Design Mom The Intersection of Design & Motherhood Fri, 29 Aug 2014 19:27:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Few Things Fri, 29 Aug 2014 15:00:44 +0000 Design Mom

19th Anniversary

Image and text by Gabrielle. 

Hello, Friends! How are you? For those of you in the States, are you looking forward to the long Labor-Day weekend? I certainly hope so. I’m picturing happy barbeque gatherings across the country.

What a week it’s been at our house! We arrived home from Sweden on Sunday. We said goodbye to our dear friends Audrey and Nick (they were watching the kids while we were gone) on Tuesday night. Ralph flew to England on Wednesday amid much emotion from his parents and siblings. School started for Maude, Oscar and Betty, but we’re still playing catch up on prep — we have many school-related errands to attend to. We had two birthday celebrations (we now have 3 teenagers!). This morning, we’re driving to Utah for a family gathering. And we’ve been working hard to get Olive prepped and packed for France — while we’re in Utah, Olive will fly to France from Salt Lake City.

There’s so much I want to write about and discuss with you! More reports on our public schools, and how we’re dealing with Ralph’s schooling while he goes from England to France. How the whole family is feeling about sending two of our family members across the ocean. Projects I’m in the middle of (or more likely, behind on). But I feel like I’m in a bit of a processing cocoon, rolling everything over in my mind, having quiet conversations with Ben Blair as I sort my thoughts. No doubt, I’ll be writing it all up soon.

Before we head out, I wanted to share a few things with you. Lots of fun stuff — many of the links sent in from readers!

- Lunch ladies are heroes. Thanks, Reshma.

- I’ve fallen in love with tiny kitchens.

- Hah! The definitive list of the top homeschools across the country.

- The last true hermit: 27 years alone in the woods of Maine. Thanks, Meghan.

- A mountain, a mom, and a year of magical thinking after Dad is gone. (Prepare to cry.) Thanks, Amanda.

This panda knows a little something about self care. Thanks, Beccah.

- Laces help kids learn to tie shoes.

- This is how scientists feel about climate change. Thanks, Julie.

- Another one that made me laugh! Back to school in the 70′s versus back to school today. Thanks, Kathryn.

- Where we donate versus diseases that kill us. Thanks, Laura.

- I don’t pretend to know what this is about, but thought it was interesting. This family wants to find a lucky person (plus one) to take with them to Disney.

I hope you have a really wonderful (long!) weekend. I’ll meet you back here next week. I miss you already.


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Visit Sweden: West Coast Itinerary Fri, 29 Aug 2014 11:00:50 +0000 Design Mom

Marstrand Island in West Sweden

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Okay. Here’s my final report on our big Sweden trip. I wanted to share the West Coast Itinerary that the West Sweden Tourist Board created for us. World class cities are fairly straightforward to visit — they offer lots of hotels, excellent restaurants, good shopping, and terrific museums. But once you get out of the city, exploring can feel intimidating. So I was truly grateful to have an itinerary set that helped us take advantage of the best of the best that West Sweden has to offer, without having to spend a ton of time researching options.

I’m sharing our full itinerary here, so you can see when we stayed at each of the hotels I wrote about. I’ve also included notes on the museums we visited — and the amazing meals!

Day 1 Bohuslän 

We left Gothenburg in the morning and drove to the sailing destination, Marstrand Island (the drive takes about 45 minutes). We parked the car at the big parking lot near hotel Marstrands Havshotell, then we caught the ferry to Marstrand. You buy your tickets in the tobacco shop in the port. Tickets costs 25 sek per person. The boat leaves every 10 minutes.

Marstand Island - Four Days in West SwedenMarstand Island - Four Days in West SwedenMarstand Island - Four Days in West Sweden

We explored Marstrand. Suggested exploring included visting the Carlstens fortress, hiking around the island, doing some shopping or buying some fresh shrimp for lunch and eating on the rocks overlooking the sea. They also suggested the beautiful spa at Marstrand Havshotell in case we wanted to relax.

Public Swimming Pool, Swedish Style. On Marstand Island.

We explored to our heart’s content, and caught our breath when we saw the island’s public “swimming pool”. There’s a diving board nearby as well!

Gallery on Marstand Island - Four Days in West Sweden

2.00pm — We took a guided tour at Gallery Strandverket on Marstrand Island.

Gallery on Marstand Island - Four Days in West Sweden

It’s such a cool museum — just the right size and housed in a fantastic historic building surrounded by the water. They have two floors, each one dedicated to a different exhibit, and the exhibits change 3 times a year. During our visit, the first floor featured sculpture by a French artist, and the upstairs had painting by a Swedish woman — she didn’t get her big break until her mid 50′s!

Gallery on Marstand Island - Four Days in West Sweden

There’s also a café and an outdoor sculpture garden that is free to the public, and you can rent out the rooftop garden for weddings or events! If you visit Marstrand Island, I would say Gallery Strandverket is definitely a don’t miss.

Next, we drove to Klädesholmen at Tjörn island — known as Herring Island (the drive takes about 1 hour). We checked in at Salt & Sill hotel (see my hotel report here).

Itinerary: Four Days in West Sweden

8.00 pm — We dressed up for dinner at Salt & Sill‘s famed restaurant. Since this is “herring island” the restaurant’s speciality is herring, of course. We had their herring plate, with herring prepared six different ways. The herring is eaten with hard cheese, boiled egg, chopped red onion, and salt.

Salt & Sill Restaurant - Four Days in West Sweden

Salt & Sill hosts a huge herring contest each year, and the winners’ recipes are served in the restaurant. Our herring plate featured award winners from the past three years, plus some traditional options.

Day 2 Bohuslän 

We ate complimentary breakfast at the Salt & Sill Hotel, then checked out.

We drove to Skärhamn (the drive takes about 20 minutes).

Nordic Watercolor Museum - Four Days in West Sweden

11.00 am — In Skärhamn, we visited the Nordic Watercolor Museum.

Nordic Watercolor Museum - Four Days in West Sweden

Oh man, we LOVED this place. It features one big gallery room, one small gallery room and one theater. The exhibit was about the work of a Swedish artist named Lars Lerin. His paintings are unlike any other watercolor art I’ve ever seen. We came home with a book about him. I’m still thinking about his work.

Grounds at the Nordic Watercolor Museum - Four Days in West Sweden

But it wasn’t just the museum that we loved. The whole area was remarkable. Across the water from the museum sits the 5 Guest Studios that I mentioned in the hotel post, and there are wooden walkways around the museum that go way out into the water.

Grounds at the Nordic Watercolor Museum - Four Days in West Sweden

At the end of one walkway, there is a high dive! A school class of children was visiting the museum, and afterwards we watched them run out to the high dive and jump in the water. But we were amazed because the wind was crazy that day and we were bundled in our coats. The kids jumped in the water like the weather was nothing!

Pilane Sculpture Garden - Four Days in West Sweden

2.30 pm — We visited the Pilane Sculpture Park. It was founded by a local citizen that could see the natural landscape of his childhood disappearing. So he set up a nature preserve, and then introduced a sculpture park on the preserve so that people could interact with the landscape. He also introduced sheep to the sculpture park — they keep the paths trimmed with their grazing.

Pilane Sculpture Garden - Four Days in West Sweden

We really appreciated how intentional this place was. As you follow the path of the sculpture, you get to experience the variations in the landscape. And the whole place is designed for generations to visit — grandparents take their grandchildren, and the sculptures spark thoughts for both of them.

Sheep grazing on an ancient burial ground. Pilane Sculpture Garden - Four Days in West Sweden

At the end of the sculpture path, you’ll walk by an ancient burial ground with stone circles. When we walked by, the sheep were napping there — they blended right in with the grave stones!

The sculptures change each year, and there are 60,000 visitors to the park every summer.

Next, we drove to Orust, and checked in at the chic Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast (see my notes and photos about this awesome place here).

The view from Nösund - a restaurant in West Sweden.

8.00 pm — Dinner at Nösund. The setting is totally picturesque, overlooking a coastal village and the ocean. The food was a set seafood menu and it was excellent.

Day 3 Bohuslän 

We had breakfast and checked out of the Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast.

Then we drove to Fjällbacka (the drive takes about 1 hour 20 minutes).

Rock Carvings from the Bronze Age. At Vitlycke Museum in West Sweden.

11.00 am — We took a guided tour at Vitlycke Museum. It featurese Rock Carvings from the bronze age.

Rock Carvings from the Bronze Age. At Vitlycke Museum in West Sweden.Rock Carvings from the Bronze Age. At Vitlycke Museum in West Sweden.

The carvings were made over centuries, but they all maintain the same simple style. There are hundreds of carving sites over a several square mile area.

Based on other artifacts found from the time period, we know the people had developed fine metal work and carving skills, yet they continued making these very simplistic carvings. No one knows what they mean.

I love stuff like this!

Long houses from the Bronze Age. At Vitlycke Museum in West Sweden.

After we visited the carvings, we checked out the Bronze Age Farm on the premises, featuring two long-house replicas from two different times.

The hike up to Kungsklyftan to see the stunning view over the Fjällbacka archipelago. West Sweden.

Next, we visited the charming fishing village, Fjällbacka, and explored.

This is the home town of the Swedish crime writer Camilla Läckberg and used to be the summer destination for Ingrid Bergman.

The view from Kungsklyftan over the Fjällbacka archipelago. West Sweden.The view from Kungsklyftan over the Fjällbacka archipelago. West Sweden.

We took the hike up to Kungsklyftan to see the stunning view over the Fjällbacka archipelago. Then we took a “fika” at Ingrid Bergman’s favorite café “Setterlinds Bageri”.

The seafood feasting room at Everts Sjöbod hotel in Grebbestad. West Sweden.

Next, we drove to the oyster village, Grebbestad (the drive takes about 30 minutes). Fun fact: 90% of the Swedish oysters comes from Grebbestad! We checked in to Everts Sjöbod hotel (see my notes here).

Seafood feast at Everts Sjöbod hotel in Grebbestad. West Sweden.Seafood feast at Everts Sjöbod hotel in Grebbestad. West Sweden.

Everts Sjöbod offered a fresh-as-possible seafood dinner.

Day 4 Göta Canal Area

We drove to Lidköping (the drive takes about 2 hours).

Rörstrand Museum. It's one of Europe’s oldest porcelain factories. West Sweden.

11.00 am — We visited the Rörstrand Museum. It’s one of Europe’s oldest porcelain factories. We were there on such a busy day!

Rörstrand Museum. It's one of Europe’s oldest porcelain factories. West Sweden.

The Museum is connected to a shopping center. After a quick run through the museum, we took advantage of the shopping, and we actually found several of our best souvenirs here.

Next, we drove to Läckö castle at Kållandsö (the drive takes about 30 minutes). We checked in at Victoriahuset (see my description and photos here). We parked the car at the big parking lot near the castle.

Läckö Castle in West Sweden.

3.00 pm — We took a guided tour at Läckö Castle. It’s a stunner. It has medieval foundations and has been well-preserved since the Baroque period. It’s considered one of the country’s most beautiful castles.

Entrance of Läckö Castle in West Sweden.Inside Läckö Castle in West Sweden.Fireplace detail inside Läckö Castle in West Sweden.

The castle tour was excellent. We were guided through the 3rd floor and then welcomed to explore the first and second floors on our own. I think it’s nice to get to go on your own and pace yourself however you like.

Hvita Hjorten, restaurant at Victoriahuset hotel in West Sweden.Meal at Hvita Hjorten. The restaurant at Victoriahuset hotel in West Sweden.

8.00 pm — We had dinner at the hotel restaurant, Hvita Hjorten. This is an award-winning establishment that uses only the freshest local produce — grown in the small castle garden and purchased from local vegetable growers. Fish and meat come from the fishermen of Lake Vänern (the lake that sits alongside the hotel), local farmers and hunters. The menu is determined each day depending on what’s available. This was maybe my favorite meal of our whole trip!

Day 5 Departure

Drive to Gothenburg, drop off car, and head to the airport.


I should note one schedule change. Because of our early flight time, we shifted things around a bit and drove back to Gothenburg the night before we flew out. We stayed at the Hotel Pigalle back in the city. It’s a super stylish hotel, with a popular bar and restaurant. I got a kick out of the fact that they had old school room keys, and smiled when the desk clerk greeted us in a top hat!

And there’s the whole itinerary. I hope you found it helpful/interesting. : ) For our trip, the goal was to have us see as much as possible, so we stayed somewhere new each night. But really, any of the locations we stayed in would be ideal for a week. You could unpack and use your hotel/B&B as a base for exploring. Whirlwind itineraries have their own excitement, but staying for awhile at any one of the beautiful stops would have been equally wonderful.

Now, I’m curious to know if you’ve ever traveled with an itinerary that was prepared for you. There’s something lovely about not having to make decisions, but customizing the exact trip you want is so satisfying. What’s your itinerary preference?

P.S. — Find all the posts from our Sweden trip here.

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Visit Sweden: The Five Coolest Places to Stay on the West Coast Thu, 28 Aug 2014 14:03:46 +0000 Design Mom

Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

Images and text by Gabrielle. Some photos by Ben Blair too!

Okay you guys, before the trip gets too far away from me, I have two more Sweden posts! Today’s post is all about where we stayed once we left the city and started exploring the coast. In tomorrow’s post I’ll share our full itinerary, including museums and restaurants.

Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West SwedenLådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

There are 5 amazing accommodations we got acquainted with in West Sweden as we explored — Salt & Sill on Tjorn Island, Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast, Evert’s Boathouse in Grebbestad, and Victoriahuset Hotel at Läckö Castle — plus one bonus spot: the Guest Studios at the Nordic Watercolor Museum. I think finding a place to stay is the hardest part any trip, so for those of you wanting to see Sweden, hopefully this will take some of the planning burden from your shoulders.

Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

First up, my favorite one to photograph, Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast. I took a TON of photos at this home. In fact, everything you see pictured before the “click through” is from Lådfabriken. I told the owners it was the coolest house I had ever been to, and I meant it.

Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

The B&B is run by Marcus and Johan. They’ve put their heart and soul into the place, slowly transforming it over the past 7 years. Every knob, every fixture, every surface was lovingly pondered, and most additions/renovations are totally custom — designed and fabricated especially for this house.

They opened it to guests about a year and half ago. Though it looked perfect to me, they told me the house still has many projects ahead and they consider it to be at “toddler” stage — much more growth and change until the house is an “adult”. Hah!

Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West SwedenLådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

The B&B has 3 guest bedrooms, each one ridiculously charming, and each with their own bathroom. The bedroom we stayed in can be converted for a family — there’s a king size bed, and two twin size beds that hide in the wall. And the bookshelves include cute selections for the kids.

Garden at Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

The back of the house opens onto a beautiful garden that is steps away from the sea — you can take an early swim in the ocean before breakfast! Johan said that kids love to spend the day on that beach catching tiny crabs and then releasing them.

Breakfast table set at Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

I highly recommend a stay at Lådfabriken. The whole house will inspire you, and it’s worth the trip just to meet Marcus and Johan! I love that by staying here, you get to have conversations with actual locals. So often when we’re traveling, we really don’t get to talk to anyone except the hotel desk clerk — so I loved having conversations over breakfast with the hosts and the other guests and asking all my Swedish cultural questions.

Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

If you’re worried about not speaking Swedish, don’t be. Johan is Swedish, but commutes to Boston, and Marcus is from The Netherlands. They actually speak to each other in English. : )

Salt & Sill Hotel and Restaurant in West Sweden. Floating hotel rooms!

The second place I want to share with you is called Salt & Sill. It’s a floating hotel!

The story with Salt & Sill is that the owners had already established one of the finest seafood restaurants in West Sweden (I talk about our dinner there here). They wanted to add a hotel to the restaurant location, but the available land didn’t make sense, so in 2008, they built a floating hotel instead! It’s an eco-friendly hotel and when they built it, they also created an underwater reef to support marine life.

Salt & Sill Hotel and Restaurant in West Sweden. Floating hotel rooms!

The yellow building is hotel check in, and the brown buildings at the back of the photo are the floating hotel rooms. Throughout the night, we could feel the building gently rocking on the water. Lovely.

Swimming at Salt & Sill Hotel and Restaurant in West Sweden. Floating hotel rooms!

The hotel rooms are designed facing the water, and you can jump in for a swim at anytime. Ben Blair took a dip before dinner!

Salt & Sill Hotel and Restaurant in West Sweden. Floating hotel rooms!

The other fun thing about this hotel, is that there is a floating sauna as well. While we were there, it was docked near the hotel and guests were going back and forth between the hot sauna and the cold sea water. Apparently, the sauna/boat can be taken out into the archipelago — you can schedule a sauna anywhere!

Evert's Boathouse in West Sweden. Offers hotels rooms, fishing adventures on the sea, and fresh seafood feasts.

The next hotel I want to share with you is called Everts Sjöbod which translates to Evert’s Boathouse. Staying at Evert’s feels like an adventure. The yellow part of the building is 130 years old — it has big open rooms for gatherings or parties, and seafood feasts are hosted there regularly.

The brown portion of the building is newly built and houses 6 hotel rooms plus modern kitchens.

Evert's Boathouse in West Sweden. Offers hotels rooms, fishing adventures on the sea, and fresh seafood feasts.

Guests at Everts Sjöbod often like to stay for several days or a week, so they use these gorgeous new kitchens to cook their own food — perhaps even the seafood they caught on a fishing adventures with the owners.

Evert's Boathouse in West Sweden. Offers hotels rooms, fishing adventures on the sea, and fresh seafood feasts.

When the current owners — two brothers — bought the place, it was full of antique fishing accessories, all sea-worn and aged to perfection. They kept everything and used all the artifacts as decoration. So the whole place is packed with a million wonderful details. I took too many photos!

Evert's Boathouse in West Sweden. Offers hotels rooms, fishing adventures on the sea, and fresh seafood feasts.

The brothers keep two gorgeous wooden boats, made in the 1950′s, docked at the hotel. They take guests and tourists out to the sea for fishing adventures and sightseeing daily.

Evert's Boathouse in West Sweden. Offers hotels rooms, fishing adventures on the sea, and fresh seafood feasts.

On the dock, they have two wood hot tubs. During the winter, they are filled with sea water and heated. Guests go from the hottub to the ocean and back in the hot tub again. We want to visit in the winter just to do this! : )

Victoriahuset Hotel at Läckö Castle in West Sweden

Fourth, the one-with-nature Victoriahuset Hotel at Läckö Castle.

Victoriahuset Hotel at Läckö Castle in West Sweden

This is a new hotel, opened in May 2013. It’s located alongside Lake Vänerns (Sweden’s biggest lake, Europe’s third biggest) and functions as the visitor center for the Djurö National Park. It faces Läckö Castle which dates from the 16th century.

Victoriahuset Hotel at Läckö Castle in West SwedenVictoriahuset Hotel at Läckö Castle in West Sweden

The architecture of this hotel is stunning, and the whole building is built around a nature theme. The materials are all natural. As you walk down the hallway, nature sounds play from hidden speakers. The ceiling is a layer of woven sticks.

Victoriahuset Hotel at Läckö Castle in West Sweden

The lobby has interactive displays about the National Park.

Läckö Castle in West Sweden

The hotel has bikes for guests to borrow, and we spent a morning exploring the grounds of the National Park.

Canoeing at Läckö Castle in West SwedenCanoeing in the lake at Läckö Castle in West Sweden

Then we rented a canoe and went for a row in the lake with the castle for a backdrop. We loved every minute of our time there!

Visitor's Studios at Nordic Watercolor Museum in West Sweden

Here’s a bonus one! The fifth place I want to make sure to tell you about is the Guest Studios at the Nordic Watercolor Museum (I’ll talk more about the Museum itself in tomorrow’s post). We didn’t actually stay here but the studios really caught our imaginations. They’re big! Two stories each, and they aren’t quite a hotel. You bring your own sheets, or rent them from the museum, and you clean up after yourself as well.

Our museum guide mentioned that artists get half off on Guest Studio rentals. So awesome! Wouldn’t it be amazing to come here and paint? The location is jaw-dropping. The studios are just across the water from the museum.

So, that’s the report of the amazing places to stay we encountered. I’d love to hear — do any of these places seem particularly appealing to you? And when you travel, are you more likely to pick one hotel and use it as a base, or do you like to move around and try different accommodations?

P.S. — You can find all the posts from our Sweden trip here. If you need more help in planning your own visit, I highly recommend The Visit Sweden website, and also the West Sweden website.

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DIY: Cereal Box Embossing Wed, 27 Aug 2014 18:46:38 +0000 Design Mom

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom

cheerios boxBy Gabrielle. Photos & styling by Amy Christie.  //  This post is brought to you by Cheerios — makers of wholesome, sustainable products that families love!



When I was in fifth grade, my name written in bubble letters was how I personalized my notebooks. When I was in high school, I covered my textbooks in plain paper and filled them in with doodles — favorite band names and not-so-secret crushes. At the start of the school year, the clean surfaces of brand new school supplies offer such an inviting blank slate. For a sleek, modern twist on notebook personalization, I thought creating a DIY embossing plate from recycled cardboard would be a lovely way to add your mark to your school supplies.

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom

This idea came from a challenge I received from the good people at Cheerios. Cheerios has long had a focus on sustainability. Some of the sustainable features are straightforward — for example, their boxes are made from 100% recycled materials — and have been since the 1930′s!

Other sustainable features I had no idea about, but am impressed by. For example, their Minnesota milling plant uses a bio-mass burner that burns the oat hulls and creates the energy needed to run the whole plant. Then, the ashes from the hulls are returned to the oat farmers. Then, the farmers use the ashes to fertilize their crops. Circle of life! You can see more about their efficiency and sustainability on their website, or check out the graphic I included at the bottom of the post.

So their challenge to me was to create a project that uses their recycled cardboard cereal boxes — something most families have on hand at any given moment. I love a good challenge, and since we’re in the middle of back-to-school season, I immediately thought of this cardboard embossing technique and how it might relate to school supplies.

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design MomDSC_0625-1

Making your own embossing plate out of cereal boxes offers so much variation and freedom. The sky is the limit on shapes and initials. And once the plate is made, you can emboss to your heart’s content — the cardboard form will last a long time!

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom

I did a lot of experimenting to figure out best practices and have detailed them all in the tutorial below. Chances are you have everything you need in your home already  — just pull that Cheerios box out of your recycling bin and let’s get started!

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom


- empty cardboard cereal boxes
- scissors or cutting blade
- hot glue or white glue
- letters/shapes
- bone folder
- spray bottle
- colored paper, card stock weight or thicker
- folders, notebooks, date books, etc.

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design MomDSC_0617-1

Decide what letters or shapes you’d like to recreate. I chose a few letters, both serif and sans serif, and a few simple shapes.

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom

Cut them out of the cereal box cardboard. For these projects, you’ll need several layers of cardboard. Cut out the shape you want 3 or 4 times, then stick them together to make one form.

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom

Once the letter and shape stack is thick, attach it to a larger piece of cardboard, a ‘plate’, and prepare to emboss.

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom

To emboss, lightly mist a piece of paper and lay over the embossing plate. Damp paper has more give and stretch.

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom

Top the misted paper with a white piece of paper (printer paper will do) to protect it from the bone folder. Plain white paper is best so there is no color rub off. The white paper shields the paper below from getting shiny during embossing.

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom

Rub steadily around the embossing plate, making sure to hold the paper in place. Think of this process as slowly coaxing the paper to bend to your will. It’s best to work slowly, taking extra time to gently work into corners, around text serifs, on the edges and in any openings.

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom

When you feel like the paper is shaped well, remove the white paper and check. Some of the corners and edges might need a little more attention. Once the image looks good, remove the embossing plate and use the bone folder to smooth any wrinkles or crinkles around the shape.

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom

For folders, simply embossing the actual cover is all you need to do. But if you’d like to emboss the thicker cover of a composition book or date book, the technique is slightly different — emboss a blank sheet of card stock, then glue it to the thick cover of your notebook. Pictured above is a small date book with a blue piece of embossed cardstock glued to the cover.

When gluing it to another surface, add glue to all the areas outside the embossed shape (including openings in letters), then use the bone folder to smooth down the paper.

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom

A few tips:

- Thicker paper worked best for this project. Card stock, thick cotton paper (artist paper) and the folders worked exceptionally well.

- When the paper is thick, like the folders, spritz the under side of the paper, the side of the paper that will lay on the embossing plate.

- Instead of trying to get the paper embossed in one pass around the shape, it’s better to make a few passes around the shape gently and firming reshaping the damp paper.

- The paper around the shape may get a little pinched during the embossing process. Most can be rubbed out with the bone folder.

Hooray for back to school! I hope you have fun with this cereal box project. If you come up with other fun ways to use these cardboard embossing plates, please share your ideas in the comments!

P.S. — Like to make things? Check out these cool projects.


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Growing A Family: Dispatch From Bali Wed, 27 Aug 2014 14:00:59 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

Rachel is British and her husband is Balinese, and their babies were born in Indonesia and welcomed in typical — but still fascinating — Hindu cultural fashion, which all combines for a super interesting birth experience! I’ve read this essay at least three times, and I’m still crazy about that ground touching ceremony. (But seriously gasping at the story of Rachel’s online friend’s mother-in-law! Oh my goodness!)

You’re really going to love this one, Friends. So please join me in welcoming Rachel and her Balinese babies!

I’m originally from the UK and met my Balinese husband while I was backpacking around Asia. I knew nothing about Bali before I came here, and was thrown in the deep end somewhat after we married. I moved into my husband’s family compound after we knew each other for less than a year.

Bali is a deeply traditional and spiritual culture, and religious ceremonies are an important part of daily life. Family is also incredibly important, as children are expected to look after their parents in their old age and to continue the family name and traditions. So naturally everyone was thrilled when we found out we were expecting a baby a few months after our wedding.

Until fairly recently, it was common for women in Bali to have their babies at home with the assistance of a doula (midwife), but these days, most women choose to give birth in a hospital. Many women, especially those from poorer areas, still give birth at home and the infant mortality rate in Indonesia is one of the highest in the world. A clinic called Bumi Sehat was set up close to us in Ubud, run by American midwife and CNN Hero of the Year, Robin Lim. This clinic exists mainly to provide maternity services to women who cannot afford to pay for medical treatment, but many expats also choose to have their babies there due to their natural and gentle birthing approach.

Although Bumi Sehat has an excellent reputation, I opted to visit a specialist maternity hospital for monthly check-ups during my pregnancy, which occurred weekly as my due date approached. My experience was very different to what I would have had in the UK, where maternity services are midwife-led and most women only have two ultrasound scans during their pregnancy. I had a scan at every single appointment and ended up with a full book of them by the end! I was also assigned an obstetrician who saw me at every appointment, and I did not see a midwife until I was actually in labour.

I’d decided to go for a hospital birth just to play things safe as it was my first pregnancy, but I was still very keen to do things naturally. So I was glad that my doctor was an advocate of natural birth and advised me to look into hypno-birthing. Generally no pain relief is available for Indonesian women for a normal birth, although I have heard of women opting for a Caesarean section to avoid the pain!

Despite the number of scans and the fact my medical care was obstetrician-led, the whole system seems to be fairly laid back in terms of medical tests. There was no thorough checking of the 20 week ultrasound, and I didn’t have a blood or urine test until week 20. This is fine if there are no complications. However, there’s a shortage in Bali of negative blood, so if you run into any problems it would make sense to at least know your blood type earlier on in the pregnancy! I’ve heard of women shipping in blood from Singapore in case of complications during labour. I actually ended up having a post-partum haemorrhage after my second labour, but was lucky enough not to need any donated blood.

Very few women in the UK give birth in a private hospital. The normal procedure is to labour in a private room and then stay in a ward with several other women after the baby is born. Here it is the other way around! When I had a tour of the hospital I was impressed with the lovely hotel-like rooms that the family gets to stay in after the baby is born (with an extra bed for the father) but the delivery room consisted of a few narrow beds separated with a metal curtain looking very clinical and under harsh lighting. I actually cried after I saw because I really didn’t want to give birth there!

As it turned out, both my births were so fast, I didn’t really care where I was giving birth in the end! For my daughter, I came in for my normal check up in the morning and my doctor wouldn’t let me leave as I was already 3cm dilated and contracting…although I felt nothing! I spent all day at the hospital complaining because they wouldn’t let me go home, but they made me stay in the delivery room because I got to about 7cm without feeling any contractions. I was so fed up at being made to stay in that tiny room and refused to lie on the bed so I paced up and down beside it instead until my water broke and I was suddenly hit with strong contractions with no break in between them – after only an hour or two (my memory of this part is a little hazy!), my daughter was born.

My doctor told me to come to the hospital when my contractions were 10 minutes apart for my second pregnancy since my first birth was so fast. As it happens, I woke up at 3:00 am with only the mildest of cramps, which quickly became stronger. When I timed them, they were only one minute apart! I arrived at the hospital fully dilated and my son was born at 5:00 am, only two hours after I first felt those mild cramps!

I’d heard stories about Indonesian hospitals taking babies away and feeding them formula, but this wasn’t the case with my hospital that was very pro-breastfeeding. The only annoying thing was they kept taking my babies away and putting them in the nursery! I wanted to be with them all the time, so I kept calling and asking to bring them back. Apparently most Indonesian women prefer the babies to be taken care of by the nurses for the first couple of days while they rest.

There are a few traditions from the Balinese Hindu culture that I found interesting while I was pregnant. It’s considered bad luck for the father to cut his hair while his wife is pregnant, so my husband ended up growing quite a mane of hair that he promptly shaved off when our children were a day or two old. Pregnant women are also encouraged to eat whatever they crave; it’s believed that if you deny your cravings, the baby will be born with a twisted face! There are few restrictions on what to eat and drink, but my husband tried to get me to drink Dalumen, a green jelly drink, as it’s considered particularly healthy for pregnant women. I refused because it looks (and tastes) like pond slime to me! After giving birth, new mothers are given mung bean porridge with coconut milk and ginger to increase milk production.

While some pregnant women have a ceremony for their baby while they’re still pregnant, most of the ceremonies come after the baby is born. It’s very important that these ceremonies are all completed properly in order for the baby to become a fully-fledged Balinese Hindu. They’re normally completed on specific dates according to the date of birth but if a baby is born outside the country, they might all be completed at once when the child is older.

The first and most important of these ceremonies involves the ari ari, or placenta. This is carefully saved after the birth at the hospital and is buried outside the parent’s home in the family compound with a stone placed on top. As you enter someone’s home, you’ll see stones for girls on the right and boys on the left. Every day, special offerings are placed on this stone. When the baby is small, the stone is washed with the baby’s bath water and given small oleh oleh, gifts of cake from wherever the parents have been outside the house that day.

My mother in law also brought offerings to the hospital. There is a small temple on the side of the hospital (just like every building in Bali) where more offerings are placed. We had a small ceremony outside the house to officially welcome us when we came back to the hospital, and a new plankiran, wooden shrine, had been placed on our bedroom wall for more offerings. This is also the place where the baby’s umbilical cord stump is kept after it falls off. It’s believed if the baby falls ill, drinking tea made with this will cure any serious illness.

As a new mother, I was forbidden to enter the kitchen until my baby’s cord stump had fallen off, which is actually quite a clever way to ensure mothers rest and stay with their babies instead of cooking for the rest of the family. I was treated like a queen and had all my meals and even glasses of water brought to me!

Balinese babies generally don’t leave the family compound except for hospital visits until they have their ground touching ceremony at three months. Babies are generally carried around and passed from arms to loving arms – there’s always someone willing to hold the baby! You’ve probably heard the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” and this is really true in Bali, where everything – especially childcare – is shared between the extended family members. It’s common for Indonesian women to hand over a lot of the childcare to their mother-in-law, and nearly all the babies I saw at the clinic in the first few months were in the arms of the grandmother, with the mother trailing behind. Coming from a reserved culture and wanting to look after my baby myself, I found this quite hard to deal with, although luckily my in-laws were very respectful and didn’t overstep their boundaries too much. Another woman I know online who married a Balinese man came in to find her mother-in-law breastfeeding her baby!

The first main ceremony for the baby is at five weeks, which is one Balinese month (the Balinese use a different calendar system). After this ceremony, I was free to go back inside the family temple. New mothers and menstruating women are considered unclean and may not enter any temple. We continued to have a small ceremony for our babies each month.

The major baby ceremony is the ground touching ceremony which takes place at three Balinese months (six months in some parts of Bali). On this date, the baby is officially welcomed to the family as a real human being; up to this point they’re considered to be like little angels, halfway between the earth and spiritual plane. The ceremony is as big as a wedding, involving thousands of offerings which take many months to make. A pig must be purchased for making ceremonial babi guling (spit roast pork) and the baby normally wears a special outfit and lots of gold jewelry including bracelets, anklets, rings, and a necklace that often contains an amulet that has been blessed by a priest for protection. As you can imagine, this gets quite expensive!

The ceremony for boys and girls is slightly different. For my daughter, I had to walk her around a central group of offerings three times (just as I did for our wedding), before she touched the ground for the first time. She was then encouraged to pick objects from a bowl of water, and the baby’s choice is supposed to indicate their future. While this was going on, I was given a vegetable dressed as a baby (seriously!) and then exchanged my vegetable baby for my real baby, who by this point was blinged out in all her gold jewelry! My son’s ceremony didn’t include the vegetable part but was very similar. The baby then has her first taste of foods to represent all the different flavours (sweet, sour, etc.) in the family temple, and the whole family prays together.

At 210 days old, Balinese children have their first otonan, or Balinese birthday. At this point they have all their hair shaved off as a cleansing ritual so that they can attend the village temple ceremonies. My son didn’t have much hair anyway so he didn’t look very different, but my daughter looked quite funny for quite a while! We went back to the UK for a visit just a few days after my daughter’s first otonan, and I reckon everyone was thinking I was a terrible parent for shaving my poor baby’s head! After this ceremony, each village temple is visited in turn with a special ceremony to officially welcome the baby to the temple. However, the Pura Dalem or cemetery temple (sometimes translated as the dramatic sounding “temple of death”!) cannot be attended until children are about two years old.

When babies are a few weeks old, the family can visit a special kind of holy man who communicates with the spirits and finds out which member of the family has been reincarnated into their body. My daughter is apparently the reincarnation of my husband’s older brother, who died at birth.

Apart from the religious ceremonies, the cultural differences when it comes to raising children are quite apparent. Babies are bundled up at all times despite Bali being a tropical country and very hot all year round. I have seen many babies wearing multiple layers of clothing and woolly hats while the parents are sweating and fanning themselves in shorts and a t-shirt. When we left the hospital, both my children were dressed by the nurses in clothes, booties, mittens and hat, swaddled in muslin, wrapped in a flannel sheet, and then swaddled in a blanket! I was never allowed to take my children out without wearing socks and a hat as babies, and I still remember the death glares that a Western woman with a newborn wearing only a nappy got at the baby clinic!

In the UK, new babies are not allowed to leave the hospital unless they are safely secured in a car seat. I had bought a car seat in Bali and installed it in our car, but wasn’t allowed to use it; most people here think it’s cruel to strap babies in a seat instead of holding them in your arms. Although saying that, the majority of babies go home on the back of a motorbike, rather than in a car!

It’s also believed that shallots will keep babies safe from evil spirits. We had to cut open one and put in in the bedroom every night and rub it our baby’s forehead before we went out of the house. Whenever my son or daughter had an unexplained crying fit, my mother-in-law would chase me around the compound trying to put shallots on them!

I’m a big believer in baby-led weaning, which made my husband’s parents think I was completely insane! Babies here eat only rice porridge until they are at least a year old and are spoon fed for much longer. I’ve seen six and seven year olds being spoon fed!

While some of the cultural differences can be frustrating, I still feel incredibly lucky that I have the opportunity to raise my children here. In the West, so many people are focused on work and money. But here, family and culture are the only things that really matter. And hey! If I’d had my kids in the UK, I doubt my two year old would have been speaking three languages and reciting mantras in Sanskrit!


Thank you, Rachel! Friends, was I right? This was an excellent glimpse into a gorgeous birth culture. Can you imagine if your partner grew out their hair for your entire pregnancy? Or not being allowed to enter the kitchen until your baby’s umbilical cord has fallen off? Or bring home your baby on a motorbike? It’s so eye-opening, isn’t it?

Tell me which custom touched you the most, will you? I can’t help but feel that all the celebrations and rituals and prayers are the absolute best way to welcome a baby.

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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Living With Kids: Elle Rowley Tue, 26 Aug 2014 16:00:29 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos by Jylare Smith Photography.

No matter how many times I read Elle’s words, they still make my heart lose a few pounds of worry and stress. If you’re feeling like you’ve not enough space in your home or too much chaos in your life or even too much fear creeping into your parenting style, read this. I promise you’ll feel the warmth, gratitude, and sincerity with which she tries hard to surround herself daily.

In short, I really like Elle. I hope you do, too.

Q: Tell us all about your family.

A: My husband, Jared, is a surfer boy from Southern California. Half of my childhood was spent in the swamplands of Texas and the other half in the mountains of Utah. We married while we were still just babies eight years ago. We finished our degrees together, have had three children (Lucy is five, Solomon is three, and Frances is three months) and run a baby carrier business called Solly Baby from our 740 square foot home on 3/4 of an acre in North County San Diego. Somehow, we’re still pretty crazy about each other. Or maybe we’re just crazy. Either way, I think we’ve got a good thing going.

Lucy is our fiercely independent, creative spirit. She can be found thinking of sad things just so she can watch herself cry in a mirror, carrying around her chicken “Cloudy” like she is a doll, and scrambling eggs for lunch for herself and her little brother. At her dance recital this year, she told me she “enjoyed being on the stage, but next year would rather do something ‘freer’ and maybe even a little bit ‘wild.’” Yeah, she’s amazing.

Solomon is pure energy and laughs. He was almost kicked off of his soccer team this year for repeatedly spanking the coach’s bum as well as gymnastics for coming up with (what I would call “creative”) alternative uses for the apparatuses. He can be found kissing his baby sister every. waking. minute. He’s always telling me to not be so “serwius” and he’s got a thing for superheroes, being strong, and the music from Les Mis.

Frances is three months old, but of course we already think she’s a baby genius and we’re positive she is literally the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen.

Jared and I are your average dreamers. We’re all about happiness and trying to be good people.

Q: How did this beach cottage become your home?

A: Jared and I have always imagined that we’d raise our kids on land, so when we found ourselves living in a condo in a super suburban area, something I had sworn we’d never do, I started searching for a rental property on land every day. One day I saw the listing pop up on Craigslist. It was on land and by the beach, with the option to buy. It was perfect.

We immediately drove out to the vacant house and peeked in all the windows. We could tell it was going to take a lot of work, and the 740 square feet was just as small as we had feared it would be. No dining room, one and a half bedrooms, one bathroom, a mini-sized washer and dryer…Jared and I sat on the steps to talk about it, but instead watched our kids run.

And run.

And run.

We had to have it.

I begged, bartered, and cried until the owner said yes. As small business owners (read: high risk) with two little ones and one on the way (read: we’d use and possibly destroy every square inch of the home) we were not the ideal candidates. But the owner, who turned out to be a fellow dreamer who couldn’t convince his wife to take the leap from the mountains with their little ones, went for it anyway.

A year later, we are in the process of purchasing it and we couldn’t be more excited, although reality has definitely set it that it’s going to be quite the project.

Q: What makes you love the place you live? Persuade us to move!

A: It feels a little trite to list all the good things about one of the most popular vacation spots in the world, but I’ll do it anyway. We are 10 minutes from the beach, 30 minutes from downtown San Diego, an hour from Disneyland, an hour and a half from downtown LA, we’re surrounded by little farms including an organic produce farm where we buy most of our produce, and five minutes from a Target. Do you really need anything else?

It’s no secret the cost of living is bonkers in Southern California, but if you’re willing to get a fixer-upper and live in an area that isn’t quite so cookie-cutter, then you really can find pretty good deals. Since we work from home, we are able to avoid driving during rush hour traffic, which is the other list-topping complaint people have with the area.

It goes without saying that the weather is always nice and we really take it for granted. I’ll even complain sometimes that I miss rain, which I realize verges on audacious.

For me, though, the littlest details of daily life have become the things I’ve enjoyed the most. There is a little creek that runs through our property, covered in blackberry vines, where each night a chorus of frogs croak away. In the morning it feels like a menagerie; we’ll eat breakfast outside and watch the birds fly from tree to tree and the mockingbird poke the red-tailed hawk to get off his branch.

Fires in the old, smoky, wood-burning stove on cold mornings in the winter. Being close enough to hear Lucy and Solomon talk to each other in bed about scary dreams and water bottle negotiations. Peeking in the coop to see if the hens have laid an egg that day. Saying goodbye to Jared as he sneaks out at dawn for a quick surf. Late nights talking and dreaming on the deck under strands of globe lights while the kids are in bed.

Of course I didn’t mention how my three year old starts running in circles around the house when he’s in trouble or the stinky diaper pile we always seem to have going or the myth of work/life balance when you have a business run out of your home or the constant line outside the one bathroom. (Seriously, who makes a bathroom with no storage or counters? Can you even call that a bathroom?) But we choose not to focus on those things.

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: Kids need space to create. Instead of using the dining room as an eating area, we turned it into a playroom. It’s the room that leads into our kids’ bedroom, so it makes sense to use it as an extension of their room.

It’s filled with books, art supplies, puzzles, and educational tools like science kits and curriculum books. I feel inspired to teach and to play when I’m in the room with them and they feel inspired to create. It’s the most important room in our home.

Q: How would you describe your family’s aesthetic?

A: There is beauty in utility. We love things that are functional and aesthetically pleasing. If it has meaning on top of all that, then it’s made it to the celestial, Platonic ideal level. Not many things make it there.

My favorite “decorative” pieces are things like a well-made table, a nicely woven basket to hold Frances’ clothes, a perfectly designed reading lamp, leather-bound books, pretty soap dispensers…the list goes on. If I could find a beautiful toilet bowl brush, I’d be over the moon.

And less is almost always more.

Q: You run one of the most successful babywrap companies in the US. Tell us about how and why it all began and where it is now.

A: I’m a fabric junkie and so I knew I could make a wrap that was lighter, more breathable, and from a higher quality fabric. The transition to parenthood is an intense one for most people, so I was, and still am, very inspired by the idea of making parenthood reflect the wearer’s personal aesthetic.

Like most mothers, I’m also a big multi-tasker so the idea of being able to bond with my baby while reading a book to my toddler or doing the dishes or running a company was like music to my ears.

I made my first wrap carrier right after having Solomon (hence Solly Baby) three years ago while my husband was still in school. Encouraged by friends that I was on to something and with the help of a small loan from my in-laws for the fabric, I turned our home in Salt Lake City into a factory, pushing all of the tables and chairs aside and rolling bolts of fabric back and forth over a taped pattern on the ground. I worked and worked any time my babies were sleeping, and started a shop on Etsy.

Somehow it’s expanded into this beautiful, huge thing that is so much bigger than I ever imagined it would be. We are worn by thousands of parents and celebrities around the globe, and have won numerous awards for our product. My husband and I both work on the business as our sole income, as well as a handful of other people as well.

The business has grown primarily through social media and word of mouth. I always say that I will forever be grateful to the babies born to fashion and lifestyle bloggers and Instagrammers in 2011. It’s hard to not get emotional about it because the kindness of bloggers like Naomi Davis and others literally put food in my babies’ mouths at a time when we had nothing but hope. We had hundreds of pre-orders before Solly Baby even officially launched thanks to those babies and their very generous mamas. I now try to pay it forward by helping other small businesses whenever possible.

Q: And you’ve just written a book! What were your goals with it? And what’s next on your list of goals?

A: Carrying Baby has been on my bucket list for quite a while. I love writing, babywearing, children’s books, and great collaborations, so the idea of a lift-the-flap board book about animals wearing their babies came pretty easily. I’ve always been a fan of Ashley Mae Hoiland‘s watercolor prints so it was a natural fit and to have her and one of my favorite designers, Amanda Jane Jones, design the book. It’s been a really fun project to work on, and the fact that it helps spread the babywearing love just makes me happy.

Next, we’re working on more limited edition prints for Solly Baby where we collaborate with our favorite designers, baby doll wraps, as well as a few other products. We are also partners with Christy Turlington’s organization Every Mother Counts, so we are excited about some campaigns in the future to help raise money and spread the word about what they’re doing to improve maternal health globally.

Q: And you do it all from your cottage! Tell us how you divide your home and company when they live in the same place! How does your decor contribute to this harmony?

A: The only way we are able to make this space work is thanks to our detached work shed turned studio office next to the house. When we moved in, it was like a haunted house with blacked-out windows, patches of dry wall, and garbage bags on the walls to keep moisture from coming in.

Jared ripped everything out, wired it, put up new drywall, made a beautiful wood wall, and painted everything. It’s not perfect, but there’s nowhere I’d rather work. Jared and I work side by side, and the view from each window is so lovely. We’ve had photo and video shoots in it almost weekly since it was finished, and even a few parties.

We try to keep the room simple and clean. I’ve found that when my space is disorganized, then that’s how my brain feels, too. We also try to keep all things work-related in it. We don’t even bring mail into the house. That physical distance used to not feel quite so necessary, but it has become increasingly so. Phones are distracting enough as a parent, so the fewer distractions the better so I can focus totally on my little ones when I’m in our home and feel somewhat of a separation between work time and family time.

Q: What do you hope your kids remember about their childhood home? What do you hope they remember about you as their mom?

A: I hope this house will represent the feeling of being free. Of being able to run and run and run like the whole world was theirs for the taking. I hope that feeling will sink so deeply into their hearts that they’ll carry that feeling with them always.

I hope they remember that I wasn’t afraid. A lot of my life has been spent living with fear. Fearing rejection, fearing failure, fearing how others perceive me, even fearing greatness. But when I became a mother, something slowly changed and they have inspired me to be brave. I feel sad that it has taken me this long to learn this, but so endlessly grateful for their part in the process of becoming.

And I hope they remember that I always said sorry. I am not perfect, but at least I never pretended to be.

Q: What has been your favorite part about living with your own kids? What has surprised you the most about being a mom? Is there a development stage that’s long gone that you miss?

A: Children live very much in the present and so they notice all of the little details. A few years ago, we were at a park playing when an airplane flew overhead. I looked around and every single child there was looking straight up, silently watching the plane fly past like it was the first thing they’d ever seen in the sky, while all of the parents continued to talk, not one of them noticing the plane.

There was something about that scene that was unforgettable. I feel that way with my children just about every day. Sometimes it’s frustrating because even walking to the car is like a field trip, but it’s also quite magical.

I’ve been surprised by how impatient I am! I’ll think I’ve finally licked it and then we have another baby and I have to learn it all over again. It’s pretty humbling. We’ll have 500 backorders that are late being shipped out because of some production problem and I’m just fine, and yet I can’t figure out how to keep my cool when my son tries to flush a roll of toilet paper down the toilet. Being a mother is nuts.

I miss every stage and age after it passes. I always feel a little heartbroken each birthday. Even though my little ones are still practically babies, I can already feel how quickly the time goes, and I worry I’ll blink and it will all feel like a dream.

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

A: That I’m a much better mother when I just let my children be. When I control and push, something ugly happens that makes it hard for me to see them for who they are, but when I let go and just love then something miraculously beautiful happens. I am still trying to figure out how to balance that with getting teeth brushed and shoes tied, but hopefully I can find that balance sooner rather than later.


She should write a book, shouldn’t she? (She did!) Thank you so much, Elle, for adding your sweet honesty to our day.

Friends, wasn’t it poignant to read Elle’s description of keeping her cool pretty effortlessly during work-related crises, and working hard not to lose it amid a family-related hullabaloo? I so get it, don’t you? Maybe it’s because we’re freer with our emotions in a personal setting, or maybe we hold ourselves better in check when we’re wearing our professional goggles…but either way, it’s a great reminder to bring a bit of professionalism into our personal lives, right?

Oh, and my newest goal is to look up when a plane flies overhead, and remember to marvel at all the dailies that have become ho-hum unnoticeable. Who’s with me?

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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DIY: Cement Pencil Holder Mon, 25 Aug 2014 15:00:49 +0000 Amy Christie

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie. // This post is brought to you by Office Depot. #TeachersChangeLives and so can you! Go here to find out more.


It’s official: a new school year is upon us! And like many kids, my children have the itch to make something for their new teachers. A drawing, a little piece of origami, a sweet note. Of course, I always wonder if there’s something we can add, something to go along with the little note or drawing, that their teacher will find useful. A gift card so that their teachers can buy supplies for the classroom is always helpful, but if you’re in the making sort of mood (I am!), I thought this cement desk organizer fits the bill very nicely.

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

The project incorporates two of my favorite things — fresh school supplies, and cement. Best of all, it’s not just for pens and pencils. This handsome + utilitarian item can be designed to hold any number and any size of desk accessories. The style and layout is all up to you!

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

Don’t be anxious about working with cement for this project. Yes, it requires concentration and muscle (which surely you have in spades), and an odd combination of working fast and waiting. But the end product is worth it. These heavy duty holders would look handsome on any desk!

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

Plus, there are lots of ways to include the kids on this project, from gathering supplies, to stirring cement, to decorating the dried organizer with Sharpies (we used silver).

Ready to get to work? Let’s go.

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom


- cement
- cardboard/papier maché forms
- dowels, various sizes
- wax paper
- glue gun or tape
- sander, optional

We used Rapid Set Cement All because it sets up so quickly. Of course you can use any kind of cement that you’d like. With Rapid Set, you must work very quickly. It’s good because the project will be done sooner however, it does require fast moving and it’s a little sweat inducing. : )

After a couple of tests, we decided wooden dowels wrapped in wax paper were the easiest to prep, most cost effective option. Other ‘pencil slot making’ options include wide metal dowels (found in the rebar section), various sizes of knitting needles or PVC pipe.

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

First, wrap the applicable dowels in wax paper and secure with hot glue or tape. The wax paper prevents the cement from sticking to the wood (because it really sticks!!).

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

Before any cement is prepped, take some time to plan the layout of the pencil holder. You can sketch it, use a grid or just lay it out. This step is vital, especially if you use Rapid Set cement. Your time is limited to get things placed before the cement sets and it’s best to plan it in advance.

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

When you have your layout decided, you can prepare the cement, according to the manufacturer’s directions. Pour the cement in your form, shake it to settle the cement into the corners and edges of the form.

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

Place the wax paper wrapped dowels into the cement. Watch the dowels because they might shift and lean and wiggle, especially when other dowels are added. As you place them, keep shaking the form to resettle the cement around the dowels.

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

As the cement sets up, especially the Rapid Set, twist and wiggle the dowels. If you leave them still until the cement completely sets, the dowels will be stuck — this advice is based on experience! Hah! Once the cement is holding up on its own around the dowels, remove the dowels, even if the whole form isn’t completely dry.

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

After removing the dowels, allow the form to completely dry.

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

Once the cement has completely dried, peel or cut away the outer form. An optional step is to use a sander to smooth out rough edges.

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

Lastly, we added some metallic doodles to the pencil holder with a silver Sharpies when the cement was dry. You could create patterns, add your teachers initials with a stencil, or even keep the cement organizer plain and simple.

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

Then the funnest part, choosing the products to put in the slots! Fill it with colorful school supplies and tada!, you’ve made an awesome gift for your favorite teacher.

I teamed up with Office Depot for this project, because I love how they support teachers. They help spread the word about what teachers need in the classroom, and the reality of how much teachers spend out of pocket for classroom supplies.

As an extension of their #TeachersChangeLives program, Office Depot worked with Newell-Rubbermaid (the makers of Sharpie and Expo) to document the stories of two teachers and how they help students think outside of the box. Click here to find videos featuring those two teachers, plus a coupon for school supplies, so you can help your children’s teachers get what they need.

Here’s to a fantastic new school year!

P.S. — Like to make things? Find more cool DIY projects here.

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Back to School & Back to France Mon, 25 Aug 2014 11:20:55 +0000 Design Mom

Eiffel Tower View2

By Gabrielle. Photos taken April 2012 — Ralph and Olive on the Eiffel Tower.

Oh my goodness. Ben and I arrived home from Sweden yesterday afternoon, just in time for a remarkable week for our family. We have two birthdays this week — Olive and Ralph. We have the first day of school (it’s today!). And we’ll be traveling to Utah as a family this coming Friday to celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday.

But more impactful than any of that: two of our kids will be exchange students this fall, and they are flying off this week! I find myself crying elephant tears while I type this because the reality of them leaving feels so big. I can honestly say, I’m over the top happy that they’ll get this experience, and at the same time my heart tightens and I catch my breath trying to imagine the house without them.

Eiffel Tower View1

Ralph is turning 17 this week and he is headed off to England and France. He’s staying at the homes of boys that lived with us this past Spring/Summer. He’ll spend one month in England with Chris, and 3 months in France with Charles. Then he’ll come home for Christmas.

Olive is turning 13 this week and is also heading out. After her school trip to France in the spring, she asked us if there was any way she could attend school in France this fall. So we started making phone calls and tentatively reaching out about possible options. Our dear friend, Caroline, graciously offered to host, and now, it’s actually happening! She’ll come home at Christmas as well.

Ralph’s exchange has been on the calendar for ages. He and his friends started making these arrangements before we left France. But Olive’s France plans are still new and my brain is still adjusting. When I’m feeling nervous about having both of them so far away, this is what I remind myself of: They both speak French and they both know the families they will be staying with — I know a semester away would be a thousand times harder if they were showing up somewhere unfamiliar and staying with people they’d never met or speaking a new-to-them language.

Also, once Ralph arrives in France from England at the end of September, he and Olive will get to see each other almost daily, because they will both attend the same school. I’m so comforted by that! The school they’ll be attending is actually the same school they went to when we lived there — they’ve only been gone for one year, so I’m hoping the transition back to French school won’t be too jarring. And of course, if any of this turns out to be a mistake, they can always come home.

Mostly, we’re all super excited for their upcoming adventures! We’re talking about the amazing food they’ll eat. What it will be like to live with another family. Ways they can help out at their host family’s home. Where they might go during school breaks. How often we’ll facetime. That sort of thing.

Tell me, Friends, have you or your kids ever been exchange students? Or maybe lived for awhile with an Aunt or Grandparents or family friends in another state? What are your thoughts on exchanges like these?

P.S. — Curious about French schools? I’ve written several posts about our experience with them. Post about our life in France are here.

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A Few Things Fri, 22 Aug 2014 16:26:40 +0000 Design Mom

Marstand Island - Sweden

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Has it been a good week? We are still in full travel mode — we’ll be exploring more of the coast today, and then go inland to the countryside tomorrow — and I’ll be sure to write up posts about the rest of these Sweden adventures — the itinerary that was prepared for us is too good not to share!

We will be flying back to California on Sunday and of course, we can’t wait to see the kids. I don’t believe we’ve ever gone this long without seeing them. It’s strange for us to think about.

While we hit the road, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- I quit “liking” things on Facebook and here’s what happened.

- Anything but 9 to 5. This is such a fixable problem. We need to fix it.

- A four-year-old reviews the French Laundry. Thanks, Jenny.

- From Pew Research: If you don’t think Ferguson is a big deal, chances are high you’re white. Thanks, Vrylena.

- A set of DIY breakfast bowls in 4 easy patterns — a cute little way to celebrate back to school.

- What happened if, instead of judging others, we thought about the “moment before” this one, instead? Thanks, Monique.

- Beautiful script.

- After tragedy, remembering the relationship. One chat at a time.

- Fully functional chocolate legos.

- 52 powerful photos of women who changed history.

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


P.S. — I am seriously Instagramming up a storm on this trip — I just can’t resist all the colors! Feel free to follow along.

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Visit Sweden: Volvo Factory Thu, 21 Aug 2014 11:25:54 +0000 Design Mom

Volvo Tour3

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

As part of my agreement related to this Sweden trip, I was asked to include the hashtag #inavolvo as I document our trip. A separate blog post about Volvo was not part of the agreement. So this post is not a sponsored post. But I wanted to write about what I learned at Volvo factory because I think you’ll find it interesting. I certainly did.

The Volvo factory is just outside of Gothenburg, and part of our itinerary included a visit to the facility to attend a safety demonstration and get the scoop on the Overseas Delivery Program. This program is pure genius and whoever figured it out wins the prize for… I don’t know, being a genius.

Basically, it’s this: If you live in the United States or Canada and you buy a new Volvo, you’ll get airfare for two to Sweden, plus a night in the Radisson Blu in Gothenburg (a lovely hotel, I included a photo of it at the bottom).

Why? For several reasons (free trip to Europe!), but the main one is that it actually brings down the price of the car. For reals. As a customer, you buy the car from your local U.S. Volvo dealer, then you come to Sweden, pick up the car from the factory, drive it around the countryside, or maybe take a side trip north to Norway. Then, you drop it off at the factory again, and they deliver it at no charge to your U.S. dealer. By doing this, it allows the car to be brought to the U.S. as “used” instead of “new” and the import tax is lower. Which, like I said, brings down the overall cost of the car.

So in a nutshell, if you’re buying a Volvo, taking a free trip to Sweden will get you the best price!

Fantastic, right?

Volvo Tour2

While we were at the factory, we met three couples from the U.S. who were all taking part in this Overseas Delivery program. One of the couples was taking part for the 5th time! The program has been going on for about a dozen years, and apparently there’s at least one couple who buys a Volvo every year, and then spends the summer touring Europe. Hah!

Of course, I asked a million questions. The first of which was: So, why doesn’t every Volvo customer participate in this program? And the answer was three-fold. One, not everyone enjoys traveling. Two, sometimes a customer wants to buy something off the lot because they need a car in a hurry (ordering a car through the Overseas Delivery program is a 2 to 3 month process). And three, not every dealer participates, so not every customer knows about the program — but you can find the nearest participating dealer here.

Other things I learned about the program from Volvo reps and from the couples who were participating:

When you pick up the car, it has a temporary license plate and temporary insurance. The insurance is good for two weeks, or you can increase it up to 3 months for an additional fee. The license plate is good for 3 months at no extra cost. What that means is that you don’t have to keep the trip to 24 hours, you can travel around while you’re there — for a few days, two weeks, or even up to 3 months! Related, many European countries have visitor visas that expire after 3 months, so this timing matches that.

The couples we spoke to were all making an extended trip out of it — the trip of a lifetime for one of the couples: three weeks all over Scandinavia. Gothenburg, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Finland, Oslo, Bergen and the fjords! This is all totally drivable.

Another couple was driving the car south to France and Spain. They are going to drop it off in France after their travels are done. Then, the Volvo dealership will send it back to Gothenburg (for a fee) and it will be shipped at no cost to their U.S. dealer.

So basically, you can use the free airfare and turn this into a European dream vacation if you’re so inclined.

On the other hand, if you simply want the better price, you can make the trip as short as possible and drive around Gothenburg for a bit, then hand the car back over to the factory for delivery.

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Another thing I learned is that by ordering a car through this program, you can specify exactly what you want. Make, model, color, upholstery, add-ons, accessories — you get to build your ideal Volvo. This appeals to me for obvious reasons.

Okay. So I’m obviously fascinated by the Overseas Delivery program. But as I mentioned, I also attended a Volvo safety demonstration. I wasn’t expecting to get much out of it, but Ben Blair and I have since discussed it at least twice a day since we attended.

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First we talked about the importance of safety, and what happens to the weight and impact of humans, pets and objects in a car during a wreck. Then, three volunteers got to test their speed reflexes — Ben Blair’s were the fastest (of course). I already associated Volvo with safety, but just assumed it was their marketing tactic. I didn’t understand it was the company’s core guiding value, and the number one thing they’ve focused on from the beginning. They take safety super seriously.

They invented the 3-point harness, then, when they saw how effective it was, quickly made it available to all car manufacturers. And to this day, it’s the safety innovation that saves the most lives. But they didn’t stop at an improved safety belt.

Every time there’s a serious accident here in Sweden that involves a Volvo, their engineers go to the scene. They study and document the wreck, then they recreate the same crash in their massive safety labs so they can figure out how they might lessen the impact to the people inside the cars. They don’t just sort-of recreate the crash. Their machinery allows them to stage a wreck inside the lab from any angle or point of impact. It’s truly amazing.

My brain doesn’t work like that. Like everyone, I know serious car wrecks happen every day, and I just assume it’s part of the gamble of life. I hear about safety improvements in car advertisements, and shrug and think they don’t really change the overall safety statistics. I accept that cars are dangerous, and try to block out the worst case scenarios from my mind.

Volvo Tour5

But Volvo engineers’ brains are different than mine. Like me, they know car crashes are going to happen, so they figure out every possible way to either prevent them, or lessen their impact. They take what they’ve learned from studying real-life wrecks and make improvements. Real improvements. A decade or so ago, 10% of car crashes involving a Volvo resulted in major injury or death to the people in the car. Then, they made more safety improvements, and brought the number down to 4%. Then, they made more safety improvements, and at this point, they’ve brought that number down to 2%. Those numbers represent real people and real lives that are being saved.

Their current goal is to bring the number to 0% by 2020. And based on their track record, I have no doubt they’ll reach it. Just think: By 2020, if you are driving a Volvo and get in a serious accident, there will be 0% chance that you will receive a serious injury. Zero percent chance that you will die. I’m stunned by that thought.

And that’s what Ben and I have been discussing. We don’t own a Volvo. We’ve never owned a Volvo. There isn’t actually a Volvo that seats 8 people, so we’ve never even considered it. But suddenly, we were feeling irresponsible for driving around our kids in anything but a Volvo. Or what about teen drivers who are particularly at risk for car wrecks? We have two teenagers, both working toward their drivers licenses — if we could reduce their chance of being seriously hurt in a car crash to 2 percent, why wouldn’t we do that?

Of course, that brought up bigger questions like: should safety features this good be required by law for all new vehicles? And even though these safer cars are more expensive to make, do they ultimately save money for a country because of fewer catastrophic injuries and related medical care? Would safer cars mean less car insurance and far fewer associated legal battles? Should governments subsidize the purchase of safer cars to make them available to all income levels?

Obviously, these are big questions, and I don’t pretend to have the answers, but as you can imagine, we have been discussing this topic repeatedly since the safety demonstration, and I’m sure we’ll be discussing it for weeks and months to come.

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As we finished up at Volvo, the last step was to pick up a car that we could drive up the coast. The car they loaned us for the week is a V-60 R-Design. It has sporty details and smart features — like it shows you on the dashboard what the speed limit is on whatever road you’re driving, and the number changes instantly whenever the speed limit changes. It’s both good-looking and highly functional — exactly what I expect from Swedish design.

We love it and we feel safe as we drive on these new-to-us roads. If you’re following along on Instagram, you may have seen  a peek of it. It certainly feels like the ideal car to be driving around Sweden, where something like one in every 7 vehicles is a Volvo. : )

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I know I covered quite a bit in this post, but I’d love your thoughts on any of it. What do you think of the Overseas Delivery program? Does it get your European vacation imagination going? And what are your thoughts on the 0% serious injury goal? I’d love to discuss either with you!

P.S. — Related to that 0% goal, in the next 3 years, there will be 100 self-driving cars in the streets of Gothenburg. These will be customer cars, not test cars. Wow!

Volvo Tour1

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Visit Sweden: Gothenburg Wed, 20 Aug 2014 13:26:49 +0000 Design Mom


Images and text by Gabrielle.

Friends, Gothenburg is easy to love! It’s the capital of West Sweden, and home to half a million people. The center of the city, where most of the tourist attractions are found is condensed and totally walkable, and there are plenty of public transportation ferries and buses and trams if you’ll be going outside the city center.

The oldest part of town was originally surrounded by a wide moat. And most of the moat is still there. In fact, tour boats cruise the moat and offer guides in several languages. Just outside the moat is a ring of green — a lovely park the surrounds the whole town!


On our first morning in town, we took a walking tour, with a guide named Erika Svenske. (You can find her through the Gothenburg tourist bureau.) She was friendly and knowledgable and really fun to hang out with. We had a two hour tour and it wasn’t enough!


Knowing we were parents, she made sure to take us to two excellent toy stores so we could pick up souvenirs for the kids. One of the store owners pointed out the products of Swedish based OMM Design, and our guide mentioned that the bright little velour toys (pictured above) — made to hang on a stroller or carseat — are part of every Swedish babies lives.

Erika joked that if someone in Sweden fancied themselves a really good parent and intended to provide a wholesome childhood for their kids, it would translate to buying toys from Krabat and buying clothes from Polarn O. Pyret. : )


In addition to the toy stores, she pointed out all sorts of great shops. There was Saluhallen, The grand Market Hall — located right across the street from our hotel, and full of excellent local food vendors. A butcher. A baker. A chocolate treat maker. She said it was a good place to pick up an affordable lunch.


She took us down a little side street where we wandered out into a completely charming courtyard garden shop called Floramor & Krukatös.


We peeked in the windows at Norrgavel, a top of the line, classic Swedish furnishings and homegoods. Expensive, but gorgeous.


And she pointed out Artilleriet, which might be the coolest stop in town.


We talked about Nudie Jeans. Started in Gothenburg, the brand has become popular around the country. They offer free repair for any of their jeans. Or, if you’re done with a pair, you can hand it in for a discount on a future pair. Then, they will repair and resell the jeans you gave back.


Then, at the end of the tour, we tried fresh squeezed juice concoctions from Juice Källan.


But it wasn’t just the tour. There was tons to do in the city. We went to the Gothenburg Museum of Art. It houses the finest collection of turn of the century Nordic Art featuring excellent artists from all over Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark & Iceland). I loved the exhibit titled A Painted History, which is going on through September. During a tour of the museum, our guide mentioned that Swedish elections are coming up and that this exhibit was intended to get citizens talking about current events, and discussing political topics.


Dinners were scheduled at Restaurant Familjen and Barabicu. Familjen is all about wholesome, local ingredients. It has a feel that’s rustic and simple, but somehow sophisticated at the same time. Barabicu is a trendy new bistro with food inspired by North and South America (Latin America too!).


We took the ferry (part of the public transportation) to the Röda Sten Art Centre. The building used to be a gigantic boiler house that powered the nearby by industries. It was eventually abandoned and left to vandals in the 70s and 80s, then reclaimed as an art space — with exhibitions and workshops — in the 90s. The main exhibit space, called The Cathedral, is so massive it took our breath away.

Röda Sten means Red Rock. And nearby the building, on the edge of the water, is a large rock painted completely red. (I tried to get a photo, but the rain was coming down in sheets!) No one knows who painted the rock red. And no one knows who maintains it, but sometimes it gets a fresh coat. Every once in awhile it will be painted blue, but then the next day, it will be red again.

We ate lunch at the Röda Sten Restaurant — big portions of simple, satisfying food. It was a cold day when we visited and the hearty food was the perfect antidote.


We stayed at The Avalon Hotel, which has this spectacular overhanging pool at the top. The hotel was designed with a feng shui theme. I don’t really know much about Feng Shui. If you asked me what it was, I would say it has something to do with how you arrange your room to get the best vibes — that would be my best guess! But whatever it is, this hotel definitely has it. We LOVED being in our room. It was small, but felt so welcoming and comfortable. And the location couldn’t be beat.

While we were in Gothenburg, we visited the Volvo Factory, and picked up a borrowed Volvo which we’ll be driving when we explore the coast and countryside. I’ve been thinking a ton about the Volvo visit and I’ll be writing up a separate post about it.


We visited the Röhsska Museum of Fashion, Design and Decorative Arts. I love this kind of museums— made to celebrate the everyday beautiful objects that surround us in our homes and lives. It seems especially appropriate in Sweden where everyday design is so elevated.

The museum is fun to wander around. It’s full of displays featuring furniture, dishes, bikes, computers, posters, textiles — all sorts of things! There was also a temporary exhibit featuring Picasso’s ceramic work, and another temporary exhibit called The Coolest Corner, featuring a juried collection of jewelry from Scandinavian designers.


Speaking of that idea — of elevating everyday design — our tour guide in Gothenburg was totally open to our questions, and we peppered her with a million. After visiting so many gorgeous stores full of impeccable Swedish-designed clothing, furniture, soft goods, and toys, I said,
“I realize we will visit the prettiest parts of the city as tourists, but is there any part of Gothenburg (or Sweden at large) that is not cool? Or — I don’t know the right word… maybe tacky?”


She laughed and said that outside the cities, there is less wealth, and certainly a typical working-class citizen would not be shopping in the design district we’d been walking through. So then I asked, where would a typical working-class family buy their clothes or furniture? And she said, well, at H&M and Ikea. And I had this “duh!” moment. How could I forget H&M and Ikea?

Both stores make good design available to the masses. Of course, I know this from first hand experience, as I’ve shopped for many years at both stores. And it’s true. Though they carry higher-end, organic options as well, the prices of many racks at H&M match the most inexpensive clothes stores around. At Ikea it’s the same idea. There are higher end items, but most of the pieces are priced to be accessible to all incomes. And that’s definitely part of the Swedish approach. Good design for everyone.


The reality of that blew me away. Design is such a priority in Sweden, even the citizens at the lowest earning categories still have homes full of good design. Fascinating!

What do you think of that? What would it be like to simply have no stores that sold ugly objects? How would that affect a population?

Edited to add: In a follow up to the discussion about H&M and Ikea, I asked if the wealthier parts of the population felt like shopping at those stores was beneath them, and she said not at all. Good design is good design wherever you find it.

P.S. — Now, we’re leaving the city and headed to the coast and countryside. Feel free to follow along on Instagram!

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Visit Sweden: Stockholm, Day Two Tue, 19 Aug 2014 13:30:01 +0000 Design Mom

Stockholm Day Two05

Images and text by Gabrielle.

We packed a ton into our Day Two Stockholm itinerary (see Day One here). And we loved it! There’s just so much to see. We started by meeting a tour guide, found via Visit Stockholm, at the hotel first thing in the morning. Her name is Elisabeth Daude and she’s a total Stockholm expert.

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The first stop on our tour was a visit to the lake front to see the old palaces, and the building where the noble families historically met. We had a fun discussion about the roles royalty and nobility play in current Swedish political and social life.

Which reminds me, my favorite thing about tour guides is getting to ask a local all the million questions I have about the country’s culture and customs. With Elisabeth, we discussed two aspects of Swedish culture that I’ve been thinking about like crazy since our conversation — I’ll mention them at the bottom of the post so that I don’t get too distracted before I write up our itinerary.

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We used the Stockholm Card to get around on the city buses — it includes access to all public transportation and most museums and attractions. A super good deal for tourists.

Since we had seen some of the town center the day before, Elisabeth took us to the South Island — it’s a residential area that we probably wouldn’t have visited on our own, and it’s super cool! It has that in-the-process-of-being-regenetrified hipster feel, with lots of second hand stores and vintage furniture shops and restaurants that celebrate local producers — old school Swedish food made new and fresh again. It’s called the SOFO neighborhood. Our favorite stops:

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Grandpa. A terrific collection of artifacts, vintage goods and new Swedish-made products — old leather chairs, a giant antique Danish flag, a vintage Swedish school map of the North America.

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There was a wall of classic canvas backpacks by Sandqvist. They are stunning. Leather details, super sturdy and well made. Plus, they are designed and built in Stockholm! We bought one for a souvenir — and are using it to hold the other souvenirs we pick up. : )

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Meatballs for the People. There’s nothing more iconic than meatballs as far as Swedish food goes. They have a cart for deliveries, family style eating in the restaurant, and take home options as well. The meatballs are made simply, using local ingredients, and there’s a map that shows where in Sweden the different meats come from. (And yes, they have veggie meatball options as well!)

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Swedish Hasbeens. These gorgeous wooden+leather clogs and sandals have been on my wishlist for ages. But the high quality and high design means they’re quite pricey. So when we happened on a store in SOFO having a 50% off sale, you can imagine I couldn’t resist. I bought a red pair and can’t wait to show you!

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Acne Studios. A modern, sometimes experimental/edgy Swedish style brand. This Swedish line has grown and there are now stores across Europe and even two in the U.S.. Definitely peek in if you ever get a chance.

Pärlans Caramels. Handmade the old fashioned way in a little shop using the recipe of the founder’s grandmother. The shop is charming as can be — decorated with furniture and wallpaper inspired by her grandmother’s home. We tried 9 different kinds — peppermint & polka, vanilla & sea salt, and pistachio & sea salt were my favorites.

Of course, for every shop we stopped into, there were another 5 we didn’t have time for. So this is just a tiny sampling of the SOFO area. It’s a place to shop, to walk, to fill your inspiration well, to see what’s new and cool in Swedish wares.

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After exploring SOFO, we made a visit to Svenskt Tenn. We met their creative director for lunch (taking tea in the Svenskt Tenn tearoom is high on my recommend list!), and spent a couple of hours learning about this amazing Swedish store/cultural institution.

This was a life changer for me. I can’t stop thinking about the founder and her vision. I’m quite obsessed! And I came away with two books — one about the founder, and one about the lead designer. I’m going to mention our visit here, but not tell you much about it because I have too much to share. But I will definitely be writing up a separate post about this place!

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During the afternoon, we made our way to the Vasa Museum. (Our Stockholm Card gave us free entry.) We’ve heard it’s the number one tourist attraction in Sweden. It’s a massive wooden ship with an infamous history. It was commissioned by a Swedish king centuries ago as a way to intimidate on the sea. But against the ship builder’s advice, the king demanded the ship be built higher and higher — 4 stories high. The day it set sail, it sunk almost immediately, never even making it out of the Stockholm harbor. The king was so embarrassed, he wouldn’t let anyone talk about it and tried to erase the incident from history.

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But the secret was passed along, and 300 years later, the ship was discovered and brought up from the ocean floor. It was in remarkable condition, and you can see the whole restored ship (98% original!) at the Vasa Museum.

By the way, next door to the Vasa is the Pippi Longstocking museum. If we’d had our kids with us, we would have gone for sure! Which reminds me, I was struck at how family friendly Stockholm is. Lots of parks. Tons of strollers. Babies in restaurants. Every museum has a kid program or kid section. Even the airport has awesome spaces for kids to play.

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That evening, we took a boat ride out into the archipelago and ate at Fjäderholmarnas Krog. Truly amazing! It’s just a 25 minute boat ride away from the city. The views were stunning. The meal was excellent — I practically licked my plate clean.

The restaurant is found on a small island that takes maybe 10 or 15 minutes to walk around. So beautiful! After dinner we explored the island a bit and happened upon a small outdoor theater where an Abba singalong happening! And then we watched the sun set while we waited for the boat back to Stockholm.

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A magical end to a magical day.

That covers our day two itinerary, but I still want to mention two of the things we discussed with our tour guide. First, Elisabeth mentioned that at some point in the last century — maybe 50 years ago — the country of Sweden decided they would stop using the formal version of their language. Like many world languages, they had a formal and informal mode of speech, and they knew that by getting rid of the formal version, they would be taking a big step forward to equalizing citizens and breaking down class separations.

I thought that was amazing! We’re talking about a major cultural change. Language develops over centuries and affects the way we think and act. To officially ask (require?) citizens to stop using certain words or ways of speaking all of a sudden is a BIG deal. And the idea that the whole country simply accepted it for the sake of the greater good is remarkable to me. Elisabeth said that as a result of the change, she would address any other Swede she met — including the Prime Minister — by first name.

A second topic that came up and that I keep thinking about, is that Elisabeth mentioned having a housekeeper or house cleaner is generally frowned upon, even if you are wealthy enough to hire someone. She said the idea is that Swedes are expected to clean up their own messes. She also mentioned this cultural guideline has become more lax in the last few years. There has been a wave of immigrants who don’t speak the language, but are in need of work, and housekeeping jobs make sense while they integrate into the culture.

So now I’m dying to know: What’s your response to their no-hired housekeeping approach? And what do you think it would be like if your country made significant changes to your language? (I was trying to imagine what it would be like if American kids called all adults by their first names — even their school teachers.) Also, have you ever visited Stockholm? What were your favorite parts? Did you get a chance to have any cultural discussions while you were there? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

P.S. — For a full list of shopping recommendations, I loved this guide — with categories for fashion, design, vintage and food.

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Living With Kids: Kirsty Gungor, Revisited Tue, 19 Aug 2014 13:00:30 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

When we last visited Kirsty, she was outnumbered as the only female in a male-generous family. That ratio certainly didn’t show, however, in the family home’s decor. There was an abundance of white-not-scared-of-dirt-one-bit, a lacy tablecloth or two, and an elegant settee and white leather chair that just didn’t seem conducive to trampolining. I loved her style.

I still do, in fact. Especially since the family has added another member, and considerably more shades of pink to their surroundings. Friends, please welcome Kirsty one more  time!

Q: You’ve got a new addition to your family! 

A: Yes we do! Since you last visited our home, we welcomed the sweetest little girl into our all boy family. Her name is Scarlet Evangeline and she has her brothers’ whole hearts. She turned one in May, and is an absolute beauty who loves to tumble around with the boys and gets us all giggling with her scrunch nose, eyes closed smile. I have a little taste of every personality with my four kids: laid back and serious, daredevil and go-getter, goofball and best friend, and sweet little love. Scarlet is such a wonderful gift to our family.

Q: The last time we toured your home, you were living with four males, three of whom were under eight. How has this little lady made her mark on your aesthetic?

A: Well, I’ve always had a romantic style and aesthetic. For example, I love vintage chairs with tufting, quilts on all the beds, and fresh flowers around the house. And I’ve not necessarily shied from those inclinations even when my home was filled with boys. But the opportunity to decorate a room devoted entirely to a girl was just about the most fun I’ve ever had.

I wanted it to feel like a page from a fairytale. And funnily enough, I think that the chance to have a space where I could create beautiful vignettes with lots of feminine details helped me let out a long held breath. So while my style remains the same, I try to achieve that quintessential blend of modern with vintage – hopefully keeping the home cool enough for the guys!

Q: What other changes have you made in terms of making this home even more enjoyable for your kids?

A: We are blessed to have a large extended family that lives in town, so that’s actually an important detail to us – having a home that is welcoming and kid friendly. My sister lives just a few minutes away and also has four children, and my parents are here, too. We were separated for a while; we all emigrated from South Africa in 1993 to Tulsa, Oklahoma, but for the first five years of my marriage I was in Green Bay, Wisconsin while they remained in Tulsa.

Now that we’re all in the same city, the cousins spend time together virtually every day. I cherish this! And these past six months in particular we have been inseparable, as my sister was diagnosed with B-cell Lymphoma. She underwent chemotherapy at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and I’m thrilled to share that she is cancer free today! Right now, every day is a party to celebrate that!

But in years like this – when you experience complete and utter joy and also crippling fear – your perspective changes dramatically and you appreciate every single moment. Even the ordinary moments become dazzlingly beautiful.

While I love great design and am awed and inspired by the spaces I see on Instagram and Pinterest, it is impossible for me and my jelly-fingered family to have a place that is similarly pristine and perfect. I’ve just learned to chill out on those expectations a lot and to have fun with what we have. The old hand me down furniture, the overseas treasures, and the colorful kids pieces. I’ve allowed the music, art, and toys to become a part of the decor…always ready and waiting for something beautiful to happen.

And since you last saw our home, we also added a large chalkboard wall below the chair rail in our dining room. And for the summer months, thick watercolor paper on a bare wall so a painted mural can come to life. Living creatively is my fuel for life, so I hope to encourage the kids to be creatively inspired too.

Q: Tell us how your career is going, and exciting projects on the horizon. Any secrets on balancing as best you can your time with your family and your time working?

A: There have been a few exciting additions to my career over these past two years. I now work as a freelance writer and photographer for a local women’s magazine, contributing fashion articles each month. And that has led to a growing photography business which has been amazing, as I am absolutely photo obsessed.

I write a lifestyle and fashion blog called Lovelies in My Life and it has begun to gather a fair amount of local readers through the magazine and, in turn, some really cool opportunities to connect with like minds in our community. One is a fun DIY workshop that I’m working on for this summer – something along the lines of a flower crowns and mimosas event.

I’m a bit of a shy person in real life, so these opportunities to meet other artistic people and make new friends has been really lovely. It’s a good stretch for me.

And then I’m also a dance teacher. Dance was my very first love. I have a dance program with about 60 students which I’ve kept intentionally small as I’ve just not been ready to give up too much time with my kids quite yet.

I have no fantastic secret to balancing time, other than my rockstar husband. He and I have maneuvered a perfect work schedule between the two of us, so when I teach or do a photo session, he is home with the kids.

Q: Please finish the sentence: If I could have one wish granted to my family, it would be…

A: …for us to live a long, happy, healthy life. But that’s three! So let’s narrow it down: If I could have one wish granted to my family, it would be to live an abundant life!


Kirsty, I loved this revisit. Thank you so much for keeping in touch, and a giant congratulations on Scarlet!

Two things stood out for me among your words. One, how you’re awed and inspired by online design, but realize that it’s not in the cards for your current family scene. I think that’s a difficult but utterly healthy point to reach! Well done. No matter how picture perfect our homes may be, there will always be another idea – perfectly executed and then photographed and pinned! – that makes us second-guess our choices. But also this: “I’m a bit of a shy person in real life…” I’m so shocked! I have to tell you that this doesn’t show in your bold decorating decisions and confident words, Kirsty. Again, thanks for stretching yourself for us!

Friends, this brings up a fun topic: For those of you with online lives, do you feel braver and more confident than in real life, face to  face? Has there been a moment when your two worlds collided?

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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Visit Sweden: Stockholm, Day One Mon, 18 Aug 2014 14:00:13 +0000 Design Mom

Stockholm Day One08

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Day one in Stockholm! Such a great day. We spent the morning with Karina Lundell, Head Designer at Polarn O. Pyret. I first met Karina a few years ago and she is fantastic — so talented and delightful to hang out with.

Stockholm Day One05

We started at the PO.P offices where Karina took us through the fall line, the holiday line and the outerwear line. We talked about the new fabrics and features and discussed Sweden’s famous outdoor preschools. (Completely outdoors! Even in the middle of winter!)

Polarn O. Pyret is a classic Swedish brand — any Swede could identify the signature stripes. And Victoria, the Princess, who recently had a baby, carries a PO.P diaper bag and has dedicated personal shopping hours at PO.P stores. She’s expected to dress the baby in this classic Swedish brand (and has even been criticized if she doesn’t).

Polarn O. Pyret Fall 20141

Each season, PO.P chooses a new theme for their line, and this fall it’s “cooking with kids”. Based on the theme, they created two new prints, plus kitchen accessories in the signature Polarn O. Pyret navy and red — a chefs hat, dishtowels, over mits, and aprons. I’m nuts about the polka dotted chef’s hat!

Stockholm Day One07Stockholm Day One06

After the HQ visit, we went to Polarn O. Pyret flagship store in the Gallerian shopping center so we could see the complete wares. All those stripes!

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Next up, lunch at Restaurang Prinsen with classic Swedish food on the menu. Can you guess what I ordered? Swedish meatballs — with mash potatoes and lingonberry sauce, of course! Really, really yummy. The restaurant has a perfect location for access to the best shopping in town. We ate outside and watches the fashionable people walk by while we chatted.

Lunch in Stockholm1

One cute little detail: I liked how the dinner rolls were stacked on a stick!

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In addition to lunch, Karina also walked with us through the posh shopping area and pointed out the best of the Swedish brands. We stopped at famous Swedish department store, NK, and checked out super cool, modern Swedish brands like Hope, Dagmar, Tiger, Filippa K, Whyred and Rodebjer. Swedish design is so good! I truly loved everything, but especially gravitated to Filippa K and Rodebjer and Dagmar.

As we walked, Karina mentioned that many of the designers behind these brands got their start at beloved Swedish clothing brand H&M. In fact, Karina herself, started her career at H&M as well. And we ended up discussing more about H&M and the influence it has had on the Swedish fashion scene — it’s almost like a school for Swedish designers!

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H&M has not only launched a generation of independent designers, they’ve also added two new store concepts under their company umbrella. One is called COS. I’ve written about it before when my sister introduced me the shops in Paris. The other one is called & Other Stories. Both stores are like high-end big-sisters to H&M. Really fabulous stuff, but still totally accessible.

One thing I noticed in both COS and & Other Stories, is that the women shopping were all ages — hip teens to chic, grey-haired grandmas. Of course, I think it’s wonderful that the lines appeal to so many women!

Stockholm Day One11

Outside of NK, we toured more of the fashion district, particularly focusing on Swedish brands — some I didn’t even know were Swedish, like Hestra Gloves and  Happy Socks!

Seeing all these Swedish brands got me asking questions about Swedish pride. I asked Karina what companies Swedes are most proud of. The first 5 mentioned were Ikea, H&M, Volvo, Skype, and Spotify. 

Stockholm Day One01

I know when people think of fashion centers, New York and Paris are the cities we talk about. So it was really fun for me to realize how much influence Sweden has on the world of fashion as well. The city is really cutting edge as far as style goes, but it’s paired with a smart Swedish sensibility.

Karina talked about how the women wear practical shoes — rarely or never heels. They expect to be outside for at least a portion of every day, and heels simply don’t make sense for the harsh winters. She also mentioned that Swedish women don’t like to iron their clothes, and that every piece of clothing they purchase needs to be washable at home. If it’s dry clean only, they won’t buy it.

I love that thinking! I’m not above wearing an uncomfortable shoe for the sake of fashion, so I enjoyed hearing about the Swedish style mindset. Swedes are looking for beautiful pieces that are totally practical, and that can be worn for a long time. How does that align with how you dress?  And when you think of Sweden do any particular brands come to mind?

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Slow Cooker Recipe: Peach Crisp Mon, 18 Aug 2014 12:00:56 +0000 Lindsey Johnson

Slow Cooker Recipe: Easy Peach Crisp. Works with any summer fruit!   |   Design Mom  #crockpot

By Gabrielle. Images and styling by Lindsey Rose Johnson.

Are you ready for another super easy, super yummy recipe in my Slow Cooker Series? It’s peach season and one of my favorite ways to enjoy this glorious fruit is in a bowl of warm peach crisp topped with a big dollop of whipped cream — or a scoop of vanilla ice cream! I adore fruit pies and crisps — if I’m in a restaurant, and a fruity dessert is on the menu, it’s always the one I pick. A warm fruit crisp is my ultimate comfort food.

Happily, making a crisp at home couldn’t be easier. It comes together in just a few minutes and doesn’t require much attention after that. You literally toss everything into the slow cooker, set it, and forget it, as the saying goes.

Slow Cooker Recipe: Easy Peach Crisp. Works with any summer fruit!   |   Design Mom  #crockpot

This recipe uses peaches, but you can also use nectarines, plums, berries, or any other favorite summertime fruit.

Slow Cooker Recipe: Easy Peach Crisp. Works with any summer fruit!   |   Design Mom  #crockpot

Slow Cooker Peach Crisp
adapted from Alton Brown


1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, diced, plus more for greasing slow cooker
6 very large ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced (can use 10-12 smaller peaches)
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, for serving


Combine oats, flour, brown sugar, nuts (if using), cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Add the diced butter and cut into the dry ingredients with your hands or a pastry cutter until a crumbly, leaving a few remaining pea-sized pieces of butter.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 3-quart cooker. Place sliced peaches in the bottom and sprinkle with the cornstarch and add the extracts. Stir to combine making sure all of the cornstarch is dissolved. Top evenly with the crumbly mixture.

Set slow cooker to LOW for 3 to 3 1/2 hours or HIGH for 1 1/2 hours. When lifting the lid off the slow cooker, be careful not to let any water from the lid drip down onto the crisp or it can get soggy.

Spoon into bowls and serve warm topped with whipped cream or ice cream

Yields 4-6 servings.

Slow Cooker Recipe: Easy Peach Crisp. Works with any summer fruit!   |   Design Mom  #crockpot


- This recipe can be doubled for a larger slow cooker. Adjust cooking time accordingly. It will take approximately an extra hour on HIGH or two extra hours on LOW for a doubled recipe to fit a six-quart slow cooker.
- It will seem like there’s a lot of crumb mixture and that’s okay. If your slow cooker is taller than it is wide, it’s fine to use less crumb mixture, but with the long, slow cooking time, it will all cook through.
- A mixture of different peach varieties can be fun and delicious. Other fruit can also be used – plums, nectarines, apricots, cherries, berries, etc.

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A Few Things Fri, 15 Aug 2014 16:30:29 +0000 Design Mom

Ben Blair in Stockholm

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Was it a good week? I’m so glad to be here in Sweden with Ben Blair. I’m just pinching myself I feel so lucky! But at the same time, it’s been such a heavy week. I’m sick about the shooting of Mike Brown. So troubled. I can’t get it out of my head. I’m also heartbroken about the suicide of Robin Williams, and angry at the helplessness people feel against depression. And I was an emotional wreck leaving the kids as Ben and I went to the airport. They are in excellent hands, and I travel often enough that I should be an old pro, but it feels so different when both Ben and l leave them together.

All that heaviness, and yet, here I am in tourist mode, holding hands with my husband as we leisurely wander the old streets of Stockholm. Life is strange. The amounts of happy and sad that can be held in one head at the same time is beyond bizarre.

We’re off to do some more sightseeing, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- An important essay from Kristen Howerton on race, police brutality, and the dangerous act of being black.

- The advice new moms need. Thanks, Molly!

- I think this is fantastic: A free new cookbook aimed at helping America’s 47 million food stamp users create healthy meals on $4 per day.

- What not to say to a step-parent — or in front of a step-child, for that matter.

- Kids today have less freedom than we did. Is this true in your home?

Coloring pages from contemporary art.

- What you wish someone had told you about miscarriage. Thanks, Jenny.

- A really cool explanation of how optical illusions work. Thanks, Ryan!

- Norm MacDonald on Robin Williams.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend! I’ll be Instagramming from Sweden like crazy if you’d like to follow along. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.


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Visit Sweden: A Quick Hello from Stockholm Fri, 15 Aug 2014 16:02:37 +0000 Design Mom


Image and text by Gabrielle.

Good morning! I’m waving hello from Sweden! As I mentioned, we’ll be spending much of our time here in Gothenburg and West Sweden, but we’re starting our trip with a few days in Stockholm. Stockholm is gorgeous. Gorgeous and super cool. It’s like cool overload.

We arrived yesterday evening, checked into our hotel, then wandered around Old Town, and watched the sun set on the water. There were stages and live music, playing late into the night, all over the city. And twinkle lights hung back and forth across the cobbled streets. Pretty glorious.

Today, we’ll be getting a shopping tour of the city from the Head Designer at Polarn O. Pyret. Can’t wait to report!

P.S. — Our hotel room has a turntable and stack of records! Made me happy. We listened to the Eurythmics while we unpacked. : )

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Beauty: At Home vs. Hiring Out Thu, 14 Aug 2014 14:00:06 +0000 Design Mom

L'Oreal Mousse Absolue Design Mom1

By Gabrielle. Photos by Ben Blair for Design Mom. //  This post is brought to you by L’Oréal Paris.

Manicures and pedicures. Hair cuts and hair color. Trimming your bangs. Event Makeup. Hair removal. Tanning sprays. Eyelash extensions or fake eyelashes. Eyebrow shaping.

I have tried all of the above. Further, I’ve tried them all both at home and in salon settings. L’Oréal Paris reached out about their new at-home color, Preference Mousse Absolue, and I thought it was the perfect excuse to discuss what type of beauty routines you prefer to do in shop versus at home. I’m always curious about how people handle their beauty and grooming habits.

L'Oreal Mousse Absolue Design Mom3

In general, I love the idea of taking care of as much as I can at home. It’s best when I don’t have to interrupt my day with an appointment and can take care of grooming tasks late at night if needed. But I’ve also noticed that if I don’t make appointments for certain tasks, I push them off until it reaches the point of ridiculousness. So I’ve had to find a balance. Here’s how it breaks down for me:

Certain tasks, I prefer to do at home — specifically eye brow shaping and hair removal. I’ve tried laser hair removal and thought I loved it, but ultimately found it wasn’t very effective for me. I’ve tried waxing, too, but those in-between times when my hair is growing out until it’s long enough to be waxed don’t work for me. So at home, I use both an epilator and disposable razors, and I’m satisfied with the results.

L'Oreal Mousse Absolue Design Mom4

Tanning sprays and self tanners I’ve abandoned altogether. I don’t even pull out bronzing powder. I wear spf every day and have stopped pretending I have a tan. I don’t have anything against tanning lotions and sprays, and I could probably be talked into putting on a tan for a particular event. But it’s far from a priority for me.

Manicures and pedicures happen at a nail salon, or if I don’t have the budget, they don’t happen at all. I have tried to perfect the at-home mani-pedi, both as a teen and as an adult, and found I simply don’t have the patience to a) do a good job, and b) sit still until the paint dries. So these happen in a salon, or they simply don’t happen. Happily, a salon pedicure will often last me a month or more — my toenails grow at a snail’s pace, so that’s not too hard to manage. My hands are another story. I keep them so busy, that even the best manicure will chip within a day — so I don’t even bother to get a manicure unless I have a conference or event coming up. One exception, I’ve tried shellac manicures and they’ve lasted for a week+! But, they weaken my nails so much that I can only indulge in a shellac manicure on a rare occasion.

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For hair tasks, I’ve gone back and forth over the years. When I wore my hair pixie short, Ben Blair would give me haircuts at home, and I would use at-home hair color as well. With really short hair, trims are needed every 3 to 4 weeks, so taking care of it at home was much easier than making an appointment. Plus, these were the grad school years and money was tight, so the at-home services were a huge help to the family budget. Best of all, I didn’t need to track down a babysitter for hair appointments! Dealing with everything at home just made sense all the way around.

These days, I make salon appointments for color and cuts — color is monthly, cuts and trims are more infrequent. I try to look forward to these appointments — to think of them as a time to relax, or maybe read an actual magazine, but if I have a deadline looming, leaving my desk to go to the salon can drive me nuts. Other times, I might make the appointment well in advance so that I’m not caught off guard, but then something comes up and I have to cancel.

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So sometimes, when I simply can’t fit in a hair appointment, but my roots are awful, I go with at-home color. In fact, it happened two weeks ago when I was on the epic roadtrip. I wanted to color my roots before we attended a wedding in Salt Lake City, but I didn’t want to search out a salon for a one-time visit, so I used Mousse Absolue — #400, Pure Dark Brown — in our hotel room and took care of the roots myself. No fuss, and no abandoning Ben and the kids mid-vacation while I took care of my hair.

The application was simple, and I loved the color, but the biggest selling point for me is that the excess color can be saved. If you’ve ever colored at home, you know that once you mix that color, you have to throw out any that you don’t use right then. But with Mousse Absolue, you can save the unused portion for a future touchup. Yay for less waste!

L'Oreal Mousse Absolue Design Mom6

I’ve thought about what an ideal grooming system for me would look like, and I can’t figure it out. I tend to remember things like needing a pedicure at 11pm, when I’m putting on my pjs for the night. Ideally, at that moment, I would be able to call an amazing nail expert and they would arrive at my house a few minutes later, and the pedicure would happen in my pjs, in my house, super late at night, while I worked on my inbox. Same with hair. Right when I step out of the shower in the morning, and remember my roots need attention, I would love to be able to call and have an appointment as soon as the kids are off to school. But of course, it doesn’t work that way. So I fit in grooming where I can.

How about you? How much grooming do you handle at home, and how much do you hire out? Also, if you could have a stylist or beautician come to your home, instead of going to the salon, would you prefer that? And lastly, are there any tasks that you absolutely won’t do at home? I’d love to hear how you manage your grooming routines.

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After School Snack Placemats – Free Printable! Wed, 13 Aug 2014 15:00:17 +0000 Design Mom

DIY Snack-time Placemats - Free Printable!   |   Design Mom

Photos and text by Gabrielle. // This post is brought to you by Blue Diamond Almonds.

BD Almonds Logo

It’s Back to School season! I love this time of year — really, I love anything that gives a feeling of fresh-starts and new chances and do-overs. One of the things I want to refresh as we head into fall is our snacks. Last school year we made great progress on cutting crappy food from our diet. But our efforts seemed to evaporate as summer came on. Popsicles and ice cold soda and ice cream sandwiches are hard to resist!

DIY Snack-time Placemats - Free Printable!   |   Design MomDIY Snack-time Placemats - Free Printable!   |   Design Mom

There’s no time like the present to reintroduce healthier snacks. Of course, I could just serve them up as is (and probably will on many days), but I thought it would be a fun option to make our after-school snack times a little more playful. So, I drew up some simple illustrations and had them laminated as placemats. A fox, a cat, a man and a woman.

DIY Snack-time Placemats - Free Printable!   |   Design MomDIY Snack-time Placemats - Free Printable!   |   Design Mom

The idea is basic as can be: the kids use their snacks to fill in the shapes. My hope is to provide different veggies and fruits and almonds each day. The kids will see them as fresh, new decorative options, and instead of reaching for the same old, same old, they’ll be getting more of a variety of foods than they might otherwise. Kids are happy. Mom is happy. Everyone is happy!

DIY Snack-time Placemats - Free Printable!   |   Design MomDIY Snack-time Placemats - Free Printable!   |   Design Mom

If you’d like to make your own set, it’s easy as can be. Download the free .pdf and save it to a thumbdrive, then head to your favorite copy shop. Have the .pdf printed on 11×17 paper and laminated. With printing and lamination, each placemat cost me less than $3.

DIY Snack-time Placemats - Free Printable!   |   Design MomDIY Snack-time Placemats - Free Printable!   |   Design Mom

Do you have any fun after-school snack traditions at your house? We’re always looking for new ideas!

P.S. — When we shot these photos, we tried 4 different flavors of Blue Diamond Almonds, one on each placemat. Honey Roasted Cinnamon, Honey Roasted Vanilla, Honey Roasted, and Smokehouse. Oscar liked them all, but his favorite were definitely the cinnamon. As for me, I ate the whole can of Smokehouse. : )

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Rootbeer Flavored Cookies Wed, 13 Aug 2014 12:00:57 +0000 Design Mom

donut sign 21

Image and text by Gabrielle.

We were laughing yesterday about some of things our exchange students noticed about America. The first thing they commented on was how BIG everything seemed, from the moment they disembarked from the airplance. The cars, the freeways, the buildings, the stores — they were wide-eyed at how huge everything was in comparison to their own countries.

They also had a talent for zeroing in on the craziest or most extreme items in the grocery stores or on the menus at restaurants. For example, during his last week here, Chris purchased a package of Rootbeer Float Flavored Chips Ahoy Cookies. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Don’t they sound like the strangest concoction? I had no idea they existed! Another time, we were at an outdoor mall and stopped at Fuddruckers for burgers. Victor and Charles ordered the enormous 1-pound burger just to see what it was like! Of course, I had never noticed it was on the menu and had certainly never heard or seen anyone order it. It’s one of those things that’s much more of a novelty than an actual menu item. During the roadtrip, when we were stocking up on snacks, Charles requested a bottle of Easy Cheese — as a Frenchman, he prides himself on knowledge of the best cheeses, and wanted to see this mockery of cheese product for himself.

We didn’t mind at all when they pointed out the strange things they would see. America has a reputation for crazy food and lots of it, so I think they were pre-disposed to notice the oddest bits. And we know we did the same sort of thing when we lived in France. We couldn’t help but notice the large glass jars of snails at the grocery store — though I never actually saw such a jar in anyone’s grocery cart.

To balance out the extremes, we would also try to give them common experiences. Sample breakfasts might be a bowl of corn flakes or Cheerios, another morning might be donuts, or something more traditional like sausage and eggs. Beyond food experiences, they would join us for family screen time, or run errands with us.

It was fun to see our world through their eyes. And now, when I’m at the store, I’m more likely to notice any strange new food items that have popped up.

If you were making an itinerary for visitors to your own town, what are the strangest things, and the most common things, you’d put on the schedule? What do you think they’d notice about where you live? What would you hope they’d notice?

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