Design Mom The Intersection of Design & Motherhood Tue, 25 Oct 2016 15:00:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 DIY: Kid-Designed Halloween Dishtowels Tue, 25 Oct 2016 15:00:29 +0000 Amy Christie

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By Gabrielle.

Your kids are counting down the days till Halloween. I know this, because mine are doing the same thing. Your costumes are ready. Your pumpkins are carved. And yet, there’s still a week to go. So here’s a fast and easy project to try this week. It’s a project that will let your kids shine, and once you master the simple technique, you’ll want to use it in a million ways (Thanksgiving napkins! A Christmas tablecloth! A custom laundry bag!).

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The technique is called glue-resist. You may be familiar with it because once, long ago, I shared a glue-resist project on Babble, and I shared one in my book as well. But this time we’ve made a big improvement. The basic idea is that you draw or write something with glue on a cotton fabric. Then you dye the fabric. Then you wash the fabric. And when you wash it, the glue rinses away, leaving your un-dyed design. The problem is, that when you put in the glued-fabric in a hot dye bath, it can make the glue dissolve. Tricky.

Amy Christie and I were discussing this problem and then I had a Duh! moment. Why aren’t we using cold dye? And why haven’t I thought of that before? So we tried it and it’s awesome.

Wanna try? Get your glue and let’s get started!

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Amy shot the photos for this post and here’s what she says:

Halloween is just a hop skip away and, I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of fun making holiday projects with my children. Their excitement is contagious. Using regular liquid glue, cotton flour sack towels and cold-water dye, you and your helpers can make one-of-a-kind spooky towels that you can actually use. While the heavy lifting (the dyeing) is more adult-level stuff, little hands can be the designers. The imperfection is perfect.

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- white flour sack towels
- Elmer’s glue (blue works best so you can see what you are drawing)
- foam brushes
- disposable cup for glue
- cold fabric dye* in orange and black
- water
- salt
- soda ash

*As Gabrielle mentioned we used cold-water dye because we found the hot-water dyes dissolved some of the glue resist during the process. But if you can’t get cold water dye, don’t give up — we’ve had decent success with hot-water dye too. Sometimes, we just have to clean up the design a bit with bleach and q-tips if needed. 

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Get your littles to draw! Pumpkin faces, other spooky creatures, words.

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Use the glue and foam brush to freehand replicas of the doodles. Allow the glue to completely dry which, depending of the thickness of the glue, could take upwards of 24-36 hours.

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Next it’s a cold-water bath! Dye the towels according to the manufacturer’s instructions per the dye, using salt and soda ash if/when needed.

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Once the dyeing is complete, send the towels through a wash cycle to remove the glue and dry. Then done!

Happy Halloween!


Thank you, Amy. So cute and easy, right? I recommend buying the dishtowels in a big pack because your kids will want to make a whole bunch of these! You could even fold & stack a few, then tie them up with a bow as a gift

Have you ever tried cold-water dye before? How about glue resist? Have any tips?

Credits: Images and styling by Amy Christie.

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Living With Kids: Mandi Johnson Tue, 25 Oct 2016 14:00:29 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

Mandi’s loyalty shines so brightly through this entire interview. It’s honestly like a love letter to her husband…and Ohio.

I have to mention, I’ve become a little obsessed with her state of late, especially after catching a few episodes of Cleveland Hustles. Have you seen it? It’s a concept reality television show by LeBron James that follows young entrepreneurs trying to create local jobs and a business model that can be replicated across the country. They’re paired with Cleveland businesses and mentors who’ve made it locally — and stayed. You see, everyone associated with the show share one major goal: they are all committed to bringing jobs and opportunity back to Ohio. It’s wonderful.

I’ll let Mandi tell you her tale. It’ll fill you with emotion and might even make you look around and ask yourself what you can do for your own city. It had that effect on me.

Welcome, Mandi! We are so happy you’re here.

Hi there! I’m Mandi. I live with my husband Phil and our two daughters, Lucy (three) and Juniper (one).

I’m trained in interior design and had planned to move to the big city — Chicago — to become a successful designer living in a cool loft in a fun neighborhood. Instead, during my college years I fell in love with the challenge of freelance life and investing my talents and friendships into bettering my local community in Northeast Ohio.

Our area, known as the rust belt, has experienced an incredible loss over the past few decades with the exportation of manufacturing jobs, resulting in wounded and shrinking communities, increased crime, and plenty of brain drain. I resolved to stay because it was difficult, but also because it was easy. Our family all live here, and they’re such an integral part of our lives. Sometimes my brother and I dream about relocating all of my in-laws along with our own family to someplace warmer, but in general we have tremendous Ohio pride.

I hesitate to say this, just because oh how I wish it didn’t matter, but ever since marrying during our poor college years, we’ve struggled quite a bit financially. Phil and I are very proud that we make every effort to create strict budgets, follow through, and save wisely, but there’s not much you can do with the salary of rural kindergarten teacher and a part-time blogger who works primarily for someone else’s blog. It’s something that I’ve always said didn’t bother me, and I’ve sworn I wouldn’t want my husband to stress or feel like doing something he didn’t enjoy just for us to have more material possessions.

I myself have worked odd jobs just so I can continue doing what I enjoy, and also spend as much time as possible with our kids. It’s a choice we’d made, and I wanted him to know that if we were poor for the rest of our lives, I’d be happy with it.

I guess he wasn’t as happy, though. Content, perhaps, but eager to do more and experience more. So he recently made a career change and is now working in sales, which will certainly give us a different lifestyle someday, but for now we’re keeping to our old budget and banking everything else so that in a few years we can put my interior design training to work and build a home that we’ve designed and dreamed for together!

Looking forward to a better home is something I’ve struggled with since before we were married. It’s what made me interested in interior design from the beginning, I suppose. You know, the desire to improve the space around you. But I found myself obsessing over when we would have enough saved to get a new house, when we could finally put drapes up on the windows, and when we’d be able to do something about our drab kitchen. I mean, we couldn’t even afford paint for the kitchen, because we were literally putting every extra dollar into an envelope to save up for an Ikea sofa! As much as I tried to tell myself to snap out of it and just enjoy this space we had now, our time together, and blah, blah, blah… my mind wouldn’t let me.

Until I was diagnosed with cancer. Then everything changed.

Not that I would ever want anyone else to go through what my family went through, but I have to say, if I had the chance to go back in time and prevent my cancer (a rare type from a malignant paraganglioma tumor), I definitely wouldn’t. The experience taught me so much about how foolish and trivial furnishings and fabrics are when faced with a limited amount of time on earth. I shifted all of my energy into relationships and spiritual matters. I looked towards eternity in Heaven, rather than wasting away a few lame years waiting for a West Elm sectional while bemoaning my prefab sofa.

I did recover from cancer, but I had a very difficult time adjusting back to normal life again afterwards. I wrote a few blog posts about it if you care to read about it in more detail. But how could I go back to caring about throw pillows and shag rugs after being given a second change at actual LIFE?

With the help of some spiritual mentors, I’ve been able to understand how these seemingly trivial passions of mine — design, fashion, photography — add so much joy to my life and enhance the few years I’ve been given on earth. They’re fun. They’re exciting. But the way our home looks is not the most important part of our home.

I live in Canton, Ohio, where I was born, and very close to where I attended college at the University of Akron. We live in a unique area with three close cousin cities — Cleveland, Akron, and Canton — that we usually just refer to as Northeast Ohio. It’s unique because there is a great mix of landscapes and communities, and each city is reawakening with city revitalization projects happening in the wake of the rust belt decline.

Lake Eerie is our version of a coastline, Portage County gives us rocky terrain and caves, and Canton is surrounded on the south and west by Amish country. We also have a good mix of rural, suburban, and urban places everywhere in between. Each individual city has its own mix of recent and well rooted immigrant communities, so I like to think of our area as being pretty open and understanding of people from all walks of life.

They say “As Ohio goes, so goes the nation” in terms of politics, so it’s exciting knowing how much my community can impact the future of our nation. In general, if you get plugged into local communities — even slightly — in Northeast Ohio, you will find an energy and vision that I believe to be unmatched in the rest of our country. As Lebron James says, “In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned.” We pride ourselves in that work ethic and just wish the rest of the country could see how much has happened and changed thanks to the hard work of those who’ve stayed here and care about our region’s future.

As far as my actual home goes, Phil and I have basically run the gamut of living spaces, as far as Canton, Ohio is concerned. Nine years ago we began our marriage in a suburban basement apartment, but moved into my brother’s gutted 1920s bungalow to help him renovate and pay his mortgage. That was a really fun two year stretch that people thought we were crazy for undergoing. Some people would mention how perfect our living arrangement would be for the premise of a sitcom, and I would chuckle and agree! My brother is still very close with Phil and I, though we don’t have to share a tiny bathroom any more.

After the bungalow years, we moved into the most gorgeous 1920s Tudor apartment with towering, gothic arched ceilings and unbelievable charm. Because Canton is such an inexpensive place to live, this dream apartment was an incredible living experience we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy if we had actually moved to the big city as I had originally planned. I didn’t think we could ever leave that place, knowing I wouldn’t be able to find such a magnetic design within our price range, but just two years later, I found myself pregnant for the first time and eager to make a financially wise decision to buy a small mid century ranch with a meager amount of character but a fantastically low mortgage payment.

As I mentioned earlier, we’re very excited about the prospect of building in the next few years, but in the meantime we’ve been trying to make a few changes here and there that will make us appreciate our current home a bit more before we leave.

We only toured three homes in our buyers’ market region when we were looking four years ago. When I saw the brick wall core of the home and the openness of the kitchen and dining area, I knew we wouldn’t find anything with such a good starting point for such an amazing deal. I don’t mind sharing that our home was under 90K, and is around 1500 square feet. We have no basement and no stairs in our home, which is certainly unusual for Ohio, but very convenient for keeping track of tiny humans. Although just today my three-year-old asked me, “When are we going to live in a home with stairs in it?” I have to admit, a little separation would be nice at nap time!

If I wake up early in the morning, the sound from our kitchen carries across the terrazzo floors into the children’s room alerting them that Mommy finally has some alone time, which should probably end immediately.

Thankfully Phil doesn’t have much of an opinion when it comes to interior design, but he really appreciates everything I do to make our home look nicer and work more efficiently. He verbally affirms what I’ve done with our space since we’ve moved in, and I really appreciate that. He also is always willing to help with projects, even though he never seems to grasp my vision. I asked him to find a few friends to come over and rip the cabinets off the wall and he didn’t even question me once!

The biggest challenge has to be the fact that we have two small children and only one living room. We have no basement, no den…. nothin’ but our one living room that also serves as our office and playroom.

We do have three bedrooms, but opted to give each girl their own bedroom, because they both prefer to play together in the main family area of the house, rather than alone in their rooms. I don’t blame them. I’ve been happier since having my office in the family room too, so I can be with them all while I work. But I’m not so good at tidying up my desk area, and neither is Phil. That’s one of the issues we plan on addressing to make our living environment more enjoyable.

I do allow a generous amount of toys in our home, but make sure that each toy has a storage spot, or else something’s gotta give…or should I say, be given away! I recently made a storage cabinet to house toys behind our sofa, which also created a great little surface for the kids to play, and for us to use as a sofa table when hosting gatherings. It’s nice to have all of the toys so easily accessible, but also out of sight, as this is the first view when entering the room.

Lucy and Juniper’s play kitchen is also prominently displayed on our fireplace wall, so I definitely made a point to find cute looking pieces at garage sales and antique shops so I wouldn’t mind staring at them all of the time.

I used to do 10 DIY projects a month for A Beautiful Mess, and looking back, that is utter insanity and I don’t know how I kept up! I was very stressed out, malnourished, and not well rested. My projects were beginning to lack quality and half my ideas weren’t so great. You could definitely say I was burnt out.

I decided to step back a little when I experienced a very difficult second pregnancy, and haven’t gotten back to my previous rate of productivity and probably never will. Not because I’m incapable, but because I’ve decided other things are more important to me. I have been given different types of opportunities in lieu of DIY projects, such as developing filters for the A Color Story app, working on some behind-the-scenes design projects, and photography gigs here and there.

But in general I lay low these days and enjoy Instagramming more than planning projects and editorial calendars, or managing sponsor contracts. I do go through waves of being very motivated in terms of projects and blogging, and then the wave will subside and I will focus on keeping my home in order, including being present as a parent, a wife, a daughter, and a friend.

The worst part of DIY blogging is finding the space to do it in my small home! I’ve commandeered my dining room for months at a time, and my family is very, very patient with me. During those stretches of time, we make an effort to have the rest of the home neat and tidy at all times. I definitely have a massive amount of craft supplies in my home, and a bit of a wood shop in my garage. I will never purge my supply stash, which is inconveniently stored in several places around my home, because I believe having access to materials when inspiration strikes is so invaluable!

I have quite a few hobbies, and most of them involve crafting or woodworking. Occasionally I become obsessed with a particular project and find myself holed away at home with everything I need to indulge my crafty whims for months at a time. Obviously I leave the house during that time, but I’ll stay up till the morning fiddling with miniatures, or go blind staring at the computer screen as I design something that I may or may not end up building.

Sharing parts of my home on social media can go one of two ways, and frequently goes both of these ways at different moments in time, if that makes sense. Sometimes sharing so much of my home makes me overly critical of it, especially when engaging with others on social media who have what I perceive to be better homes than mine, or “goal homes,” if you will.

But other times I find myself going through a period of time where I’ve been bogged down with the ins and outs of life and haven’t given two hoots about my home for quite some time. Rather than this being a welcome respite from the hazards of materialism, I find that subconsciously I begin to feel stressed at the lack of order in my home and lack of mental rest that comes from my being in a home that is well designed and neatly maintained. So being a part of this aesthetics-conscious part of the internet world is a great way to glean inspiration for my home which results in my creating a space that we all enjoy more with a little thoughtfulness.

As with most things in life, it’s all about balance. In this case, a balance of inspiration, practicality, and contentedness.

We’ve very fortunate to live close to most of our family, and not just because of the convenience of childcare. Phil and I are very close with both his family and mine, and we’re also very close with our Canton church family. I have set days where my mother and in-laws will watch my two girls during the day — my mom on Wednesdays, and my in-laws on Friday — because they have flexible work schedules and love having that guaranteed time with my precious angel children.

Mentally it does so much for me to have alone time to recharge mentally, spiritually, and physically, but I try to be as efficient with this time as I can be. Sometimes I get a lot of work done that earns our family income, while other times I just try to get caught up with housework or my to-do list so we can all feel a bit more sane in our home.

Lately I haven’t had as much childcare as I’ve been used to in the past, because my in-laws keep going on these enviable trips around the country, hiking, sky-diving, and whatnot, while my parents, on the other hand, have been dealing with some pretty serious health issues that my dad is recovering from. I’m just grateful for his life, so I really don’t mind the lack of childcare. Though things are getting back to normal on that front now.

Phil and I are very purposeful about balancing our alone time, time with our individual friends, time with our friends we share, time alone as a couple, and time all together as a family. This takes a lot of intentionality, and every month we check in to make sure everyone’s happy with how things have been going.

Sometimes I’ll go away for a trip with my girlfriends, or I’ll have friends over multiple nights in a row for crafting, wine, movies, or just catching up. He plays in a basketball league, is a mentor, has Bible studies with men and also alongside me with couples, and an active social life to boot.

Sometimes I don’t know how we fit it all in, but other than our basics like I’ve just described, we don’t make a lot of plans and try to keep flexible with our schedules. We do like to host, and it seems like our friends enjoy being in our home, too! That’s a big relief for me, because I like being social late in the evening, but that isn’t always possible with kids unless people are able to come to your home for hangs.

What do I love most about living with my girls? I love seeing a spunky personality emerge from what I first knew as a tiny dancing fetus on the ultrasound screen! It’s hard to understand that feeling until you experience it, I suppose, but the amount of influence and responsibility we have over her life is daunting at times, but mostly it’s a huge honor and makes us more thoughtful about everything we do in life, even in how we take care of our home and set good examples for things like screen time and television content.

Most of all, I just really like my two girls, and see them, yes as my responsibility, but also as two lifelong friends that I enjoy having alongside me to enhance every joy and to help soften every blow that comes along as well.

I’ll never forget when the doctors told me that my tumor was malignant, and my Lucy (who was seven months old at the time) just looked at me and laughed with the crinkliest eyes possible. It can be difficult when everyone in your life overanalyzes how to treat you, sometimes avoiding the difficulty altogether. Or sometimes you find yourself feeling the need to tell everyone else in your life that everything will be okay. But when you have a little person who just exudes joy and isn’t touched by the sadness, understanding, or fear, it can be the greatest gift. You don’t have to know that everything will be okay, but at least you can enjoy each fleeting moment while it lasts.

My dad, an engineer and also very talented craftsman, created for my brother and I an enormous collection of building blocks that we put to use in every area of play during our childhood. We would spend all day building sprawling villages with carefully constructed homes, and my parents would let us keep them set up for an entire week, because they could see our imagination and joy at having created such a special play world. I always felt so bad for my friends who had to keep their homes entirely neat and tidy, or pick up all of their toys at the end of the day, with no exceptions.

Yes, there is a balance to find in there somewhere, and I always try to make sure that I’m teaching my kiddos responsibility and making sure our home is enjoyable to all who live in it, but a childhood is such a brief moment in time. I don’t want to regret limiting their joy and childlike wonder. I hope that I give my children chances to try all different kinds of crafts and hobbies in our home, to build relationships with their friends and our family’s friends, to see creativity and healthy habits modeled for them, and to feel like this is their space as much as it is mine.

If I had to do it all over again, I’d let them make a mess in the kitchen whenever they asked to help.


Illness has a way of rearranging our furniture for us, don’t you think? I’ve read this line at least seven times: “I looked towards eternity in Heaven, rather than wasting away a few lame years waiting for a West Elm sectional while bemoaning my prefab sofa.” Thank you, Mandi, for sharing your earned wisdom with us all.

Another line I love because I relate to it so completely: “I will never purge my supply stash, which is inconveniently stored in several places around my home, because I believe having access to materials when inspiration strikes is so invaluable!”

Anyone else out there in love with their city and working hard to get it back where it once was? I’d sure love to hear your experiences.

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

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Etiquette Dinner Party Report Mon, 24 Oct 2016 16:41:41 +0000 Design Mom

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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

For those of you who have been asking, I’ve got a little report on Olive’s Etiquette Dinner party to share. There are 3 main things to tell you about:

1) The Meal

As we planned the menu, we had a few considerations on our mind. First, we wanted something the guests would enjoy and really want to eat — so nothing too crazy, but we also wanted to include at least something that felt adventurous. Second, we knew we needed to have a vegetarian option. Third, we knew we wouldn’t have a ton of time to prep the food, and we don’t pretend to be gourmet chefs, so we also wanted something doable.

We ended up with a fairly simple menu, but split it into 7 courses and made it sound really fancy by throwing in French vocabulary and lots of descriptors on the printed menu.


This is what we served:

Hors d’oeuvres
House Specialty: Assortment of Local Produce & Miscellanea

Soupe de la Tomate with Crème and Ciboulette

Greens with d’Anjou Pear, Walnuts Sucré, Vinaigre de Balsam, and Native Huile d’Olive

Sorbet of Lemon

Main Dish
Pasta a la Crème with Lardons, Grated Parmesan and Fresh Pepper
served with Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Cheese Course
Havarti of øverød, Amish Bleu, Brie de Normandie

Moulleux de Chocolat with Crème Congelé
Fresh Berries served over Meringue


In reality it was veggies and dip as an appetizer, then store-bought tomato soup, then salad, then a palette cleanser — a pint of lemon sorbet, then pasta carbonara (with optional bacon), then a cheese course, and then they could choose a dessert — brownies with whip cream or berries over store-bought meringue. Didn’t we make it sound fancy? : )

The adventurous part was definitely the cheese course. But everyone was brave and tried a bit of each one. I was impressed!

Oscar, Betty and June were the servers. They wore head to toe black and draped a white dishcloth over their arm. They would announce each course using the fancy description. Then they would serve the course, refill drink cups, and clear the course as people finished.

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2) The Etiquette

My friend Nedra found out we were having an etiquette dinner and told me she had the perfect book to loan me. It’s called Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teens and it’s delightful. It’s 50 years old and it’s charming as can be (and FYI: Tiffany is the jewelry store, not an advice columnist). The book features simple bits of advice next to fantastic illustrations. With maybe a couple of exceptions, the advice still stands up very well today. Go take a peek, it’s really great.

So we had the book out and as guests arrived, they would read each other tips and enjoy browsing the pages.

At the table we had each place set with a salad fork, a dinner fork, a knife, a soup spoon and a dessert spoon. We also had a water cup and a wine goblet (we served Martinellis). We kept it pretty simple. We went through the basics of which utensil goes with each course (work from outside in), and how to set your utensils when you’re done eating. We also went over what to do if you’re at a fancy dinner but make a utensil mistake (you just keep eating — don’t stress out).

We talked about how for casual meals or nightly family dinners the 3 main etiquette rules to remember are chew with your mouth closed, say please and thank you, and don’t reach for food. (If you’ve read my book, you may recognize those rules!)

The guests made lively conversation, asked questions about the meal to the servers, and enjoyed their meals.

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3) The Photobooth

In addition to the meal and etiquette, the other big activity was a photo booth. The guests arrived in fancy clothes and made use of the photo booth both before and after dinner.

For the background, we used a big piece of black foamcore and then hot-glued plastic cutlery on it in patterns. This was fun and easy to make. And if you wanted to make one yourself, you could go in so many different directions. Colored cutlery, stripes of forks and spoons instead of circles, other colors for the background, etc..

I happen to have good camera equipment for work, so we took advantage of that. We put the backdrop in place, then set up a tripod in front of it, placing the camera so that it only captured the space within the borders of the backdrop. We set it up outside, hoping to use the natural light as long as it lasted. But eventually it was dark and we turned on the flash.

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But the best thing about the photo booth was that we set up CamRanger. It’s this little device that connects to your camera and allows each photo to go directly to a tablet or phone. Once it’s connected you use the tablet to take the photos.

Typically I use CamRanger when I’m shooting a product or room and wanting to adjust the details of the space. I can shoot the photo, see it fill the screen on the iPad, and then move a throw pillow or switch out an accessory to get the perfect shot. I’m sure I’m not explaining it well, but it was awesome for this party photobooth, because the guests could see the photos up close and big as they went. Plus, they used the iPad to take the photos themselves, so they were in control instead of depending on a photographer. Once it was set up, no one had to look through the camera at all; the whole thing happened with the iPad.

If you know a photographer and can borrow a CamRanger for your next photobooth, I would highly recommend it. The guests loved it and it made the whole photobooth more interactive. They ended up taking over 500 photos!

The next day, Olive picked about 75 of the best shots and I uploaded those to Dropbox so she could share them with her friends. It’s fun to see the shots end up on Instagram. I love the confetti shots!

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Those are the 3 main things I wanted to tell you about. You may notice I didn’t mention decor, and that’s because the decor was really just the fancy dinner table — tablecloth, cloth napkins, pewter, lots of tea lights in votives, etc. — printed menus, and the photo backdrop.

After dinner, the girls changed into non-fancy hang-out clothes, popped popcorn and watched movies. It was a great party, and I loved that the whole family could participate and help throughout the evening, so everyone felt included.

I’d love to hear: did you ever attend an etiquette dinner as a teenager? I definitely remember my mom hosting them for the young women in our neighborhood. What would your kids think of a party theme like this? And have you ever tried a photobooth at one of your kids’ parties? They are so much fun!

P.S. — My main camera was occupied in the photo booth and I realized after the party that I hadn’t taken any other photos! No food photos. No photos of the servers. No fancy table photos. Oh well. It happens. 

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A Few Things Fri, 21 Oct 2016 18:00:28 +0000 Design Mom

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Photo and text by Gabrielle.

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

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

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

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

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

- The open office trend is destroying the workplace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Call It A Day: Stephanie Artuso Thu, 20 Oct 2016 16:37:16 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

Stephanie Artuso is a visual artist. She has a fluffy dog, loves her mornings as much as her coffee…and, let’s see…what else can I tell you about Stephanie? Oh, yes. She lives part of the year in a school bus.

I found her on Instagram, and her inspired squares stopped me in my tracks. I couldn’t wait to introduce you to her. Let’s tag along her delightful life, shall we? Welcome, Stephanie!

Good morning! I’m Stephanie Artuso, a visual artist, dog mom, coffee lover, interior design enthusiast, out-of-the-box home dweller, currently an organic farmer, and Jill of all trades. Because I define my life in many different ways, every day in my life operates a bit differently. There are some general things that remain constant. Coffee, walks with Uka, my five year old, fluffy, mixed breed boarder collie, cuddles with my muse’s daughter Gia, time spent creatively, and lots of daydream/plan-making chats with my fellow farm residents. I’ll start at the beginning.

I am a morning person. I believe this comes from having grown up on an island where there wasn’t a high school. Being on time for a ferry first thing in the morning was very important.

I have the most of all kinds of energy in the first part of the day — creative, physical, all of it. I go back and forth between starting my day with a run, writing, or being in the studio. Mornings for me involve a glass of lemon water, and then a coffee.

I love coffee. I go to bed at night looking forward to waking up to the process of coffee: the brewing, the smell, the first sip. Coffee on a camp stove, sitting outside, was a big part of my motivation to live in a bus. It sounds insignificant, but having to put in a bit of extra work — getting water from outside, lighting the stove, nothing too strenuous, but just more involved then pressing a button — is a huge part of my life philosophy about simple living. I feel more connected to my life and natural surroundings when it requires more thought and effort to do the little things that we take for granted.

Whenever possible I buy coffee from small-batch local coffee roasters. My favourite is Red Roaster from Gabriola Island, but seeing as I presently reside in the interior of B.C., just out side of Lillooet, I only get it when I’ve made the trek to visit family and friends.

I am being greeted by late blooming sunflowers and filtered morning sun these days. Mornings like this I will eat oatmeal, and will turn my attention to creative pursuits of some sort. It’s all about planning and ideas in the morning. Mapping out how to put into motion whatever I am working on. I sit at my little table on the bus, and write.

Lately, what has been on my mind most is a project boat my boyfriend and I bought. It’s a 1950s wooden power boat called The Reel Thing, and it needs a lot of work. I love interior design projects. I learned so much converting the school bus into a home, and it’s an addiction now that I have — the desire to turn things into homes.

Next I wander down to my studio. It’s in the back bedroom of an old trailer, and it’s the most perfect place to make a mess.

I moved on the farm three years ago, when some friends who were purchasing it together invited me to be part of the garden project. When we moved here, there was a big open pasture previously used to grow alfalfa. Now it’s a certified Organic farm, producing a wide variety of heirloom vegetables and flowers.

Last summer we attended three farmers markets, and created a growers co-operative with some of the neighbours called Rainshadow Growers so that we could work together on sales and transport, as well as unite a community of farmers instead of competing. It’s a very satisfying lifestyle, but a lot of hard work. I’ve realized that I am not cut out to be a farmer. A gardener yes, but a farmer no. It takes a certain kind of obsession, constant thought, planning, trouble-shooting. Something that I don’t have. I have too many other ideas, and I like to wander too much. Farming doesn’t afford much of a life outside of the farm.

Renovating the bus was very inexpensive. I was lucky because I got a lot of help, and had access to off-cuts from a saw mill for all the lumber I needed. The initial cost of buying the bus was $1400. The bus was retired from a river rafting company. Then after that, I think I only spent a few hundred. I had an art show around the time that I started the project, where all the pieces were for trade, so a few people offered time spent helping. Every thing else is stuff I had or thrifted.

My lifestyle costs about $1000 a month. I don’t like talking about money. Part of the way I live is a statement about not playing into our society’s obsession with money and things. I measure what my life costs me by what comforts I am willing to go without to have the time and freedom to pursue art and other things in my life that bring me joy.

Obviously I haven’t completely checked out! I have a cell phone, I drive a vehicle, I pay rent on the farm, so I do have to work. But I try to only take on jobs and work that can put my heart into. This way of living comes with financial instability, but that’s a sacrifice I make easily and I always manage to land on my feet. Knock on wood.

I do a lot of commissions for people who have seen my art at shows, friend’s houses, or online. It’s rare that I have a collection of finished pieces, but when I do, I try to get them up on Etsy. Lately I have been working on a collection of food-shaped necklaces that are finding homes around the necks of DJs.

I am all over the place with what I am creating. On any given day I am working on four or five projects. Paintings or appliqué. I have also designed some logos, tattoos, shirt designs, and stage decor at festivals. I take a lot of photographs, although I would not call myself a photographer by any means.

The bus came about naturally, as I didn’t want to live in the house with everyone. I have always wanted to live in a bus (or a camper, a Yurt, a boat, a tree house…) and I was in a position where I had somewhere to park it and work on it. What I love most about the bus is the light. All the windows make me feel like I am outside.

I have a power cord running to the bus for lights, I have a wood stove for heat, an outhouse, and access to the washroom in the house. In the spring and summer I have water from the gravity-fed irrigation lines. Glacier water right to my door, and an outdoor washing station. When the weather becomes too cold, I usually head to Vancouver Island to visit with family and friends, or I travel. I am a bit nomadic in the winter.

I think I have always just been an artist. It’s part of how I have defined myself for as long as I can remember. A teacher in elementary school once wrote “It’s fitting that Stephanie’s last name starts with ART.” I have always been creative, and have felt like art, design, and making spaces beautiful were my highest pursuits.

By lunchtime I stop by the house to check in and visit. My muse and her daughter are usually in the kitchen. Cara, my muse, is a friend I met in our early twenties at a yoga teacher’s training. We’ve orbited each others lives since then, and I was honoured with the invitation to be at the birth of her daughter, Gianna Prairie, in January. Gia is the beautiful baby model that moonlights on my Instagram occasionally. She has her own little corner of the bus for times when the two of us hang.

The afternoon is for being social, going for walks, taking Gia for an hour or two. I’ll have lunch in the house, usually, seasonally from the garden. This is the best. There are lots of people around the farm, both visitors and people who live here.

I don’t leave the farm too often when I am here. There is a grocery store in town, and we all share the duty of stocking up on the things we need whenever anyone goes.

I am not big into cooking. If it’s only me, I would live off oats, rice, salad and fruit in a range of different combinations. I am boring with food. I will eat the same things over and over, because it’s easy and I am usually busy in my mind creating other things…paintings, necklaces in the shapes of food, mobiles…

Most of my life is personal time. I’ve managed for the last few years to make a living by only taking on projects that feel important to me, so in that way, nothing too often feels like it’s not personal. My life doesn’t cost a lot. I try to be as minimal so that more of my time can be spent on doing work that is satiating versus financially beneficial.

I end my days early. I like to be in bed around 9:30 with a book. The pendulum swing of feeling extra alive in the mornings is that evenings are when I feel very low energy.

Emotionally, this is the time of day I struggle with the most, whenever there are things in my life that are bothering me — missing people, worrying about projects, concerns about anything at all. To combat this, I have a calming routine of a soothing face wash, a few lines of reflection in my Journal, and a good book. The last thing I usually think about these days before falling asleep  is how excited I am to start my next home project – the boat — and how thankful I am to have met such an amazing partner-in-crime to work on it with.


Glacier water. Can’t you just taste it? And how about the school-bus-turned-lovely-home? It’s pretty magical, don’t you think? Thank you, Stephanie, for sharing yourself with us today!

As for Stephanie’s approach to life — “My life doesn’t cost a lot. I try to be as minimal so that more of my time can be spent on doing work that is satiating versus financially beneficial.” — it’s like a breath of fresh air, isn’t it? Could you handle the simple life? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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

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Living With Kids: Diana Clinger Tue, 18 Oct 2016 16:00:22 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

Diana is an exuberant writer, so it follows that her home displays the same joy. There are ever-growing enthusiastic collections she watches carefully just to be sure they don’t start resembling an episode of Hoarders, and nooks seemingly everywhere to welcome the world. “Ooh, what’s that?” I heard myself saying more than once while zooming in on a treasure-filled corner.

She’s also a generous writer, so you’ll hear about prices and her struggles as a mom and her realistic shortcomings (which we all recognize as true talents!) that spurred her to lean more toward a shabby chic style of decor. I’ll let Diana explain it; she does so adorably!

Come meet her. You’re going to want to be her friend. And I have a feeling she’ll want the same from you. Welcome, sweet Diana!

(Just a quick note before I introduce myself…I was only recently shown this blog by a good friend of mine and was just blown away by all the inspiring stories and homes you moms have posted! It has been so fun reading and getting a glimpse into your lives, and I hope that I can offer some bit of inspiration in return!)

So my name is Diana Clinger. I live in Idaho Falls with my husband Chris, our two cats, Pepe La Roux and Possum, and our wonderful daughter Addison, who is turning two at the end of this October!

I met my husband Chris when I was 19 and a freshman at the University of Idaho in Moscow. UofI is where my parents first met and it is a truly beautiful campus of ivy-covered buildings and walkways that I know I took way too many artsy photos of while I was attending! I remember being so excited to go to the same college as my two older sisters and share an apartment with them. My parents had let me stay with my sisters during the summer months between my Junior and Senior year of high school, provided that I get a job, pull my own weight and stay out of trouble, and I absolutely couldn’t wait to join them.

Our fateful meeting occurred when we both got a ride from the same person heading to southern Idaho for Spring Break. It is about a nine-hour drive from Moscow to Shelley so we had plenty of time to get acquainted. As it turned out, we had both gone to the same high school only a year apart and it was actually pretty amazing that we had never met considering that the graduating class size is around 180 people and I knew almost every single one of his close friends — I honestly believe it was for the best that we had never met in high school, as those years were not exactly kind to me!

We were further thrown together when our ride realized he was going to be late for a family function and dropped us off (see also: abandoned) at a gas station on the outskirts of town. These were the days before everyone had their own cell phones, so we made our way toward the gas station to use the pay phone and prayed that one of our families would be able to pick us up. My family was the one to answer and I’ll never forget this ride home as long as I live! I guess they hadn’t heard me when I said that there were two of us needing a ride — my mom later admitted she thought I was using the term “we” as in the “royal we” — because they showed up in the family car completely packed with all of my siblings and only one spot free in the passenger seat!

Chris was a gentlemen and gave me the nice seat, and so now the image of my future husband uncomfortably sprawled out across all his future in-laws in the backseat is one I will have forever. We took him to his house and were in the process of helping him unload all of his luggage, when his mom not-so-subtly suggested he get my number. I don’t think I can describe the sheer amount of awkwardness that ensued by having just met and then being asked out while both of our families stood watching…there are just no words. Anyway, the date clearly went well as we just recently celebrated our ten year anniversary this July!

We lived in Moscow for quite a few years, but I always knew that I eventually wanted to move back closer to home and family, so when Chris was offered a tech job in Idaho Falls, we leapt at the chance. Unfortunately, the job ended up falling through, but we were home and we weren’t going anywhere. Chris ended up getting a part time job all the while still applying everywhere, and I was working as many shifts as I could at my waitressing job to save up for a house.

Ever since I was a little girl I had dreamed of owning a home on the numbered streets of Idaho Falls. They are all so charming and unique and — because of their age — within our meager price range. We couldn’t afford anything above $120,000 so when we found a home that met most of our criteria and would (all totaled) come to $117,000, we pounced! It’s an early 1950s home that needed quite a bit of updating and, at the time of purchase, had a completely unfinished basement.

After all those years of renting I was in heaven. Finally, a place to decorate and make our own! At first because of our budget, we just focused on the upstairs and did the things that were easy to fix. Painting the green, yellow, and brown walls was the first thing I tackled. I love using neutral wall colors because I have a passionate love affair with fabric and I like to change out the pillows and blankets for every season. A lot of my pillows are made from thrift store shirts or dresses (or even just clothes my family and friends were getting rid of) that had a pattern or color that caught my eye.

I learned to sew at a young age from my mother who is an amazing seamstress. Now here I should clarify; my mom tried to teach me how to sew when I was young but like a fool, I hardly paid any attention. It wasn’t until years later that I realized what a valuable skill this would be to someone who loves fabric and I begged her to re-teach me everything! She was very patient and even now doesn’t criticize when I clearly did not measure something like I should have. I use a very haphazard approach to sewing; I have an idea of what I want something to look like and I just eyeball it and hope for the best. It’s pretty much how I approach all of my projects.  If you’ve ever seen an episode of the Red Green Show, it’s similar to that.

One of my favorite examples of this came after just completing my very first slipcover project. I was over at my mom’s house and using her sewing machine because I didn’t have one of my own at the time. I was beside myself with joy and called my younger teenage sister downstairs to tell me what she thought. She took one look at it and says, “No offense, but I can tell you’re not a perfectionist” and walked back upstairs!

It’s true, though, and I honestly think that’s why I went with more of a shabby chic style of decorating, because it is what worked best with my budget and my skill level at the time. It’s also a very forgiving style when it comes to children because everything you own is already banged up or slipcovered so it’s not a life or death situation if they scratch up a table or get their jam hands all over your slipcovers.

Every piece of furniture in our home (excluding electronics/appliances) was either thrifted, gifted, or Craigslisted for under $100. There are only a couple of pieces that went just over that amount, but still well within that range. I am using specific numbers because doing a cheap project or remodel means different things to different people. I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve read where they rave about what a deal they got on something and come to find out it was almost a thousand dollars! That is not cheap to me by any means! I am one of those crazies that you see dumpster diving and picking up the random furniture people are just about to throw away. It usually just needs a little love and then it’s good as new…haha but good as new can also mean different things to different people and, as we’ve already established, I am far from a perfectionist!

I do have to be careful with all my thrifting and salvaging though because I have a tendency to collect things and it’s a constant battle to keep my house from looking like it should be featured on an episode of Hoarders! I often have to repeat that William Morris quote in my head that says to “Keep nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.”

If you’re anything like me and have trouble just donating huge batches of stuff to Goodwill, a trick that sometimes helps is to find people in my life that I know could use the items more and just give it directly to them. It just makes it a lot easier to get rid of things I’m not using when I know that they will be loved and used elsewhere.

Another thing that I love about the numbered streets is their proximity to the greenbelt around the falls and the downtown area. I love being able to walk or bike there and not have to worry about parking. One year we did a farmer’s market booth where my sister Katy sold her beautiful handmade jewelry and told fortunes, my youngest sister Alisa did henna tattoos, and my mom and I sold various handmade pillows/clothes/crafts. It was so much fun that we are looking into possibly doing it again in the near future! You meet the most interesting people who truly have a passion for what they are doing, and I loved being able to hear their stories!

At this time, we had been living in our home for about a year, Chris had found a much better job so we weren’t as strapped for cash, but we were beginning to wonder if our dream of having children would ever happen. Friends and family were very supportive, but I will say that it was very hard to move back home and see all of my friends that were on their fourth or fifth kid and here we were with seemingly no hope in sight.

It wasn’t until the beginning of 2014, the very last year in my twenties, that we got the wonderful news that we were expecting. I loved being able to feel her moving around when I would sing to her, and her little flutter kicks, but I definitely earned her. I was one of those moms who was sick every single day of the pregnancy and puking only once in a day was considered a win.

But even with all of that I could hardly contain my excitement. My nesting hormones kicked into overdrive and I was suddenly very determined to finish the basement before she arrived. I was a huge, pregnant force to be reckoned with and I still feel a bit bad for my poor husband who was dragged into the madness.

There were a few complications with the birth, but I’ll never forget the feeling of holding our little Addison Grace in my arms for the first time. I remember everyone telling me that it wouldn’t be like in the movies where the babies are all calm and clean, but I honestly thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen! She wasn’t crying at all, she just took her time looking around and then locked eyes with me as if to say “Hello… where in the world am I?”

She had strawberry blonde hair and these big blue eyes that surprised me, as neither Chris nor I had that eye color except for our moms. I kept waiting for them to change to brown as she got older, but here we are with her about to turn two years old at the end of this October and her eyes are more blue than ever!

It’s amazing to me that kids already come with such strong personalities. Addie is full to the brim with sass! She loves trying new things and she was walking at the end of eight months, but if you’ve ever seen her, it’s less of a walk and more of an excited prance to where she wants to go. I thought I had more time to prepare for a mobile baby, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a mom is that you are never really prepared; you can only take things as they come and try to adapt as quickly as possible.

Now I promised Gabrielle that I wouldn’t just write the fun things and skip over the hard parts and honestly, it’s always been the stories where people are open and vulnerable that have meant the most to me so I will do my best to share my truth. I just finished a book called ‘Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on it’ and aside from being life-changing, one of the main themes in it was that the world would be a better place if everyone would just share their truth.

As much as I love being a mom and wouldn’t trade it for the world, I suffered horrible postpartum depression after having Addie. I am so grateful for the other moms in my life (and online) who were brave enough to share their own struggles and in the end it really got me to a point where I could finally get the help that I needed.

I don’t know why it is so hard for me and countless others to ask for help even when it is so clearly needed, but I am so glad that I did. My breaking point came when three days before my 30th birthday one of my best friends from childhood took her own life. I will always have guilt and wonder what I could have done differently to change that outcome, but the only thing I know for sure is that she was an amazing person who impacted my life for the better and I truly hope that she has found peace.

It was a devastating wake up call to me that if something didn’t change in my life, I was headed down that same path.

So here is my message to all you wonderful mothers out there: you are not alone!

I know that motherhood and just life in general can be overwhelming, but there are so many other people going through similar things that would love to connect with you and help out. I couldn’t believe the amount of love and support I got from the moms around me when I finally got over my fears and opened up to them.

I think there is this feeling that there are so many of these Judgy McJudgerson moms out there, and while I’m not saying that they don’t exist, I think they are mainly in our heads! Almost every mom I’ve encountered so far has only given understanding looks that say she’s been there when Addie is throwing a temper tantrum or having a meltdown.

I think we are our own biggest critics and most people, like us, are just doing the best that they can. So ladies go out there, share your truth, and just be kind to one another!

Life is way too short to not be living life how you want to be living it! I’ll end this with a quote I liked so much I put it in all caps on the door leading to my garage so that I see it every time I am going out: BE KIND, FOR EVERYONE YOU MEET IS FIGHTING A HARD BATTLE.


Diana, you are so charming, I could hug you. Thank you for sharing yourself with us all.

One of my favorite parts of any interview in this series: “I can’t tell you how many blogs I’ve read where they rave about what a deal they got on something and come to find out it was almost a thousand dollars! That is not cheap to me by any means! I am one of those crazies that you see dumpster diving and picking up the random furniture people are just about to throw away. It usually just needs a little love and then it’s good as new…haha but good as new can also mean different things to different people and, as we’ve already established, I am far from a perfectionist!”

Anyone else have thoughts on this idea? What’s your idea of a bargain? Do you cap your furnishings’ price tags at a certain point? How do you keep true to your decor budget? Any secrets? You know I love to share in your experiences!

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

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Make it: Easy Hanging Succulent Frame Mon, 17 Oct 2016 16:56:31 +0000 Amy Christie

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By Gabrielle. 

Still in love with succulents? Me too. They’re so easy to care for and they add beautiful depth and color and texture to any space. So I LOVE the idea of using a shadowbox frame as planter. Succulents on the wall? Yes, please!

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This project is especially appealing to me for 4 reasons: 1) You can choose any style shadowbox — silver, modern, carved, traditional, black, glossy — whatever works best for your decor. 2) It hangs on the wall and keeps flat surfaces clutter free. 3) It works in any room. 4) It would make such a fun gift!

Let’s get dirty.

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Amy Christie put together the how-to for this post and this is what she says:

I am trying to tuck as much living green into my house as I can. Plants make the air better inside your home and, in my opinion, look amazing pretty much anywhere. I have loved hanging wall gardens since setting eyes on the one my mom has in her garden. Plants?! On the wall?! Amazing!!

With a little work, I figured out how to make one using a store-bought shadowbox frame. It’s a cinch.

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- shadow box frame — we used a square and rectangle
- burlap
- hot glue
- scissors
- an assortment of succulents
- soil*
- flat-head screwdriver

Start by removing the succulents from their pots, pulling away excess soil, and separating them into individual plants. Getting them down to just the roots in the best and makes it easier when tucking the plants in the small holes in the burlap.

*We had enough soil to fill our frames just using what came in the succulent pots. Depending on how larger your frames are, that might work for you too. If not, extra soil is necessary.

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After prepping the plants, the next step is to dissemble the shadow box to remove the glass. Remove the backside. Then remove the inner side pieces (they span the space between the glass piece and back) using the flathead screwdriver. Once they are out, remove the piece of glass and recycle it.

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Once the glass piece is removed, replace the inner side panels using hot glue. Attach the side pieces towards to backside edge (not the front side of the frame). Placing them here will support the back panel.

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Replace the back panel.

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You can add a bead of hot glue around the seam of the backside, to prevent leaking.

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Turn the frame over and fill with soil. We found the best amount of soil was to fill it up to about a finger’s width from the frame edge.

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Cut a piece of burlap to the size of the frame. This size is just the right size as the piece of burlap will be tucked inside the frame on the underside.

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To place the burlap, start with one side and place a line of hot glue right below the frame edge. Press the burlap into the hot glue, pressing into the glue and down onto the soil.

Continue around the frame with the other three sides, adding the glue and pressing into the glue and down onto the soil. Tug the burlap taut with each new side as well.

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Once all the sides are connected, add a bead of glue on the topside of the burlap, under the frame edge. This is, again, preventative, working to keep all the innards inside. Once this is complete, it’s ready for plants.

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Note where the top of the frame is (the same side as the hanging parts on the backside) because the little holes we cut to tuck the plants into need to be parallel to the topside. Parallel cuts keep the plants from falling out.

To place plants, we found working from top to bottom is great as is random placement, depends on what you prefer.

- SMALL cuts into the burlap should be made parallel to the top of the frame.

- Use your finger (or scissors) to dig into the hole to make a place for the succulent root.

- Very gently tuck the succulent plant into the hole, working to get it as far into the burlap-covered soil as possible. Be very gentle as succulents are easily broken.

- Pack the frame full. Plants should be placed quite close together.

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Once the frame is done, hang where you like.

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To care for the plants, take the frame down once a week to water, and then rehang.

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Thank you, Amy! Such a cool project.

And now your turn, Dear Readers. Have you ever tried vertical plants? And do you have an opinion on succulents? If you make one of these planters, I’d love to see it!

Credits: Images and styling by Amy Christie.

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A Few Things Fri, 14 Oct 2016 19:44:05 +0000 Design Mom

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Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? How was your week? I woke up to RAIN today. Amazing! So needed and so appreciated. Our tiny backyard stream has transformed into a full-force water fall. The best.

Last night was Olive’s Etiquette Dinner birthday party. (I know it’s unusual to host a party on a Thursday night, but there is no school today — teacher prep day — so our kids have a 3-day weekend). I’ll be sure to give a party report next week, and you can see a little sneak peek above. The photo was taken as I attempted to design a photo backdrop using cutlery. : )

For now, I’ll send you off with a few things I’ve been wanting to share:

- Mind blown while reading about the Green Book. I had no idea.

- An intricate map of alternative music history.

- A new website that seems like it could prove valuable for lots of people. Frank and honest information how women experience sexual pleasure.

- Mini-robotic portable printer.

- From my dear friend, Meg. Goodbye Baby.

- This is how they broke our grandmothers.

- A visionary journal.

- A third of the homeless people in America are over 50.

- How to raise a creative child. Step one: Back off. (NYT)

- Obituary for the Great Barrier Reef.

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


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Introducing Toca TV! Thu, 13 Oct 2016 17:16:54 +0000 Design Mom

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Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Toca Boca. Try new Toca TV for free! Details below.

You may already know I’m a huge Toca Boca fan (I’ve written about their products here and here), and my kids are even bigger fans. So when they contacted me about their newly-launched Toca TV, I was all ears, and we tried it out immediately. What is it, you ask? Toca TV is a playful, happy video streaming service for kids. It offers thousands of curated videos in a 100% ad-free, kid-safe environment. And like all Toca Boca apps, Toca TV was designed from the kid’s perspective — they tested it with hundreds of kids across the globe to ensure kids actually love it, and that it lives up to the Toca Boca mission and values.

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I know many parents (most parents? all parents?) worry about what our kids might encounter when they’re using a screen. Even when they’re visiting a website we’re familiar with, or when we’ve attempted to implement parental controls, it still seems like unwanted content manages to appear. Songs or ads or video that is sort-of kid friendly, but not quite. Ugh. If that is something you’ve been trying to figure out, then Toca TV might be the perfect solution. I’m very impressed. We’ve been using it for a couple of weeks and this is what we like about it:

Ten year old Betty says, “It’s good that there are no ads. I don’t have to wait or watch something dumb first before I can see a video.” (Betty’s right! There are no third-party ads or sponsored content on Toca TV.)

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Betty also says, “It’s really fun to film yourself. They have a whole bunch of filters that are really good. Mostly I like to watch June when she sees a filter come on the screen. It’s so funny!” (I love that too. Three cheers for lots of interaction!)

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Six year old June says:

The videos are really funny! And there was a drawing one that shows how to make Joy from the movie. And there was one about Will It Taco too. (June really loves the variety — they add new videos each week! There are familiar favorites like Minecraft gameplay, there are DIY crafts and recipes, and there are a whole bunch of exclusive videos only available on Toca TV.)

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Me, the parent, says:

I love the peace of mind! I learned that Toca Boca doesn’t rely on algorithms to curate the videos. Instead, all of the content is rated using a specific scorecard, and each video is watched by actual adults (members of the Toca Boca team) to make sure it’s right for kids. I also loved that the kids didn’t just sit back and watch — the fact that they can make movies themselves is a big plus for me.

If you’re curious, you can try it for free on the App Store (it’s available for iPad and iPhone). Download it today to get three free sessions. If you enjoy it, Toca TV is a subscription service, only $4.99 USD a month  — you cancel anytime!

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If you give it a try, definitely let me know what you and your kids think. Also, how are you handling screen time and media these days? Do you have daily limits? Specific shows they can watch? Do you implement different rules during the school year versus summer vacation? And what are your kids into screen-wise? I’d love to hear!

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All The Single Ladies Wed, 12 Oct 2016 18:39:05 +0000 Design Mom


By Gabrielle. Tote bag here.

Last night I went to book group, and the book we discussed was All The Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister. I hadn’t had a chance to read it, but thankfully, the organizer sent out 3 links with discussions about the book — from the New York Times, NPR and Jezebel. The articles were excellent and gave me enough information that I was able to really enjoy the discussion. (And now I’m dying to read the actual book!)

The book talks about the fact that women are marrying less often these days, and that they’re getting married older. From 1890 to 1980 the average marriage age of women stayed at 21-22. And now, it’s 27. That’s a big jump in a relatively short time! The author details problems and benefits that have come up because of this major cultural shift, and gets into details on how the shift has affected women of color differently than white women. (Spoiler: women of color have gotten a much crappier deal all the way around.) As you can imagine, the book leads to really interesting discussions.

Near the end of the evening, a statistic came up about marriage. Apparently, when a spouse dies or a divorce happens, men are much more likely to remarry than women are. The analysis is pretty simple. Researchers found that in heterosexual marriages, marriage is better for men than women, meaning men get more benefits and satisfaction out of it. (I’m curious to know what remarriage rates are like for the LQBTQ Community — if you have a source, let me know.)

I woke up thinking about that statistic. I thought of people in my life who have remarried, both men and women. I thought of exceptions to that statistic — women I know who love to be married, and men who would rather be single. I thought about my own marriage. I thought about people who have a spouse that travels a ton or works far from home and how they almost get used to having them gone.

Would I remarry if my spouse died, or if I divorced? It seems like one of those things that would be hard to predict for yourself — you can’t know how you would react until life actually happens. I wondered what you thought of the analysis — do you think marriage is a better deal for men than it is for women? And do you think that’s changing? Do you feel like you could definitively say that you would or would not remarry after a death or divorce? And have you read the book? I want to discuss it with you! I wish we could have a book group together!

P.S. — Beyoncé’s Single Ladies is still the best.

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Living With Kids: Maureen Vazquez, Part Two Tue, 11 Oct 2016 16:00:17 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

Maureen Vazquez’s London home was a treasure. There was an entire floor-to-ceiling window full of taped-up kid creations, a doodle-able staircase Plexiglas barrier, and a giant craft table smack in the middle of the kitchen. All that plus space for scooter races? I’d surely never leave!

But leave is exactly what the Vazquez family did! They traded in their 4,000 square feet for around 1,400 or so, and lost a few amenities in the process. Like the scooter racing space. And that craft table. Sigh. Do you think she misses them? (Spoiler alert: Not nearly as much as you might think! Hooray!)

I’ll let Maureen tell you all about their adventures since the last time we toured their gorgeous home while we peek into their latest gorgeous home. She’s a fantastic tour guide, you know.

Welcome, Maureen!

Whenever people find out that my nickname is Mo, they go right for it, so we’ll cut the formality here; you guys can call me Mo. I live with my husband Nathan (not Nate) and our kids Atticus, Eleanor, Ike, and Indiana. I grew up mostly in Seattle as the youngest of four kids. I’ve always loved making things, having good conversation over a leisurely dinner, and I tend to be very right-brained when it comes to most things.

Nathan grew up in the backwoods of Neillsville, Wisconsin as an only child. He is an avid fantasy and sci-fi reader, a computer geek in the most loving sense of the word, and has an incredible design eye. He is totally unflappable and super goofy. He’s also a great dancer, which is what made me look way back when.

We met at my brother’s wedding right after I graduated from college and had an amazing connection right away, but we lived in different states and I had a boyfriend. Nathan was 25 — which seemed so OLD! Ha! — and I had grand plans to grow into adulthood before settling down.

We lost touch, and I spent the next four years in San Francisco. Eventually, I heard through the grapevine that Nathan was moving from Minneapolis to London for work. I freaked out, realizing that I’d always hoped we’d have the chance at a relationship, and was afraid I’d screwed it up.

I got back in touch and, long story short, we were married and both living in London soon after! A few years later, Atticus arrived.

Atticus is amazingly thoughtful and deliberate like his dad. He’s super into Legos and can spend hours building and rebuilding things according to the instructions. He’s a wonderful big brother, and sometimes I think that he could raise himself without too much trouble if aliens abducted the rest of us.

I’ve found that having kids is pretty addictive in the sense that each time you expect him or her to be like a previous kid, and each time you end up with someone who’s totally different.

Eleanor is quick, fiery, and extremely socially precocious and sensitive. She has eagle ears and regularly infers the circumstances and emotions of people on the other end of my phone just by overhearing my side of the conversation. She is unbelievably creative and always making something.

Ike is universally loved by all creatures on earth. Kids love him, adults love him, and animals love him. And he loves them back. He wakes up smiley every morning and smiles in his sleep as I take him to the bathroom before I go to bed. His catchphrase is “Will you be my best friend?” to which everyone eagerly responds “YES!”

Indiana is hyper coordinated which is good because she’s a total monkey. She was still kicking me in the ribs as she was crowning during her delivery and she hasn’t stopped moving since. She is happy-go-lucky and always in the middle of the action. We are all desperate for her to start talking and like to guess what she’ll say!

We moved from London to San Luis Obispo (SLO), California a year ago after Nathan’s project at work was shut down. We had moved to London from NYC with his company the previous year, and were faced with the prospect of moving back to Manhattan where he would find another trading position with the bank.

At the time, Indiana was four months old and I had recently launched Pipsticks, a subscription sticker club. It was doing really well but I was exhausted, and the idea of finding socks for six people every day literally put me over the edge.

Having gone to Cal Poly, I had always thought SLO would be a great place to end up. It was also a place where socks and shoes are optional. So, we took a massive leap of faith and moved to California where Nathan joined me working for Pipsticks!

It’s. So. Different. When we moved here, I hadn’t owned a car in 15 years. In an attempt to offset the minivan life, we moved a few blocks from town so that we could walk as much as possible.

The neighborhoods in downtown SLO are lovely. The houses are all built on long narrow lots so they look like little cottages in a line from the street. Most houses around us were built in the early 1900s. Compared to NYC and London, things are more affordable, but it’s still a very expensive place to live. A 1200 square foot, two bedroom house in town starts around $700,000.

What struck us when we first moved here are how many fruit trees there are! They are everywhere, and just blend right into the city’s landscape. We’ll be walking to the park and look up to see a massive avocado tree above the sidewalk.

One of my favorite things to do is pick the Asian pears from our yard and walk around delivering them to our neighbors. We inevitably return home with oranges, lemons, avocados, and apples. Free avocados? It’s a dream.

Our neighbors are awesome, and the kids can run down the street to play with their besties. I don’t have to worry about them getting hit by a car as soon as we walk out the front door, which is fantastic.

After a year, they are only now starting to let go of the stroller when we’re all out — they used to have to be within grabbing distance!

Everything is so much easier here. Having a car, Costco, good public schools, perfect sunshine every day. The beach is a 10-minute drive away. We go every weekend after naps and eat smoked fish tacos on the beach.

It’s pitch black at night and I can actually HEAR CRICKETS! When I can’t fall asleep, I use an app that plays the background noise of a sushi bar to offset the silence. It was the closest thing I could find to a traffic jam!

Things here close early — the tattoo parlor isn’t open past 6! — and there aren’t many delivery options. I miss the small-scale intimacy of restaurants and bars and the readiness of people to connect quickly and share details of their lives during casual conversations on the street.

I miss the action of the city and the sense of community that comes with living on top of one another.

We really lucked out. We arrived four days before Atticus started kindergarten and found our rental house through someone at Ella’s preschool. When it comes to housing around here, every good find comes word-of-mouth. You will rarely see great properties actually listed. People go around leaving notes in the mailboxes of houses they want to buy that aren’t even on the market!

SLO has been declared the happiest place on earth by major publications for years, and people want to be here. It’s also a college town, which makes the rental market scarce and competitive.

Our house was head and shoulders above any other rentals we saw. We downsized significantly, but this place allows us to be in the city and was relatively affordable, especially considering the separate cottage behind the house, which we use as the Pipsticks HQ.

When we moved out here, our dream was to rent for a few years, look for property, and eventually build a house — something Nathan and I have dreamed of for ages.

I’ve never really cared about owning a home. The paint colors aren’t what I’d choose and we’d love to do something with the front yard, but overall, I love the flexibility we have as renters. It leaves room for so much potential ahead.

We went from 4000 square feet to 1400, and lost about 73 windows! Ha! Luckily, our nine foot dining table just fit and our massive sofa was a sectional so we split it between the house and the back cottage. We have one small storage unit, but managed to get the things we loved most into our home.

We cannot accommodate indoor scooter races any longer and I had to say goodbye to my beloved craft table — still bummed about that one — but you know what? We’re just as happy, which I guess shouldn’t be much of a surprise. That said, I do avoid looking at pics of our place in London for the time being!

As I’ve said before, the great thing about a big family is that you bring the party with you. The kids’ young ages make these moves pretty straightforward in terms of socialization, and we stay true to the family’s schedule wherever we are in order to make the transitions smooth.

Atticus and Ella will say they want to move every now and then, but I think it’s more out of the desire for another adventure versus disliking it where we are. It makes me happy that they remember London and New York.

Nathan has fallen into his life as entrepreneur whole-heartedly and we wonder why we didn’t do our own thing sooner. Maybe it was that having four kids thing?! He hasn’t shaved, worn socks, or cut his hair since we moved here and he loves it — though I wouldn’t mind a little trim now and then! He used to work crazy hours and barely see the kids during the week, and now we totally co-parent.

Being here has absolutely confirmed what I always suspected: I’M A CITY GIRL.

I miss the energy of the city, the diversity of the people, and the assumption that everyone has got something going on. San Luis Obispo prides itself on being SLO — as in slow. It takes 15 minutes for a barista to make your coffee. You have to budget an hour to pick up some light bulbs at the hardware store. And everyone here loves it, which is great…but it makes me feel like kind of a crazy person!

I’ve realized that when my busy, busy life is mirrored by a busy, busy city, things feel balanced and normal. I recharge in crowded restaurants and buzzy subways. I love to people watch and connect with strangers who want to chat. Now, I regularly feel like I’m a nutcase with WAY too much on my plate!

Date night — a term which kind of drives me crazy in itself — is a big deal here instead of being part of the weekly routine. The lack of restaurant options and need to drive everywhere makes nightlife less accessible, and people rarely have dinner parties. People can’t believe that we used to go out three or four nights a week together or separately with our friends, and seem to socialize exclusively with their kids around.

Though we keep saying we’ll be more organized, most mornings are a mad dash between 7:30 when we all get up and 8:05 when the kids walk out the door. Nathan drops off the older two at school with the younger kids in tow, and I head out our back door to work.

I launched Pipsticks two years ago. I have a background in graphic design and manage all things related to product development, customer interaction, and brand/marketing. Nathan handles the operations and analysis of the business. We’re super lucky to have such complementary skills, and it turns out we dig hanging out together 24/7.

We spent most of our first year here setting up the backend systems and processes for the business so that we could grow, and grow it has! We now have thousands of subscribers (both kids and adults) in over 53 countries!

Right now, our two-level cottage is perfect for Pipsticks. The upstairs is where we work and do photo shoots, and downstairs is set up for fulfillment. Think: millions of stickers!

I usually start the day answering emails while it’s quiet, then do photo shoots or design work before lunch. Depending on whether we need to pow-wow, we’ll either take a lunch break in our back yard, or gobble down Trader Joes chicken tikka masala at our desks.

Nathan usually picks the kids up and they come in to help out around the studio for a half hour until the younger kids wake up from naps. Our amazing nanny leaves at 6:00 and I go in and do baths (when their feet are visibly dirty) and bedtime while Nathan works.

He says goodnight to the kids and I crack a cold beer and silently curse the lack of delivery options in SLO. We usually end up throwing something on the BBQ, frying up some shredded potatoes, and cutting up a tomato (they’re SO good here) for dinner. My time for cooking has taken a backseat to stickers I’m afraid.

Usually after dinner we’ll either go back to work or watch an episode of whichever series we’re into. The Americans now.

In the last couple years my role in the family has changed significantly and because it happened suddenly, it took some time to reconcile this shift in my identity. Going from being a stay-at-home mom, which I loved, to a business owner, which I also love, has been an adjustment.

It seemed to happen overnight and for a while I really grappled with whether it was the right thing. I always thought it was best for our family if I was at home full-time, but I now see how lucky we are to have the chance to co-parent. It’s was a strange dynamic at first though as Nathan felt like he got so much more time with the kids and I felt like I got less.

I try to go easy on myself when it comes to household expectations because something’s gotta give. Dinners are basic, teeth go unbrushed, and I encourage the kids to rely on each other if I can’t do something with or for them.

The tradeoff is that we feel like we’re in charge of our own destiny, which is great! We can have a schedule that allows us to be with the kids when we want to be, or to take the day off in a pinch.

Now that I’m two years into Pipsticks, I am amazed by how much I’ve learned. I just returned from NYC where I was meeting with business owners that I’ve admired for ages and I felt like a peer which was amazing.

Pipsticks also lets me indulge my inner child. Boxes and boxes of stickers led to pink everything, painting my nails cool colors, and wearing bright lipstick. The nature of the business is so fun that the underlying mission to have a good time balances whatever maturity I’m gaining with experience!

My favorite part of our new life, and the stuff I hope we all remember fondly forever? Tacos on the beach, delivering fruit to neighbors, and Nathan’s beard.

We’ve recently decided that we’re not having any more kids — you can breathe easy now, Mom and Dad! — and though I’m fully on board with the decision, I always expected to feel done when I made the decision to be done.

I’ve grown up hearing stories about that second, third, or fourth child that was the last planned addition to a family or perhaps that one that was, indeed, an accident but obviously beloved nonetheless.

As soon as you start having kids everyone’s question as soon as the latest baby is hot out of the oven is “Are you done?” Most of us respond with an exhausted nod of the head, the inquirer nudging us understandingly.

At dinner parties, people are vocal about being done and speak about it with a tone of absolute certainty, as the men elbow each other and roll their eyes at the possibility of another baby. And that’s all fine and great.

But nobody talks about the difference between being done and feeling done. And the problem with that is those of us who still feel like they’d be up for another baby don’t have any emotional reference for making the decision not to.

I expected the end of my baby-making career to be marked by the feeling of total contentment in my state of motherhood and the size of our family. In this state, I’d feel no urge to create another little personality for our brood, and any desire to have another would be directly related to hormonal impulses after 1. Holding someone’s newborn baby; 2. Being on my period; or 3. Watching my youngest kid go to school.

When these feelings didn’t come amidst the exhaustion of four kids under seven, a growing business, and two international moves in 12 months, my obvious conclusion was that I wasn’t done. Of course even though I felt that way I nodded my head emphatically when people asked if I was, because I’ve found that saying otherwise when you already have four kids tends to make people incredulous at best, uncomfortable at worst.

But then Nathan and I really started talking about it.

Life is nuts. Totally nuts. Kids are expensive. I want to grow Pipsticks and have the energy to be creative. We want to travel. We might want to live in a city again. All of the things we want for now and later are complicated significantly by having more kids. My Cons list far surpassed my Pros list, which was just “I don’t feel done.” And that left me feeling like I didn’t know what to do.

Except I did: I knew I shouldn’t have more kids. And then the light bulb went off! What if I took control of my emotional desire for children and didn’t expect it to make the determination for me? I could totally do that and when I thought about it that way it made me so much happier.

It’s totally okay to want more babies. And it’s totally okay to not feel done. And it’s totally okay to separate that feeling from the decision of whether you should have another baby.

Each woman’s decision to have another baby is obviously totally unique and personal. That said, we’re all dealing with various iterations of the same feelings, ideas, and realities, so let’s talk about them. All of them, openly, so we can be happiest with the decisions we make.

Now when people ask if we’re done, my response is: Though I feel like I would always love another baby, we are decidedly done.


Maureen, I love your new home. I love that you leaped into a completely new life and completely adore it. And I love how you crave conversation about the ideas and worries floating around in our heads. Keep up the fine work! And please tell us when you move again so we can tour your next amazing space.

Any thoughts or reactions to Maureen’s “I just don’t feel done” dilemma? For those of you with children, have you resolved yourself to the babes you have…or do you still feel like there’s room for just one more? Also, for those co-parenting out there, what about Maureen’s initial thoughts of their new dynamic: “Nathan felt like he got so much more time with the kids and I felt like I got less.” I’d love to hear how your own conversations are going!

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

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7 Journals & Workbooks for Artists & Writers (Mostly for Kids, but Grownups Will Like These Too) Mon, 10 Oct 2016 19:47:24 +0000 Design Mom


By Gabrielle.

You know all those fabulous design-centered coloring books out there? We have a stack of them, and I’m a big fan. But lately I’ve been wanting to stock our library with workbooks and journals that go beyond coloring and include specific activities that would help budding artists and writers. I like keeping activity books like this in the home office, in the Sunday bag (for when the kids get bored at church), and for rainy day playdates.

Happily, there are tons of excellent options out there. Here are seven (plus a bonus pick) that I think your kids (or you) might enjoy.

1. Art Play. By Marion Deuchars. This is such a good one! It’s part sketchbook, part coloring book, part art lesson, part inspiration. It’s a big, thick volume with lots of prompts and exercises. It doesn’t come out till next month, but you can pre-order it now.

2. Me: A Compendium. By Wee Society. Oh my. I ADORE fill in the blank journals. Have you ever tried one? They are perfect for kids — especially kids that seem resistant to the idea of keeping a journal. They’re fun and fast and they are an instant treasure. When I was a child, this Dr. Suess one was a hot ticket, and I still think it’s awesome. But I’m really digging the visuals on Wee Society version. It’s gorgeous.

3. Creative Writing — A Journal With Art to Kickstart Your Writing. By Eva Glettner. Lined pages with excellent writing prompts, next to inspiring images. What a great idea!

4. Pattern Studio — A Creative Workbook for Sketching Unique Repeats. By Shayna Kulik. I love this one for me. I’ve longed to try my hand at textile or surface design for many, many years. This is a great workbook of drawing prompts to get you on your way to creating original patterns.

5. Words. By Christoph Neimann. Picture all the sight words (the ones your kids memorize as they learn to read) paired with a word renowned artist. I can’t quite put my finger on why this book is so appealing. It’s very simple, it’s small, but thick like a text book. It’s quite delightful. I’m thinking of it as the simplest of writing prompts (though is doesn’t pretend to be positioned that way).

6. Vincent’s Starry Night and Other Stories — A Children’s History of Art. By Michael Bird with illustrations by Kate Evans. You’ll definitely want this in your home library. It’s not a workbook or journal, but I felt like it fits in well with these others. It’s a big volume, full of accessible stories about art. Go look at some of the sample pages — it’s really a lovely book.

7. Draw Like An Artist — A Self-Portrait Sketchbook. By Patricia Geis. A straightforward idea, the book features 18 different famous self-portraits with a “canvas” next to each one so you can try your own hand at the featured style.

Bonus! 8. Faces Book Journal. By Sukie. This is not revolutionary, but it’s an adorable gift. And it’s currently only $3.84, so it’s a bargain too. It’s basically a blank book. But instead of empty pages, or lined pages, each sheet of paper has face. It’s terrific!

How about you? Do you have any artists or writers in the making at your house? Journal keepers? Sketchbook fillers? What would you add to this list?

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A Few Things Fri, 07 Oct 2016 19:16:49 +0000 Design Mom


Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? How was your week? I had particularly challenging work week, and I’m glad it’s Friday. I’ll likely end up working through the weekend too. Not ideal, but it happens sometimes. And there’s something nice about getting a bunch of work done while my inbox is quiet.

Are you on Hurricane Mathew watch? The devastation in Haiti is absolutely heartbreaking. We are supporters of Haiti Partners and have been glued to their updates. (If you want to help, please donate here.)

Anything on your mind for this weekend? One thing we’ll be working on is Olive’s (belated) birthday party. It’s next week, and she requested an Etiquette Dinner, which I think is such a cute idea. But I haven’t been to an etiquette dinner since I was Olive’s age, and I need to brush up on the “rules”. Do you have a favorite etiquette guide?

Here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

- All 339 books referenced in Gilmore Girls.

- Dark humor about a hard thing: Congrats on your first online rape threat.

- “If you look into the eyes of a person you discriminate against, or you think is so different than you that they deserve less rights than you, it becomes almost impossible to deny their humanity.”

- Why we need to bring back vocational training to schools.

- Cool perspective drawing hack.

- In the mood to cry your eyes out? One last thing before I go.

- How to land an interview (hint: bring donuts).

- Is married life without kids fulfilling?

- “When you get the chance… print.”

- Advocating shorter emails, no greetings, no sign offs. What’s your take?

- The western hemisphere currently has no wars.

- Can’t stop staring at these portraits.

- Related, a fashion student designs helpful clothes to be worn by refugees.

I hope you have a really good weekend. I hope you stay safe and connected. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.


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Growing A Family: A Sweet Delivery Of Forgiveness Thu, 06 Oct 2016 16:00:00 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle. The apropos Hooray Cake Topper via The Duo Studio.

Mindy’s About Me page is a delight. Among other gems, “Sixteen mailboxes into my life, I put roots in people instead of places. I once read that there’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one. And I finally believe that. I also believe in miracles, angels, and fat clothes.” Love it.

Come share in her story, will you? It’s quite the celebration. Welcome, Mindy! (And thank you, Molly, for introducing us. You’re a good friend.)

Tucker is seven today.

I’ve never put pen-to-paper on his story before because I still can’t believe it happened. And I also have too many friends with raw hearts. But, here it goes.

Tucker’s story starts with his parents. Us. We were two plus years into our marriage, on a (mental) permanent honeymoon, broke and blissful.

We had just gotten back from Thanksgiving with Jeff’s dad in the mountains — we had four-wheeled down Spill Corn, filled up on three southern-squared meals a day, and breathed in a big dose of pure North Carolina goodness.

Back home in Tampa, while we were unpacking, I realized that I was late.

How late? Jeff had asked. Since I didn’t keep track, we had monthly freak-outs.

Late, I promised him. He went to the store and bought a box of pregnancy tests. We watched the pink results flood across in instant slow motion. An indisputable positive.

I didn’t have time to think because Jeff said: Take another one. (Don’t worry. I still haven’t let him live down his first words to me.)

A box full of pink pluses later, we locked eyes. We grinned. And cried. We had made a person.

I could not keep my hands off of my belly. Sitting, standing, breathing. Everything felt brand new.

We made an appointment with the doctor. He didn’t need to see me until I was a little further along. But my mom was coming to visit us that weekend and I couldn’t keep it from her. We told her that she was going to be a grandma. And her elation made our surprise feel more like a reality.

To celebrate, Mom and I went shopping. And then I started having a few unsettling symptoms. So, I dialed the on-call doctor and explained what was going on.

Do you feel pregnant? He had asked me.

I was quivery and loopy and terrified. I’d never been pregnant before. How could I know what pregnant felt like?

I don’t know, I told him, apologizing. He asked me to come in first thing the next morning. I tossed and turned and clutched my stomach all night.

We went in the next morning and filled in stacks of paperwork. After measurements and samples were taken, a chipper ultrasound tech whisked us into her room so she could “take a look.” She sang out pleasantries in her outdoor voice.

Let’s take a look at this baby, she sung.

This baby.

Here’s the sac, she cheered, pointing to a shape that we absolutely saw. Joy flickered.

Now, we’ll turn this on and listen for a heartbeat. She did. We listened. She was bright-eyed and wide-smiled as she maneuvered each angle — and as each hour-long second crept by, my heartbeat quadrupled. As if it could pump enough for me and the blob shape. After a few minutes, though, our tech dropped her smile and her outdoor voice.

You go ahead and get dressed and I’ll get you back to the doctor’s office.

My limbs, heavy with worry, made dressing slow and clumsy.

My hand clung to Jeff’s, our fingers laced, mouths closed, as we walked into the doctor’s office. There we sat, we two, waiting on a doctor. My doctor was not in that day. That day, we saw Doctor G. He came in, shook our hands and sat down, making it a professional point to lock eyes with both of us.

His room was cold and alien, like an out-of-date space station, and the overhead lights buzzed as he confirmed, out loud, what we already feared.

There’s no heartbeat and, with your symptoms? I think, he said just so, as if he was reporting the 10-day forecast, you have miscarried.

I took it in as if it were a spoonful of cough medicine — swallowed quick, shuddered, shook my head, answering in silence.

You have options, he had said, diving straight into his speech.

We can wait a few days just to see if your hormone levels change. You can let this happen naturally. Everything will pass, but it may take a while and I can’t tell you how long it will take. Or, we can do a procedure here — as soon as tomorrow — called a D&C. That way, you don’t have to wait through it.

He lifted his hands off of his desk as if he were throwing good options before us.

I’m going to let you talk about it. I’ll be back in a few minutes.

He left. I slumped. Jeff just rubbed my hand with his thumb. What could we say? There was nothing to say.

I didn’t cry until I opened my mouth to speak. My eyes were drowning in indecision — a deluge of hot doubt soaked my shirt and our interlocked hands.

I guess the procedure will be the easiest, I told Jeff, saying it, but asking him. I don’t know if I can do it naturally. It sounds awful.

I’m okay with whatever you want. I’ll be here with you.

So, we agreed on the D&C. He wiped my face with his shirt. The doctor came back in.

A chill raced through my veins and across the tops of my arms and seized my stomach — an alarming chill. Something whispered. Something Holy. Something snapped. Something understood.

I want to wait.

The words popped up — and there they sat — between a surprised doctor and husband.

I just…I can’t do it tomorrow.

I understand, Doctor G said, without any understanding. I’ll wait with you. But I have to tell you that I’m 99.9% sure you’ve lost the baby.

The baby. My free hand found my belly. We had to wait.

Follow up appointments were scheduled and we slipped into waiting. Grief’s breath is strange. My nerve endings felt short-circuited, unplugged. How many days ago had they tingled with shock and promise?

I stayed home from work for a few days, nursing my numbness. How could this unplanned blob shape stir so much? The fraction of ounces was lead in my gut. I couldn’t taste, listen or focus, but each twinge in my belly felt like a violent convulsion.

Jeff was spoon-feeding me smiles, trying to.

We would’ve been good parents, I cried into his lap.

We will be, he said.

We went back to the doctor. They took more measurements and blood.

And then? Then? A miracle.

My hCG levels had increased. Two days later, they took more blood. The levels had doubled.

Nerves were tingling again.

One week later, that same sweet tech ushered us into the room for another ultrasound.

There was the sac. And there, I swore, was movement. An eye twitch? A glitch?

The tech found her outdoor voice. THERE’S THE HEARTBEAT!

She turned on the sound and a strong warble flooded the room. It was a symphony. An opus. My breath quickened to its beautiful beat. We were all crying: me, Jeff, the tech. And the baby’s heart, muscular, alive, kept pounding. We had waited.

Now, Doctor G was not at that office that day. I had not seen him since we’d sat at his desk. My own doctor was there, though. He took us through the packet, the appointment schedule, the new parent track. He explained that I would see all of the doctors in the office in a rotation because any one of them could be in the delivery room on the baby’s birthday.

I did not see Doctor G throughout the rest of my pregnancy. I was angry. And I don’t get angry. Forgive him seven times 70 times? No. That’s how many times I wanted to punch him. The memory of his face, his voice, was bitter. Soul-corroding. I went out of my way to stay out of his.

I spent the rest of my pregnancy happy, healthy. I ate three watermelons a week and held on to my belly for dear life.

On an evening in early August, I was watching SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE while a summer lightning storm fumed outside. I’d been having contractions all day, but now they were taking my breath away — every few minutes. Still, I insisted on finishing the show, taking a shower and putting my make-up on before we headed to the hospital. I was in labor all night, but my doctor — my own doctor — was on duty the next morning. And he delivered our baby boy.

Suddenly I was holding Tucker’s warm weight in my arms. The perfect fit. I put my palm on his teeny chest until I could feel his heart thumping beneath my fingertips.

Jeff’s lips were thick with prayer, a grateful murmur only God himself could understand.

We locked eyes. We grinned. And we cried.

What a boy.

Unreal combinations of Jeff and me, our best bits, wrapped up in one big, blonde, beautiful boy.

By the time he was two (oh, how much do you love two?) we decided that we really needed to do this again.

My second pregnancy was planned, expected, easy. I sailed through the doctor’s appointments, still avoiding Doctor G. We knew we were having another boy. And, though the world didn’t know it yet, we knew his name was Case.

I had an appointment to be induced and I planned to have Case naturally. Everything was set. We had the sweetest nurses — troopers, really — who were coaching me through labor without drugs. I was really close to being ready — in the throws of acute active labor — when the doctor on duty walked in. Doctor G.

He was not part of the plan.

I tensed to my toes, the acidic bitterness more painful than the contractions. I stared Jeff down, silently begging him to do something. Anything. He knelt next to me.

It’s going to be fine. Think about Case.

Doctor G did not recognize us. But he talked with us — with us, not at us. And then? Then? He was encouraging me. He said he’d get me anything I needed. He made me smile.

I did not want to smile.

I only pushed for mere minutes, five times, and Case was born. Doctor G was intent. He was kind. He was amazing. He melted my anger. I hadn’t realized it had calcified in my gut — an impassable block — until I felt it dissolving. Doctor G delivered our little one. And I’m so grateful he did. Because I forgave. Freely. Easily. Gladly.

Then, I was holding Case, feeling his warm weight in my arms. Jeff and I locked eyes. We grinned. We cried. And we prayed.


Oh, Mindy. That was gorgeous. A dissolving ball of anger…there’s nothing better. Happy Birthday, Tucker.

Anyone else ever experience a Doctor G in their own pregnancies? Please share; we can all use your stories!

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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Foxy Socks Wed, 05 Oct 2016 14:00:10 +0000 Design Mom


By Gabrielle.

The other day, I mentioned I’ve accidentally had a capsule wardrobe for the last 3 months, and that my clothes were getting worn out. Which is true. And the socks are the most worn out of all, so I’ve been doing a little sock shopping — or shall I say, sock hopping — from store to store. : ) In case any of you are in the market, I thought I’d share some of the favorites I’ve found so far.

Pictured above are a pair of Woven Pears. Their socks are adorable. Fun patterns, and new ones announced all the time. I love that many options have a little message on the bottoms of the feet — a little secret message just for you. Plus, the company was started by two friends and long-time Alt Summit alums. Yay for creative entrepreneurs! I gave out Woven Pear socks at my book launch party in the goody bags.

Here are 8 more options:


1) Fox, color blocks, and polka dots! So rhyme-y, so cozy. I bought these on my trip to Utah last week when I pulled on a pair of socks and realized there was a giant hole in the heel. Luckily, there was an Old Navy across the street from where I was staying. Mostly cotton. A set of 3 for only $6!

2) Boot socks! Marled and thick and comfy. Plus, they are 96% cotton! On sale now for $11 per pair. They come in 4 different colors.

3) Colorblock chevron. Mostly cotton. Get them for 30% off with code YESPLEASE. (Speaking of 30% off, tons of stuff at J.Crew is on sale now with the same code.) Layer these cuties over tights.

4) Get out of town! I just realized Pendleton makes socks in the same gorgeous patterns as their National Park blankets. Can’t splurge on a blanket this month? I hear you. Treat yourself to socks instead. 87% cotton with 5-star reviews — $12.50 per pair.

5) Windowpane socks. I’ll give you the bad news first: they’re only 54% cotton. But the good news is they are modern and simple and fabulous (I love a good windowpane grid!), and they are only $3.30. Total bargain.

6) My FAVE no show socks. I’ve tried lots of different brands, and these stay put on my heels instead of sneaking down as I walk. I wear them with penny loafers and sometimes sneakers too. They last for ages even with a weekly wash. The patterns switch up, but the quality seems to remain the same. 30% off right now.

7) In the fall, I try to stop by the sock section every time I make a Target run. So many good options! This argyle pair by Happy Socks (I think they’re a Swedish brand — or, at least the first time I happened upon Happy Socks was in Stockholm) is only $6.99.

8) White Swan socks by Kate Spade. Quirky, good socks. I remember pulling on a pair of Kate Spade socks when I went into labor with Flora June. For good luck? Or maybe just cheerfulness. 70% cotton, only $10.

How about you? Fallen in love with any socks lately? Do you have a preference for length (no show, ankle, trouser, knee-high)? How about for material? I favor cotton, but love a luxe option with a bit of cashmere for the holidays. I mostly only wear wool socks if I’m hiking or camping.

Do you prefer patterns or solids? Or do you like a mix of both? And how do feel about the current trends of using socks to add a pop of color, and layering socks over tights?

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Living With Kids: Jodi Hays Tue, 04 Oct 2016 14:00:04 +0000 Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos by Jodi Hays and Alana Rasbach.

Jodi described her family and home to me in the most endearing way: very full, very imperfect, but shines bright. Her family’s motto is equally winsome. You’ll see.

This is a tour for those of us who routinely surprise our families with entirely new floor plan configurations on a whim. If you hear your mate and kids ever utter phrases like “Good morning! Where did the dining room go?” and “Oof! Who put this table here?” then raise your hands in victory! Jodi grew up like that, too, and the experience still warms her heart. So rearrange away!

Let’s hear more from Jodi, shall we?

Hi everyone! I am a painter, professor, and curator in East Nashville, Tennessee. Felix is my husband of 18 years, co-conspirator for life, parties, and art Pop-Ups.

Gus Wonder is our first born, six years old. He is his name: kind, driven and super into math.

Eames Ever is four years old. He is an old soul who loves animals and collecting.

Cleopatra Wise is one, and the most contented (and possibly spoiled) little tres. I am the youngest of three, so I understand my mom and myself so much more for having had her.

Lefty is the 17-year old studio cat. We got him when we lived in Boston and he is a polydactyl, Hemingway cat. He has been known to convince house-sitters that he lives inside.

We live in East Nashville, which is a now-not-so hidden gem. We moved here in 2005 from Massachusetts to be closer to our families and be back down south. Our Memphis friend, who runs an amazing gallery called Tops, recently called it the “Bermuda Triangle of No Cars in the South.” We simply don’t drive a lot.

We walk our kids to school — an inspirational charter school called Nashville Classical — and have great neighbors who have mermaids painted on the front of their homes, murals in the back alley, happy hours, and funky street festivals.

We have seen a lot more people move here in the past four years, changing the nature of the city. All that definitely complexifies a place, and housing prices doubled. But we also now have restaurants actually open on Mondays.

We had to work really hard in our twenties (we need insurance for my high maintenance teeth!) and my maternal grandmother gifted/matched us a bit of money to buy our first loft in Lowell, Massachusetts. When we sold it a few years later in 2005 to move to Nashville, we found ourselves able to buy a modest home in a neighborhood we love, close to the University where I soon after worked as a curator and professor.

The current house is only four blocks away in the same neighborhood. Once we were pregnant with our second, our home seemed cramped, and we WERE lucky this time to hear of this project. Felix keeps a back-up check in his wallet (Gen-Xers) and because of that check, we were able to sign for the place upon meeting the builders.

Lesson: Checks are great for luck and estate sales.

Artists tend to follow what they love and not the trends. I don’t prioritize my time to follow design trends, nor would I have the budget to follow through even if I did. I do love good design. I frequent estate sales, thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets.

I collect family items and give them space in the home to construct meaning for those living around them. It is our hope that we teach our kids to hold things and materials very lightly, yet I love good function meeting good form.

My mom used to rearrange the furniture after we went to bed. I can still remember being delighted and hopeful when I got to see a room reimagined the way she did. She has always bought pieces from estate sales or antique shops in Arkansas, and has an great eye.

Our house in an ongoing collaborative family project that includes the kids. The rooms change weekly, as our family moves in and out of stages and needs. I am not sure what the kids pick up on yet, outside of managing a collection (trash packs, cars, popsicle sticks, and stuffed animals at the moment).

We try to raise them to be creative but to follow their own paths and interests. Gus has thoughts about his space and use, as he is in school and has homework and likes his stuff to be in place. Eames has opinions. Like, he just told me that he doesn’t like his bed changed around. Oops.

As much as I am visually captivated by all wooden toys, high-end kids everything, we (like most of us) need to save for college funds and be frugal and smart about finances. That means I pick up toys at Goodwill and am very nimble with letting things go to someone else once we have no further use for them.

I have pursued painting for almost 20 years, getting undergraduate and graduate degrees in Fine Art. I began after undergrad doing quite a few jobs — like temping, teaching, and bookbinding — then worked in arts administration in Boston. In my twenties I was trying to find my footing with my work and will always paint. Always.

After graduate school I worked for a number of years as a full-time curator and professor of art. Thankfully, those hours of working full time and paying off graduate school debt fairly quickly gave us the choice for me to continue to make my work as the kids came along. I still do some graduate level teaching and curate here and there, but am using my time for my painting and parenting. I have become a priority and discipline ninja.

The studio is steps away from the main house, hosting my painting practice, Felix’s office, and a garden apartment above. Felix now works in a nook of the studio/garage when he is not on the road. It works, as our schedules do not overlap too much. I prefer working in the studio early mornings for consistency, and eking out some mid-day pushes. We often meet for coffee in the kitchen for “water cooler conversation” or a quick lunch out together. We bounce ideas off each other for Dadu shows or other ways in which we are involved in our community.

We keep our mantle playful, and it, along with the home, changes weekly with the season, kids’ art projects, my work, color interests, or family photos.

Very recently I framed hundreds of ribbons, medals from my long ago days of running track. Having a girl motivated me more to see them in the home, as a model for working and goal setting.

The kitchen was designed so well by Marcelle Guilbeau and David Baird. I love its simplicity, bright white, and its ability to house guests and family for meals. My family has collected Russell Wright (my Mom’s maiden name) work, so it lives on the floating shelf along with trinkets, artwork, and posters.

The stairwell hosts an ever-growing gallery wall of ancestors and family photos in black and white. Installed is a sculpture by Ron Lambert.

Gus has my grandmother’s gifted iron bed, one in which my sister and I slept as kids. Eventually it will be Cleo’s when she is ready for it. Now it sits against the IKEA shelves — not the best aesthetic move, but much safer for the boys’ wild reaches.

Eames’ room has a few cool little collection containers (the IKEA flat file that he took over when it was in my studio) and the old letter drawer from my Mom, who can empathize with his inclination to collect. We use a bookshelf for his headboard, reminding us to read more with him.

Cleo’s room is mostly blues, greys, and gold. One of my favorite things in her room is a portrait of my Mom.

I love golden hour anywhere. Upstairs when the light is great in the morning, or on the front porch for an informal happy hour. The screened-in porch is a favorite, and a must-have in the south. We — meaning my husband, as I am a baseball fan only — watch college football there, installed a hammock chair, and can enjoy early mornings and late evenings there.

The front porch is great for community, and precisely what drew us to this neighborhood. People don’t have to “pencil you in” to hang out; there is a culture of hanging.

I had an aha moment the other day related to how my painting shifted after I had kids. Becoming a mother heightened my dependence on walking as thinking. I became a flaneur, which opened me up to the world at three miles an hour. I have become more present, less hurried, more content (which is a practice, not ever an attained goal), all modeled after what my kids teach me.

I wish I had know that the world is not a meritocracy; that hard work is just that, and no one owes you anything for it.

Our family motto right now is “Shine Like Lightning,” thanks to our friends at Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. Shining is worth every effort, even if you don’t meet with some of the expectations you had.


Thank you, Jodi! Viewing the world as a place to shine no matter the expectations or rewards sounds super healthy and rewarding. To borrow a lyric, “Even when the rain pours down/Even when the light seems like it’s fading/Even when your heart aches, feels like it’s gonna break/That’s when you sing out loud.” Excellent song. Excellent motto. (And on a personal note, one of my favorite snippets of life in this tour is the kid-height fingerprint-smudged studio door out back. Life is being lived here!)

And, friends, another reason to like Jodi is that she responded to my glowing emails with this: “Thanks, from a mom who is ignoring the Cheerios on her floor so she can recover some Hepplewhite chairs.” Tell us what you’re trying to get done right this very minute, despite all that’s going down around you! There’s strength in numbers!

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

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Is There a Sport You Wouldn’t Let Your Child Play? Mon, 03 Oct 2016 16:57:17 +0000 Design Mom

stanford vs cal football poster

By Gabrielle. Vintage football poster here.

Last week, an article about football injuries showed up in my Facebook timeline. It was from last year and it talks about how 96% of former NFL players in the study, show signs of brain damage. 96%. That is insane.

So far, I haven’t had a child with any interest in playing football, so it hasn’t been something I’ve had to think about from that perspective. But I do find myself with mixed feelings about football in general.

I have very happy memories of attending high school football games, and seeing the community come together in support. I have even better memories of attending college football games with my dad who was a huge fan, always hanging a team flag outside our front door on game days. I love the cheers and the enthusiasm and the fall sweaters and the face paint. The whole thing feels very All-American and since I grew up with it, it’s also familiar and cozy. Of course, I also have many dear friends who have kids playing on football teams right this minute, and I love seeing the photos in my social streams.

On the other hand, I realized the other day that I don’t watch professional football at all, and haven’t in years — even if I attend a Superbowl party, I’m not likely to watch any of the game. I can’t seem to support the NFL as an organization. And it’s pretty impossible for me to get over the fact that as I watch a game, the players involved are literally sustaining injuries that will affect them (and their families) throughout their lives. Their injuries should not be my entertainment.

Obviously, injuries happen in every sport, but with football it feels different to me, because of the frequency, type and severity of the injuries. It makes me wonder what I would do if my kids wanted to play. Would I let them? Maybe through middle school? Or through high school? As for college, I find myself supportive of intramural sports, but anything that is monetized at the college level can stress me out if I think about it — it’s not okay that universities are making huge dollar signs off of kids who aren’t compensated beyond tuition and housing, could likely sustain life-long injuries, and are prevented from being serious students because of the time commitment of the sport. But I suppose that’s a whole other topic. : )

What’s your take? Is there any sport — football or otherwise — you wouldn’t let your kids play? Do you (like me) have mixed feelings about football? Or do your feelings change depending on the age range? NFL versus college versus high school? Do you live in a town where football is a big deal? If your kids play, have you seen the coaches make any changes that prevent injuries? I’d love to hear!

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A Few Things Fri, 30 Sep 2016 18:31:47 +0000 Design Mom

palm springs

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

- A zero-waste grocery store.

- Five lionesses grow manes and start acting like males.

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

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

- Have you heard of the Golden Record?

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

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

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


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Family Photos at the Oakland Cranes Thu, 29 Sep 2016 15:28:12 +0000 Design Mom

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Katrina Davis.

It was a Friday, and Ralph was leaving us for two years the next Tuesday. Ben Blair and I were running errands and I had a pang of regret: I wish we could get a family photo shot before he leaves. I wish we had a little more time!

And then I thought, maybe we still can. I studied the calendar and found a 2-hour window open the following morning, then I texted Katrina Davis, a local photographer I’ve worked with before, to see if by chance she was available. She was!

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I started to get my hopes up, thinking we might really be able to make this happen! For location, I knew exactly where I wanted to go — a public park on the Bay with the iconic Oakland Cranes in the background.

Date? Check. Time? Check. Location? Check. Photographer? Check.

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It was all coming together so quickly. Hooray! I texted the teens to keep their morning open, told myself we’d figure out what to wear that night, and went about my day.

Outfits came together quickly that night, the photo shoot went smoothly in the morning, and the I didn’t think about it again. Until a few days ago when Katrina sent us the photos. They are such a treasure to me! I love how they turned out, and I love the very Oakland location, and I’m so happy we captured this moment in our family before everything changed.

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It was a particularly crazy weekend, and even after we sorted out the details of the shoot, I kept second-guessing myself and wondering if it was too hard to it in, wondering if we should cancel. I’m so glad we didn’t. It was worth it one hundred percent.

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Reclaim Those Memories! Tue, 27 Sep 2016 16:00:45 +0000 Design Mom

Legacy Box Sept 2016 - 10

Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Legacybox. Get 40% off when you give it a try! Find the code below.

It’s been almost a year since I first tried LegacyBox (remember when I was blonde?), and a couple of weeks ago, I sent in another box. I’m in a total nostalgic mode these days. As we prepped for Ralph’s mission, we were pulling out old scrapbooks, and family history records, and digging through old files. It was delightful! But it was also this reminder that so much of what I have isn’t very useable or shareable. Some of of it is sitting in dusty boxes, mostly inaccessible. Some of it is in a format that I can no longer access (I haven’t had a VHS player for a decade, but I still have VHS home videos).

Let me guess. You’re in the same boat. Old family videos you can’t watch. Family photos shot on film that you can’t share easily. A box of negatives or slides that you’re not sure if you should keep or toss. It’s a fairly universal problem for families everywhere. And that’s where Legacybox comes in. They digitize your memories and send them right back to you — with the originals intact.

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Legacybox can handle pretty much any old, outdated format you can dish up. Sign up at Legacybox and they will send you a kit which includes a guide, round-trip shipping, a crush proof box, and access to a personal concierge so you can talk to an expert at any time. You fill the box with any formats in your collection — tapes, film, image negatives, whatever you’ve got — then send it back with their pre-paid label. Then, you go about your business. In a few weeks you’ll receive your originals back, along with DVDs and digital files ready to share and enjoy! I’m telling you, it’s magical.

Speaking of originals, if you’re worried about them, don’t be. To make sure nothing gets lost or mixed up, the Legacybox kit includes barcode labels. You add a barcode to every single thing you put in the box, and then you can track it all online to make sure your memories stay safe through the whole process.

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In our last box, we put all sorts of stuff — but this time I focused on a few cassette tapes and VHS tapes, but mostly photo negatives. I sent back a bunch. We have so many images of baby Ralph that exist on negatives only. I want to be able to include some of our older photos (from our pre-digital-camera family life) in the photo books I create, and this is the perfect way to make it happen.

I’m also pumped because getting things digitized now, makes me feel like I’m ahead of the game for the holidays. Being able to share a priceless old video is the perfect gift for Grandparents who have everything. Or using old photos that no one has seen in ages, to create a calendar or a photo book, is another fabulous gift idea. Gifts that focus on memories are such treasures!

Which reminds me, another gift idea is sending a Legacybox to someone you love. Do your parents have roles of old family films that need digitizing? Send them a box and they can fill it with whatever they like.

I was waiting for our box to come back with huge anticipation. On the day it arrived, I waited until the kids were home from school, then we opened the box, and popped in the DVD. We watched old videos they had never seen, and scrolled through photos from a life they can hardly remember. Then I posted favorites in my family’s Facebook group. Such a treat for me to be able to see and easily share these images!

Some of our newly digitized photos (I love that I can crop and edit them easily now):

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This is Ralph at 3 months old (and I’m sporting basically the same haircut as I have now).

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This is my brother Jared, my mother, and Ralph at 7 months old. This was the day Jared left on his mission to Japan.

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This is Ralph at almost 10 months old. His hair really started growing and he had blonde curls for miles. People would tell us how cute our daughter was.

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Want to give it a try? I’ve got a BIG discount code for you! Click HERE, then use the code: CREATE at checkout to receive 40% off your order! Offer expires 11/15.

Tell me, Friends. What’s your status with old files? How many different formats do you have in storage that you can no longer use? Did any of you inherit a box of old family footage? Have you had a chance to watch it yet? I love this kind of thing!

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