized that this might just free me up from several hours of driving each week, taking my kids to and from school and their many activities.

Although I respect my daughter’s privacy, another trick to ease my worries of my newly independent teen is the wonderful little App called Find My iPhone. Let me assure you, this provides much peace of mind for a parent dealing with a new driver. We are able to make sure she arrives safely to her locations – especially at night. But I must commend her for doing an excellent job in communicating and always letting us know where she is.

Q: You mentioned that you strive to teach your kids about hospitality and nurturing friendships in your home. Tell us how you do it and why is that an important life skill to you?

A: I find that hospitality is such a dying art in today’s society. We just don’t seem to invite others into our homes like the generations before us did. I know, personally, I shy away from opening up my house because sometimes life feels chaotic and I’m just too darn busy to make time to have others over. And also, I feel that my house has to be perfect before I invite others in. I realized that I had to let go of both of those excuses. I’m trying to teach my children that one of the most important things in our lives are our relationships. But we must nurture them.  So we have been more diligent to open up our house and invite others in. We never regret it.

When my children ask if they can have friends over, I never want to say no. I may have to suggest an alternate time, but I never want to say no. Teenagers like to be together, and they need somewhere safe to hang out. I’d much rather they be at our house then some of the alternatives. Hospitality is a skill set that can be learned, and I want my kids to learn it while they are young.

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? What has surprised you the most about being a mom? 

A: Although every season of raising kids has its own joys and challenges, I just love the current stage we are in with our kids. Perhaps it was the fact that I had a toddler on my hip for twelve years straight that I was ready to transition out of the baby/toddler phase. Those were some hard years!

I have wholeheartedly embraced parenting my older, more independent children. I am somewhat surprised by how great the middle and teenage years are! Based on what you hear about raising teenagers, I had always braced myself for the challenges of the teenage years. So perhaps I am surprised that I am actually enjoying these teenagers of mine immensely. We have our share of teenage moments with attitudes and drama, but on the whole, they are so much fun! We laugh, we get to do things together, we plan for and dream about the future. But best of all, I don’t have to do their laundry or scrub their toilets anymore!

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish someone had told me…

A: I wish someone had told me how caring for my own children would teach me so much about God’s love. Faith is an integral part of my family’s life, and my love for my children is a reminder of God’s love toward me. I love my own children so much. I care about every detail of their lives. I take pride in knowing they are provided for and well cared for. There’s nothing I wouldn’t sacrifice for their well-being.

Through this, I gained a deeper realization that the way I love my own children is the same way that God loves me – except His love is even better, deeper, stronger, complete!


Thank you, Susan! Those of us with teens understand the importance of giving them an area in which they’re comfortable and interactive and safe. I love that even before you had the space, you and Brian were hiding out in the bedroom to afford them that luxury. Oh, the things we parents do!

For those of you with teens, how’s it going? Can you even believe how life is speeding by…especially fast if you’re in the passenger seat with a new driver at the wheel?! Do you have any Find My iPhone-esque apps or tricks that help you keep an eye on them? Please spill!

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your own home with us? Just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! Take a peek at all the homes in my Living With Kids series here.

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Hiho Batik Giveaway Tue, 11 Nov 2014 01:24:41 +0000 Design Mom


By Gabrielle.

While I’m here in New York, how about a fun giveaway from a Brooklyn-based sponsor? Hiho Batik is offering two Tote Bags valued at $100!

Is Hiho Batik new to you? The shop is new to me for sure. I first heard about Hiho Batik a couple of months ago and I’m totally into the concept of the store. They offer all sorts of things, like hoodies, tee-shirts, aprons, pillows — even holiday stockings — all with really cool batik designs. And each design is created by hand. So they turn out slightly different each time, and each item is one of a kind!

Hiho Batik Fall 2014

But even cooler is their custom option. You can send Hiho Batik an illustration created by your child (or by you!), and they’ll turn that into a batik design, then apply it to a tee-shirt, or sweatshirt, or messenger bag, or whatever you like! Wouldn’t that make the coolest holiday gift?

I really love the look of batik, and I love even more that each item in their shop is created individually. I think my favorites are the Taxi Crew, the Geostripe Bag, and the New York City Hoodie. Extra fun: you can get 15% off all orders with the code: designmom2014. It’s valid until the end of November. Hooray!

Visit Hiho Batik and leave a comment below — I’d love to know what design you like best (or what design you’d like to create yourself!). The winner will be announced on Thursday. Good luck!

P.S. — If you live in New York, you can also visit the shop or even host a batik-ing party there!


Amy M. is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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De-fuzzing Mon, 10 Nov 2014 14:05:28 +0000 Design Mom


Image and text by Gabrielle.

Good morning! I’m waving hello from New York! I’m here till Wednesday afternoon. I’ll be working in my publisher’s offices as we go through the “first-pass” of my book and make a task list of everything I still need to do — tips I want to develop a bit further, additional photos I should add — things like that. It’s amazingly exciting to see all the pages printed out. Also, intimidating!

Totally unrelated, but last week on Instagram, I mentioned that my brain needed something mindless to do, so I had spent an evening “de-fuzzing” Betty’s sweater. Sometimes I need to sort of check out mentally, but can’t handle TV. I need something that will feel at least semi-productive, but not physically demanding at all. De-fuzzing is totally one of those tasks for me. It takes patience, but no skill. You just run the de-fuzzer back and forth over an area until the fuzz balls are gone. I’ve tried other brainless tasks. Ironing sort of works — it would be better if I didn’t have to stand. Inputting receipts can work, or simple filing. Doodling seems like it would work, but I haven’t had success with it. For me, nothing is quite as good as de-fuzzing.

About the sweater. It was originally Maude’s. And then Olive’s. And it’s still going strong, so Betty has now inherited the colorful, sparkly turtleneck. De-fuzzing it makes it look brand new! The thing is, de-fuzzing is not necessarily, or logically, the best use of my time. In this case, the sweater was purchased on a seasonal clearance rack at H&M years ago for $5. So it’s not a valuable sweater money wise, and it could be easily argued that it’s silly to spend two hours de-fuzzing it because my time is worth more than the sweater. But still, sometimes I find tasks like this therapeutic.

Anyway, it made me curious. Do you ever do mindless things to rest your brain? If yes, what are your favorite mindless-yet-productive tasks? I’m always looking for new ones! Also, have you ever used a de-fuzzer?

P.S. — In case you’re curious, I currently use this Remington de-fuzzer. At $8, it’s twice as much as the ones I’ve used from the dollar store, but it has lasted much, much longer. Also, has anyone tried this Sunbeam one? It’s huge! I wonder if it works twice as fast?

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A Few Things Fri, 07 Nov 2014 19:50:29 +0000 Design Mom

Gabrielle Blair of Design Mom arranging books

By Gabrielle. Photo of me snapped by Sarah of Modern Kids.

Hello, Friends. How are you? And how was your week? Our week felt so steady and predictable and usual compared to last week. And it was great! A nice little window of calm. I tried hard to appreciate it, because this coming week will be different — I’ve got a work trip to New York on the schedule. And my weekend will mostly be prepping for that trip. Though I’m also hoping to have a movie date with Ben Blair — Ralph told us we must see Interstellar. How about you? What are you planning this weekend?

I’m off to run some errands, but before I head out, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- The children in your life with autism will need something meaningful to do when they reach adulthood. This campaign aims to create a place where they can make a living doing something wonderful.

- A bird finds a book about itself.

- From a Rwandan dump to the halls of Harvard, an incredibly inspiring story. Thanks, Katie.

- How every conversation in a Facebook moms group goes. Seem familiar? Thanks, Heather.

- I loved your comments on the Introvert/Extrovert post. So much good stuff there! Thank you. Related, you might like 25 Struggles Only ENFPs Will Understand.

- Still not sure why this made me laugh so hard.

- Sweden is so good at recycling that it has actually run out of trash. Thanks, Linda.

- This is what your zip code says about you.

- Heartbreaking: Just because it isn’t happening here, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

- I love Mr. Rogers.

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


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Imagining the Future — Free Printable! Fri, 07 Nov 2014 15:00:56 +0000 Design Mom

Imaging Your Future Self - Free Printable Your Kids Will Love!

Photos and text by Gabrielle. Printable by James Messina. // This post is brought to you by got milk? Drink to a brighter future.

Do you talk to your kids about what they want to be when they grow up? I’m guessing the answer is yes. I know it’s a common conversation between parents and children, and it’s one we love to have at the Blair house. I get a kick out of getting a glimpse of what’s going through my children’s heads and how they envision adulthood. Plus it’s fun to see their career choices change as they learn more about the possible options.

Imaging Your Future Self - Free Printable Your Kids Will Love!Imaging Your Future Self - Free Printable Your Kids Will Love!

In addition to being fun conversations to have, I think discussions about the future can help kids understand cause and effect in the here and now. It’s easier to practice your scales today, if you envision your future self as a successful musician. So Ben Blair thought up an awesome little printable that the kids could engage with, and that we can revisit every year or so as they grow. Our friend, James Messina, loves creating coloring pages, so we asked him to draw one up for us. It turned out perfect! Think of it as a way to help your kids envision their future self — and prep them to get there!

Imaging Your Future Self - Free Printable Your Kids Will Love!Imaging Your Future Self - Free Printable Your Kids Will Love!

The printable includes an outline of a child on the left side, blank space in the middle with numbers, and an outline of an adult on the right side. Our kids color in the child’s outline with their own details (their hair, their eye color, their favorite outfit). Then, they color in the adult outline with details of how they picture their future self. At the moment, Oscar envisions himself as a Marine Biologist. Betty envisions herself as a Pop Star. And little June envisions herself as a Police Officer. Love it!

Between the two outlines, the kids make a list of things they can do right now to become that future self. For example, Betty can take dance classes, Oscar can study more sea-life books, and all of them can make smart food choices — veggies, milk and whole grains — so they’ll grow healthy and strong.

Imaging Your Future Self - Free Printable Your Kids Will Love!

Our youngest three had a great time coloring in their sheets, and it was delightful to see their excitement mount as they made an actionable list toward attaining that future goal. I was surprised how empowered they seemed to feel — they can choose to create the life they want! If you think your kids would be interested, you can download the free printable here. As a bonus, the border is filled with objects that can prompt possible career ideas — and are fun to color in, too!

Imaging Your Future Self - Free Printable Your Kids Will Love!

What sorts of careers are your kids thinking of these days? Do they lean toward classic childhood visions of astronauts, ballerinas and race car drivers? Or have they settled on something out of the ordinary? And have any of your kids stayed with a plan over several years? (Our oldest child, Ralph, has wanted to be a filmmaker since he was ten.) I’d love to hear what your kids are thinking of!

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Smitten on Paper Giveaway Thu, 06 Nov 2014 19:58:03 +0000 Design Mom


By Gabrielle.

I have a fantastic giveaway for you today! A giveaway that will get you thinking of holiday happiness, dear friends, and loved ones. The sponsor is the wonderful paper goods shop, Smitten on Paper. And the prize is 100 Holiday Cards of your choice — plus return address printing and guest addressing!

Smitten on Paper Holiday Cards 2014

Smitten on Paper (such a cute name!) is a fabulous source for festive holiday cards, fabulous wedding stationery, gorgeous thank you notes, and pretty party supplies too. Their design studio is made up of talented designers who work on your order from start to finish, making sure it is exactly what you want. Then each order is carefully assembled by hand. They LOVE being in the stationery business and want you to be completely satisfied with your order.

Smitten on Paper botanical design. Holiday 2014.

Best part: now through December 12th, get 30% off Holiday Cards! Use code: JOLLY30. So many great designs! I really loving this botanical design, and if I don’t manage to get a new family photo taken, I love that they have a terrific section of non-photo options as well.

Visit Smitten on Paper and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to hear which design catches your eye! The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!


Elise is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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The Treehouse: Girls Room Remodel Update Thu, 06 Nov 2014 00:20:57 +0000 Design Mom

photo 1 (1)

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Here’s a little update on the Girls Room Remodel. I’m excited to tell you about the progress we’ve made! We’re essentially at blank canvas status, which feels fantastic. This is what we’ve marked off the list: updated electric work throughout — including a new full electric panel/breaker box. It’s one of those tasks that requires a hefty chunk of budget, but isn’t fun to show off. : )

We solved the ceiling issue I mentioned here. And we solved the beam and post issue as well. More on those below. The drywall was patched and repaired. New baseboard and ceiling trim was installed. And there’s a fresh coat of paint on the walls and ceiling (Origami White by Sherwin-Williams). Even spray-painted the floor vents white. Like I said: Clean Slate!

photo 1

First the ceiling. You may remember, that the ceiling is in three sections, divided by beams, and that the sections were covered in acoustic tile. We removed the tile and found good-looking wood planks under two sections, but we found sheetrock over plywood in the third section.

photo 5

We didn’t have the budget to replace the sheetrock ceiling with wood planks that matched the other two sections, so we decided to fake it. We used 4′ x 8′ sheets of wood paneling (you can see them leaned against the wall here). We picked the up at Lowe’s. The wood paneling was attached to the ceiling studs (or are those called joists?), and once they were installed, they looked quite similar to the other wood planks on the ceiling. Now that they’re painted, they look like a total match!

photo 2

Remember the random beam in the middle of the room? Happily, it wasn’t load bearing, but we still needed to get it out of the way. We installed a new post against the wall.

photo 3

Then we replaced the section of missing beam and secured everything with metal plates.

photo 4

Here, you can see the repaired beam from the other side. No more random post!

photo 5

I already showed this photo, but I’m showing it again to discuss that gap between the beam and the ceiling. The ceiling on most of our main floor has a gradual slope to it — including two sections of the ceiling in the girls’ room. From what we understand, this house was originally one floor, and the current first floor ceiling was the roof! Anyway it means there’s a gap on one side of the beam.

photo 3 (1)photo 4 (1)

We covered the gap with a piece of 8″x 1″ board.

photo 2 (2)

The whole thing — beam, board, metal panels, post — is painted up now and it looks great! The exposed work gives a hint of industrial feeling, which is appealing to me.

photo (1)

For floors, we used the same VCT tiles we put in the boys’ room, which is next door to the girls’ room. Besides those two bedrooms, the rest of the main floor is the white-washed wood. Someday, we’d love to add whitewashed wood to the bedrooms — and throughout the upstairs too! But we’ll need to save up first. In the meantime, I adore VCT floors (ours are by Armstrong, ordered from Lowe’s) so they don’t feel like a compromise to me. They’re easy to install and clean. They’re soft underfoot. And area rugs layered on top look great. Best of all, they’re affordable. Which means if we decide to replace them with wood down the line, or cover them with wall to wall carpet, we won’t feel like we’ve lost a major investment.

To help with all this work, we hired our friend Alex who I’ve mentioned before. He’s a sculptor that does smallish construction jobs when he’s between art pieces. He’s also the guy that put together our crate shelves in the reading loft. He did such a great job on the girls’ room!

photo 2 (1)

As I mentioned in the last post, we also had to tackle the very old electrical box that was hidden in the closet we removed. I am happy to tell you, a professional electrician tackled the job.

photo 1 (2)

New wiring in the whole room, plus a whole new electric panel/breaker box that serves the main floor of the house and is inset flat against the wall. No more electricity going out if the dryer and dishwasher are running at the same time. Hooray!

Now comes the fun part: figuring out where to place furniture, pondering color options and fabrics, deciding on artwork, accommodating storage needs… Happily, I love this sort of thing. And I have to say, the new layout is coming together!

We have the basic pieces in place, and the room is now functional, so the girls’ have been able to move back in. I had mentally planned on two weeks of them being out of the room, but in actuality, it turned into three weeks. So I was overjoyed to get them back in the space. Three weeks is a long time to a kid! The sweetest part is that Betty & June were sharing Oscar’s room during the remodel, and the night they moved back in to their room, he missed them so much he slept in Olive’s bed!

I’m hoping to have the room finished (in this case, I think “finished” means good enough to share a photo tour) by the time Olive gets back from France. A fun surprise to return to! But I’m trying to pace myself. Life gets busy between now and Christmas, so who knows if I’ll get it done in time, but it’s fun to think about it!

How do you handle big projects in November and December? Do you find that the holidays function as a motivational deadline for you? Or do you prefer to pause on any new projects until January? I think I go back and forth. Also, can you believe how much improvement a coat of paint makes?

P.S. — Once again, I’m using crummy low-light photos, but you were so nice about it last time that I’m hoping you don’t mind. 

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Zazzle Home – Warm Winter Wishes Sale Tue, 04 Nov 2014 20:00:41 +0000 Design Mom

Zazzle Home Fall 2014

By Gabrielle. This post is brought you by Zazzle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Row 3: Black & White StripesFrench Throw PillowVintage Santa Pillow

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

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

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