Design Mom http://www.designmom.com The Intersection of Design & Motherhood Thu, 26 May 2016 16:00:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 Call It A Day: Amanda Paret http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/call-it-a-day-amanda-paret/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/call-it-a-day-amanda-paret/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 16:00:08 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=65149

By Gabrielle.

Amanda seems like the sort of person who is running through life with open arms, trying to take as much of it in as possible. Her day is a flurry of distinctly diverse activities and she seems to change hats on the hour, but she begins and ends with quiet intention, always. I love sharing people like her with all of you.

Welcome, Amanda! We can’t wait to follow you around today!

Good morning! My name is Amanda, and I’m excited to give you all a glimpse into my day! I’m a creative entrepreneur with my hands in several businesses, including interior design and jewelry design. Every day is filled with a mix of different activities, and the variety certainly keeps me on my toes.

I really enjoy slow mornings, and thankfully working for myself offers that freedom. I love it. My alarm is set for 8:00 am, but it generally takes me about 30 minutes to wake up if I have the luxury to take my time. (Snooze button, anyone?)

Every morning, I head straight to my cozy little chair looking out the balcony window to curl up and read through the day’s selection from my chronological Bible, and spend time in prayer and studying Scripture. I started this habit last year because I found myself reaching for my phone and scrolling before I even got out of bed, and I grew tired of email or Instagram being the first thing I digested.

I didn’t want my first thoughts of the day to be influenced by social media or work — I wanted my mind to be focused on weightier things. Prioritizing what I think about first in the morning totally sets a positive tone for the day, and it also gives me a filter for everything I think and do. The more of a habit it becomes, the more eager I have been to do it.

After spending time reading, I start getting dressed and ready for the day. I have extremely curly hair, but have created a routine that makes hair maintenance pretty easy. I absolutely love my curls and have never wished them away, but it took me a while to truly love them and know how best to care for them. There were some rough middle school days where I had bad bangs — didn’t we all?! — and other years I used a lot of gel to tame frizz. I really wanted ringlets that weren’t frizzy and struggled through my early 20s to get there. (Devacurl products are a lifesaver for me!) Once or twice a week I spend a little more time on my hair, but most mornings I simply touch up with water and moisturizer.

After I finish my morning routine, I head downstairs to rummage around for something to eat. I’m not always the best about having a stocked pantry. However, breakfast always includes coffee, which I always seem to have plenty of, in my stovetop Bialetti. I learned about this method on a trip to England a couple of years ago, and love the simple way it brews espresso strength coffee. At home, I brew whatever local coffee I have on hand.

I work in both Dallas and San Diego, and lately I’ve been inspired by my trips to California to make Acai Bowls for breakfast. I usually use Acai packets with blended frozen fruit, spinach, almond milk, and granola on top. Luckily, I have all of these ingredients on hand today.

While eating breakfast, I head to my home office to start combing through emails, clean out junk mail, and whatnot. Lately I’ve spent some of this time gathering inspiration online through travel and fashion photography blogs, too. I file away a few photos in Dropbox to get the creative juices flowing. I’ve found this is like thumbing through a magazine, but it’s just my own digital version — plus it’s less distracting for me than Pinterest!

My main job as a registered Interior Designer takes place in both Texas and California, but I’m also the owner and designer of Amanda K. Jewelry, where I take vintage pieces from Estate Sales and heirlooms and work them into handmade modern statement pieces. Both of these jobs keep me extremely busy and creative, which I love.

In my role as an interior designer, I work with Ashley Astleford, the principal designer and owner of Astleford Interiors, and I truly love my job. I began working for Ashley right out of college when I moved to Dallas.  Her husband’s work took them to California a few years ago, so we now operate in both places.

My personal style, with interiors and with my jewelry line, has been significantly influenced by Ashley’s, which is a niche she has coined called Hacienda Chic. It’s a vibrant lifestyle inspired by Spanish and Mexican design and culture, and it filters through every part of her life, from the way she dresses to the tequila she drinks, down to the tile we select for a project.

I spend my days changing hats often, balancing these two businesses. Currently I’m working with a couple interior design clients whose projects are in the construction phase. I’m making floorplan revisions in CAD, space planning for two residential projects in Texas, plus a commercial space in Carlsbad, California.

One of these homes we’re designing is 11,000 square feet, and today I have to order samples of our tile and hard surface selections, and then enter the specifications and pricing into a budget sheet.  As you can imagine, with that much square footage, I have a lot of hard surfaces to calculate!

Truth be told, I actually love the budget side of projects, which is surprising for a creative, right? This means I can play with all the numbers and organize things, keeping track of where we are. It’s the analytical left side of my brain that gets worked out, which is a great contrast for the creative side. These projects keep me busy at my desk for a good while, but at some point, I’m ready to get out of the house for a bit for a few errands.

The first stop is the bank. Since Astleford Interiors is a small company, I manage a bit of the administrative side of business as well, occasionally depositing a check at the bank, working on tech stuff for our email system and our Houzz account. I thrive on wearing many hats and not being tied down to one task, and the variety keeps it interesting.

I also stop by a local showroom to pick up some tile samples, and catch a quick glimpse of some new products. All these prints and patterns and colors are fuel for my creative soul.

My next stop is to meet a local jewelry client at one of my favorite coffee shops — the Pearl Cup — to bring a necklace she ordered. My jewelry is usually shipped — sometimes to places as far as Hawaii! — but occasionally I get the opportunity to hand-deliver my pieces, and I always enjoy that personal touch. The heart of my business is not just the jewelry, but the women that buy and wear my pieces.

Lunch time always looks different for me, and sometimes doesn’t even happen until 2:00 or 3:00 pm, if at all!  Today, my sister, who lives in Houston and works at a corporate 9-to-5 job, gives me a call during her noon lunch break to chat. We’re three-and-a-half years apart, and although we’ve always been close, our friendship grew a lot after the year we overlapped at college together. She brightens my day with our sister-talk about plans for the weekend and general updates. I always enjoy the chance to catch up with her. We make efforts to keep in touch several times a week, and it’s a relationship that I treasure.

Not long after lunch, at the request of a customer, I end up setting up an impromptu private jewelry trunk show for her and her friend who was visiting the Dallas area. I set out all the jewelry on her dining room table, and we chat while they try on everything. Connecting with people is the part that I love the most about selling handmade jewelry. I truly enjoy talking with women about style and how it reflects what we believe about ourselves on the inside, and then encouraging them to be bold and courageous with their choices.  We have a great time playing, but I also end up selling seven necklaces and four pairs of earrings!

On my way home from the trunk show, I stop by the grocery store to pick up a few things I need. Can I just say, I LOVE going shopping in the middle of the day! I do allow myself personal errands during the work day, simply because I don’t like going when it’s crowded.

For groceries, I typically bounce between Sprouts and Trader Joe’s, or occasionally a good Texas staple, Tom Thumb. These stores are all in my neighborhood, which makes errand running a little more convenient. I love buying flowers at Trader Joe’s for the house, so I treat myself to some tulips today. That’s the best place to do it, since it’s so inexpensive, and they always have great seasonal options.

Speaking of Trader Joe’s, I recently discovered their spiced hard cider over Christmas, and it is my new favorite. It is SO GOOD! My roommate and I have one in our fridge at all times. It’s great when we grill out, or with a crockpot black bean soup and rotisserie chicken and blue corn chips.

After I get home and get my groceries put away, I get back to work. Afternoons are often my peak work time, so I tend to get the most accomplished in those hours later in the day…while sipping on an iced coffee, of course! I have a custom bridal jewelry collection due to a bride soon, so I have to spend a bit of time in my jewelry studio — a spare bedroom in my townhouse — working on making her pieces. The actual process of making the jewelry by hand is quite therapeutic for me, and provides a nice creative and kinesthetic task after working in the numbers and budgets world all morning.

In addition to my work with Astleford Interiors and my jewelry line, I also take on an occasional private interior design client. While closing up the bracelet I just made, I suddenly remember I am supposed to send out an invoice to my current private client for design time, so as soon as I can switch tasks I hop over to take care of it before I forget. It’s times like these that I start to question my business systems in place, and whether or not I need more structure or better calendaring habits, or better work flow.  As you can see, I have my hand in several different creative endeavors, which can sometimes be a little crazy, but I enjoy doing so many different things that it works at this point in my life!

I have learned in the past couple years that healthy boundaries between work and home have to be created and respected, and because I work from home and have the ability to work all the time, I have to be the one that upholds those boundaries for myself. I try to taper my work day off around 4:30 or 5:00  most days because my roommate Katie comes home after teaching middle school — she’s a saint! — and we often like to chat and recap our days at work while eating a snack.

I met Katie through a community group at our church in Dallas, and we have been friends and roommates for nearly six years now.  She’s a huge source of encouragement for me, and might be one of the biggest fans of my jewelry business and all the design work that I do. She’s been known to selflessly sit and count thousands of tiny beads for inventory, help set up and be my trunk show sidekick, and just genuinely cares about my business. She’s also been known to buy stuff right off my table before anyone sees it! I am so grateful to have the support and encouragement offered by friends and family that are surrounding me and my businesses. Owning a business or working from home all the time can feel very lonely, so having this network of people around is crucial.

This evening I am running out to meet a friend for a walk around White Rock Lake to chat and catch the sunset. I love being intentional about scheduling one-on-one time with friends or my roommate to really dig into life together and keep each other accountable. I not only enjoy the community, but I also believe it is a healthier — and financially responsible! — option as a young single woman to do life with others. (It also teaches me to be more selfless and considerate of others, which is never a bad thing!)

I head home after my walk, so Katie and I can start preparing dinner.  We’re having a couple of friends over to make fajitas, and even though we had planned to watch a movie after dinner, we end up talking the rest of the evening while we eat dessert!

My evenings are often spent with friends, at various church events with our young adults group, or if I’m at home, designing jewelry in my studio while watching Friends or Gilmore Girls on Netflix.

The end of my days usually unwind on their own. Because my work life is somewhat flexible, I stay up until midnight most nights, though it is usually spent doing something relaxing or quiet. When it’s time to get ready for bed, I slip on pajamas and wash my face with the Young Living Essential Oils Orange Blossom facial cleanser. To make the morning routine easier, I check the weather and pick out my outfit for the next day. I have found that even though I work from home, getting dressed and ready — jewelry and all! — makes me feel more productive, so I try to do this most days.

As I crawl into bed, I pull up the covers and prop the pillows for a bit of the same thing I started my day with: reading through some Scripture and prayer journaling. It has been a nice way to bookend my days, and though I know it won’t always be this easy to have this routine, I cherish it now.

I also relish in my falling into my own bed. I travel often, so I’m always grateful to sleep in my own bed. The last thoughts that cross my mind as I drift off are filled with anxiety for the future, questions of whether or not I will have enough work next week or next month, if I’m doing all I can do run my business wisely, if I should give back more to charitable causes, wondering where I’ll live or if I’ll get married at some point. But, I choose to cast off these worries and trust the Lord for another day and know that he’ll provide what I need, whatever that may be.

As I’ve mentioned, interacting with people is the BEST part of my day. I’d love to connect with you online!

–-

Thank you so much, Amanda. It was so interesting to get a single woman’s perspective on the day-to-day goings on, and I especially love how intentional you are about surrounding yourself with others. Even for those of us surrounded by others at home — including all those asking when dinner will be ready! — it’s a good reminder to always extend ourselves a little farther than the day before. (Also, Hacienda Chic is absolutely enlivening, and I’m suddenly tempted to add terra cotta tiles and a turquoise wall to the Treehouse! Ha!)

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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The Hardest Age to Parent http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/the-hardest-age-to-parent/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/the-hardest-age-to-parent/#comments Wed, 25 May 2016 22:48:52 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=65588

By Gabrielle. Photos from June’s baby shoot by Blue Lily.

The other day a friend of mine with 3 kids, aged 5 to 11, mentioned that she really misses the baby stage. She feels like she was really good at taking care of babies, but doesn’t feel as confident about parenting pre-schoolers or older kids, and she’s feeling apprehensive about the teen years too. (For the record, despite her worries, she’s an awesome parent and her kids are awesome too.)

I laughed when I heard her bemoaning the baby years, because even though I love holding tiny babies, and still have baby cravings, I feel like I wasn’t great at the baby stages. In fact I basically wrote off the whole first year after birth and just assumed from the outset that it would be pretty crummy. If a new mom asks for advice, you might hear me say, “That first year is really tough, but it gets so much better! So don’t be hard on yourself and try not to make any major decisions for at least 12 months.”

Babies are adorable, but parenting babies was definitely not my super power.

On the other hand, even though I was warned about how hard it is, I’ve actually really enjoyed parenting my teens. I like the conversations we get to have, and I like seeing them become whole and independent people. I like the music and shows and books they introduce the family to. I like seeing them make connections between things they’re learning in school and things they’re observing in the world.

I don’t know if it’s my favorite age to parent, and I certainly make parenting mistakes with my teens on the regular, but overall it’s been really good — much better than I expected. And really, I don’t know if I have a favorite age overall. I think for me, when I look back, I can definitely identify the hardest years so far, but it mostly has to do with when I was feeling the most overwhelmed. Three kids 4 and under? That was hard! But I think it was hard because of the number of kids more than the age of the kids. You know what I mean?

It made me curious: what age has been your favorite to parent so far? Or, what age do you think was easiest for your parents? If it helps, for categories I’m thinking: baby, toddler, pre-schooler, school age, pre-teen, teen, young adult, grown-up.

Did you like a particular age better for one kid and another age for another kid? Any surprises? Maybe you thought you’d hate parenting an athlete, then fell in love with the little league community? Anyone out there love the grownup years best? Anyone out there parenting a stage that they’re struggling with? Or maybe you’ve finished a hard stage but are loving the new stage? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

P.S. — The best way to fight with a teenager

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Four Must-haves to Make an Outdoor Space Inviting http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/four-must-haves-to-make-an-outdoor-space-inviting/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/four-must-haves-to-make-an-outdoor-space-inviting/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 17:32:44 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=65379

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Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by TargetStyleShop the new Home collection in stores and online.

There is a balcony off of our master bedroom. It’s pretty much level with the rope bridge (which I still haven’t written about — I keep forgetting!), it overlooks the tiny stream that runs through the yard, and it’s completely surrounded by trees. It’s a gem of a spot.

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But. It has been completely empty since we moved in. I’ve had plans for it. I bought some used outdoor furniture for it years ago — a table and some chairs that coordinate with the chair from our front porch. Those pieces have been sitting in the shed, waiting to be de-rusted and painted. Alas, there have just been too many other projects and tasks that needed my attention.

And then, over Mother’s Day weekend, I finally did it! I recruited the whole family to help. We repaired and restored the furniture, then we filled up a shopping cart at Target, and put together a pretty little seating area on the balcony. For anyone who’s curious, here’s a tour and the thinking behind the design decisions.

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In my experience, there are 4 things you need to make an outdoor space inviting: soft/comfortable places to sit, surfaces to set your things (like magazines or sunglasses or lemonade), cups and serving pieces that are outdoor friendly, and lighting.

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We started with the vintage furniture — the round table and 3 chairs. All are metal and all are from an old line called Homecrest. It was widely produced in the middle of the last century, so if you do a search for “vintage homecrest patio furniture”, you’ll likely to find several pieces. I found these on Craig’s List, for sale by owner, about 45 minutes south of here. De-rusted, primed and painted, they’re good as new and will hopefully last another 50 or 60 years.

I knew I wanted seat cushions and throw pillows to soften up the metal. At first I was thinking all the same, and maybe in a sophisticated grey or black. That could definitely have been another good look for this space, but when I got to the store I couldn’t resist the color! I chose a mix of seat cushions in navyteal, and a fun orangey-red pattern.

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Then I added a mix of throw pillows too — a square one with a blue marker pattern, a long one with tiny teal triangles, and a rectangle in teal herringbone. The cushions and throw pillows are all made with outdoor fabrics and should hold up well on the balcony. (And they were total bargains by the way!)

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I also added this shiny silver side table. I love the look! It adds a fun new texture/element to the space, can be moved around as needed, and keeps a cool drink or a good book right at hand.

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Those are all the basics and make up the core of the seating area. And once all of that was in place, I could turn my attention to a mix of fun accessories — items that really make the space inviting, and that I can use indoors or out.

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For the tabletop, I added a low bowl (I love the rattan handles on the side!) and some simple vases in hand-painted stripes and polka dots. They’re looking cheerful on the balcony right now, but I’m sure they’ll make their way to the kitchen soon enough.

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I also included a good-looking acrylic pitcher that came with even better-looking ombre cups. All perfectly unbreakable and safe for outdoors.

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Last of all, I picked up this charming-as-can-be lantern in the same orangey-red as one of the cushions. Sometimes night comes on fast, and it’s nice to have a handy light source — one that’s prettier than a flashlight so I don’t mind having it out and on display.

I admit that even empty, the balcony was pretty inviting. These last years I’ve loved opening up the balcony door and listening to the stream rushing by. I’ve walked out early in the morning to listen to the birds, or late at night to watch a rain storm.

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But I’m so pleased to have this finished! Already, we’ve used the balcony 10 times as much as we were using it before. (Which is no surprise, because: seating.) My goal was to find fresh, modern accessories and cushions that would complement the mid-century furniture and make sense with the rest of the house. I feel great about how it turned out!

The next thing I want to add? A little cupboard where I can keep our electric tea kettle. Wouldn’t it be fun to start the day here, in my pjs and robe, with something warm to drink? Sounds heavenly to me!

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Tell me, Friends, are you working on your outdoor spaces? Maybe getting your yard ready for Memorial Day? Working on our yard and porch and balconies is basically all I want to do these days. Also, what’s your top priority outside at the moment? If you could buy one thing for your outdoor space, what would it be? Furniture? A bike? A trampoline? Plants? Lanterns? I’d love to hear!

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Living With Kids: Alicia Brothers http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/living-with-kids-alicia-brothers/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/living-with-kids-alicia-brothers/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 12:00:22 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=65464

By Gabrielle.

When I asked Alicia for brighter photos of her dining room, she wrote back two paragraphs! Turns out, it is the darkest room in her home because of its complete lack of windows. Which makes it difficult, many days, since it’s the absolute heart of her home and where they seem to spend the most time. (And before anyone suggests a simple remodel, I should add that this is a 250-year old home with loads of history; knocking down a wall or two might not be in the plans!)

I’m sure we’ve all had a room like that in one home or another, right? One you want to hate for its lackluster features, but can’t help but adore it when you think about all the good times you’ve experienced in it? It’s nice to hear how Alicia has grown to love the space. This is a fabulous read, especially the ending, and I hope it makes your day a little brighter.

Welcome, Alicia!

Hi everyone! I’m Alicia, and I’m so blessed to be able to share my story with you! Thanks for having me.

When I think back to how my husband and I met, I would never have believed where we would be today and how we got here. I met Ryan in college through my roommate and best friend. I was 18 years old and in my first year of college. I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted, or where I was going in life. Our relationship was short lived. We met a few months before summer, and that summer I decided I wasn’t quite ready for the depth of the relationship that Ryan and I had. To what I can only credit God for, we stayed in touch, became the closest of friends, and I slowly fell more and more in love with who Ryan was as a person and how our relationship was unlike any I had ever had.

I had a friend who once told me, “He treats you like a husband treats a wife.” That right there is what changed my life forever.

We have known each other for 14 years and have been married for nine. In that nine years we had three amazing children. Nick, seven, was our first and he blows my mind every day with his compassion, love, and sincere nature. He is my clone in every sense of the word. Luke, five, is spunky, loud, stubborn, funny, and will have you rolling on the floor with his sense of humor and joy for life. Kate, two, is my girl; the one that I dreamed about for so long. She has an attitude that will stop you in your tracks. She is sassy and sweet, girly with a tomboy edge.

A New Jersey native, I never thought I would leave my town, let alone my state. I grew up with a very tight knit group of friends. One of the hardest things I ever had to do was leave my family and friends. From college I went to Rhode Island to law school. Ryan commuted from his engineering job in Connecticut. We got married the first summer of law school and I was pregnant before I received my diploma, to much dismay from my family.

Before I had Nick I swore left and right that once the baby came I would go right back to work. I would find a job as a child advocate or family law attorney, leave Nick with family, and I would work tirelessly as an attorney. That is, after all, what I spent three years and a whole lot of money and effort doing.

When Nick came, I went back to work. It was so much harder than I ever thought it would be. I was working in a domestic violence clinic and I loved my job, but all I could think of was being home with my baby. It didn’t take long before Ryan and I decided that I was leaving my job. I didn’t know where my career would go, when I would go back to law, or how we would make ends meet; I just knew that being home with my son is what I needed.

Life has taken us so many wonderful places. I have been a stay-at-home mom for seven years. I have dabbled in everything from tutoring, to contract work as an attorney, to owning my own handmade children’s clothing business. Being a stay-at-home mom when your family could very well use a second income is difficult, but something that I would not change for the world. It has taken me seven years to find a pace of life that I love.

About six years ago we moved to Niantic, Connecticut. Ryan grew up here and it is almost too good to be true that this is the same town that he works in. I could never have imagined being able to live in a beach town and now I can never imagine leaving. Niantic is home. We are surrounded by the Niantic Bay. There are no waves like there were in New Jersey, but the water is peaceful and the view is amazing.

Up until about four years ago we lived two blocks from the water in a little beach cottage. I would have stayed there forever, but it was tiny. We were actively looking for homes, but couldn’t find anything that was within our price range and the size we needed. My mother-in-law sent me an email telling me that there was a 250 year old home for sale that had just been renovated, and I instantly got the chills. When we drove up to the home I knew that I had to have it.

Our home was deeded over to a non profit company from the town on condition that a family get it. It has quite a long and interesting history. Niantic has a women’s prison, the York Correctional Facility. Our home was once home to many a superintendent of the prison — specifically, York herself. We had the honor of meeting Mrs. York and her sons when we visited the home for the first time.

Our home had been unoccupied for quite some time before the town decided to do something with it. Now that we are here I don’t think we will ever leave. We are surrounded by acres and acres of woods and fields. We like to take hikes behind our house where there are ponds and lakes. The sunsets are like no other. Through the years we have found out more history about our home. Dr. Vine Utley was said to have lived here. Dr. Utley introduced vaccines in the early 1800s that helped the smallpox epidemic in Connecticut. He corresponded with Thomas Jefferson on his case logs dating from 1798 to 1834. We found a photo that shows a horse and carriage in our driveway. It is truly breathtaking.

I have always loved historic homes over newly built homes. I grew up in a new build and although it was seamless in every way, there is something to say about living in a home with character. There will always be things in our home that I want to change, like the sagging ceilings, the creaking floorboards, and the way the house isn’t — and will never be — an open concept. But the parts that we don’t like are also the parts that I would never want to leave behind.

I love living in a home where many a family has come before us, each making their mark in some way. One of our favorite things to show people when they visit is the old fashioned pencil sharpener in our basement on the stairwell. Surely used hundreds and hundreds of times, it was left and it will stay for decades to come.

Our dining room has been an endless struggle as far as decorating goes. It was once known as the sitting room. It is the center of our home. It is a room that has no windows, so it is very dark. But, in it is a large fireplace that now houses a wood stove that keeps our family warm through the winter.

Because of the way the house was built it isn’t very well insulated, so heating can be quite pricey. Thinking of our dining room as a practical room that was used to heat our home has helped me to appreciate it rather than be ungrateful because of the lack of light. It is the room in our home where our family eats, where we do arts and crafts, where we cozy up next to the fire, and where we celebrate all of our holidays.

Decorating has always been a passion of mine. I can’t really pinpoint the exact style that I have in my home. We very much enjoy decorating around certain historic aspects of our home but very much feel that in order to enjoy it unconditionally, we must also bring our own style. Being a lover of the coast you will see many coastal accents. We have quite a few nautical paintings, seashells, and coastal touches.

I love white. Give me white walls, white linens, and white washed furniture any day. I do feel that I have to balance my love of white with the more historic aspects of the house, and it is a definite juggling act. For instance, I have tried to convince my husband to paint our floors white and I am actually glad he convinced me otherwise. My style may change over the years, but these floors have been here for hundreds of years and who am I to go and change that!

My children would love to paint their bedroom walls red, put Star Wars stickers on their bed and walls, and pick out Transformer sheets. Part of me struggles with allowing them to express themselves while also keeping my sense of style in mind. We have found ways to allow them to make their spaces their own while also keeping me sane.

They have a wall in their bedroom slathered in Star Wars stickers, they got bunk beds against my wishes, and they can choose accents of their choice in the playroom and bedrooms. I want our home to be their home. I want them to feel they have a say — but they have come to learn that design is a compromise and that we can all be happy in the end.

I am glad to have toys in every room as long as the toys have a place and they can be neatly tucked away when not in use. I have quite an obsession with wicker baskets. I love how the texture adds so much to a room and they are so convenient when you have children and hundreds of toys.

For me to function as a mom and a wife, I need to have a clean space free of clutter. It is always a work in progress and something that we are constantly tweaking. We have purged a lot of toys and items that were not essential to our lives. I find that the children are more creative and happy with less items. I try to keep only toys that spark imagination and creativity. All three of my children would much rather build a castle with blocks, draw a picture, or use their imagination than play with some of the toys we used to have floating around the home.

I want the children to grow up knowing that they can play, make a mess, paint, play with play-doh, and even do water play in the house as long as it has its time and then everything goes back the way it was. I hope that my children will remember all of the art projects we did, the way our home had endless hiding spots, climbing trees on our property, picking raspberries from our bushes during the summer, and me telling them never to grow up. I want our home to reflect our love for our children. They are my life’s greatest gift.

My husband and I often talk about how we don’t know what we did with our time before them. There are definitely days where I miss being able to drink a cup of coffee without reheating it ten times, but I would not go back to my life before them in one hundred years. They are my life’s purpose and I hope that I can show them that every day that they live in my home. I already miss them and they are barely in grade school!

Through my years as a stay-at-home mom I have struggled to find a hobby. I was never really good at not having something to work on endlessly. When Nick was only three months old I studied for and passed the Connecticut bar exam. I started a blog. Before I knew it I was embracing staying at home. It was a different way of life than I was used to, but it was in itself challenging.

To try to offset some of the money that was needed raising our family I began a handmade children’s clothing boutique. Kate Maeve Co. was named after my daughter. I soon learned that sewing, marketing, blogging, and running a business while raising three children was more than I signed up for! Although I no longer design and sell children’s clothing, the people and the community I met through this business is like no other.

I did the majority of my sales through the Instagram community. I met quite a few Instagrammers who also owned their own businesses, and friendships formed. I ran a fundraiser on Instagram for a beautiful and amazing girl in our town who was battling cancer and was so touched by the number of businesses that reached out to donate products for someone they had never even meant. Sites like Instagram are not just a place where people share photos on interior design and children, it is a place where businesses go to flourish, where friendships are made, and relationships blossom into opportunities you may not have otherwise had. That is why it was so hard for me to just walk away once I shut down my clothing business.

My blog, Kate Maeve Co., became a place where I could share the work of other small businesses and a place where I could continue to stay involved in this community that had become so much to me. I met so many amazing people on Instagram and it is where I gained information on something that eventually helped me in one of the toughest periods of my life.

I wish someone had told me when I was a teenager that life is full of pain. It is full of gut wrenching physical and emotional pain that you will have to fight through harder than you ever thought possible, but that life it is also beautiful. Every fight you have to go through will bring you somewhere even more wonderful.

Ever since I can remember I have dealt with some form of anxiety. As a child I would have night terrors, battles with insomnia, and crippling fears. I enjoyed dancing, spending time with my friends, and my wonderful family, but there was something that caused an anxiety so deep. I never knew this was a normal part of so many other people’s lives. It wasn’t until college that I started working on the issues that had affected me in so many ways. On the outside I was happy, friendly, outgoing, and loving, and for the most part I loved my life. But, there was always a part of me that struggled to manage my emotions.

It is hard to admit the struggles we have inside to those on the outside. We worry how we will be judged. Especially as parents we want to be seen as having it all together, in control of our life and emotions, and unwavering in our courage.

The reality is, though, the more I share my story I find there are others just like me. Moms who are afraid to share their story for the same reason. I have friends that lost their battle to depression and over the years I have learned how to be okay with sharing my story. My story isn’t unique. It is what so many people go through every day, but it is silenced. People that don’t have a husband like I do, or a family like I do, battle it alone. You can get through it and you will get through it and the result will be better than your most beautiful dreams.

I am raising little people who will become big people and I need to be their rock. I need to show them that they can overcome obstacles and come out better. I had so many amazing people guide me and help me along the way. I suffered with postpartum depression with each of my three children. To say that there were days where I thought I could not go on would be an understatement. When my mom or husband would tell me that it would pass and I would get better, it was the last thing I wanted to hear or could believe. It took years and years of work to become the person I am today. It will always be something I have to look out for, but it is something that made me who I am and the mother I have become. Mindfulness, self care, and community have become vitally life changing.

Life is painful, thoughts can be painful, and it can be raw and brutal, but it can be wonderful.

Which leads me to where I am now. I am a mom, a wife, a blogger, and an entrepreneur. Along with my blog I also run an essential oils business that has been more empowering and invigorating than anything I have done since law school. It has helped me build back the confidence that I lost, helped me develop friendships I know will last a lifetime, and in the process has helped me with the struggles I have had with anxiety for so long. It has become part of my lifestyle and my life.

Through the years I have changed everything that we bring into our home and have made an effort to create a healthier and more natural lifestyle. Along with minimalism, we switched out any and all chemicals in our home and have replaced them with our own recipes using essential oils.You can find many of these recipes on my blog. I love educating others on living a more natural life. I am so grateful for where this journey has taken me and the ways my business has helped me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I love sharing my journey with others on my blog and helping others to grow in their own life.

When I look back as a grandmother one day I will remember the struggle of motherhood, the tantrums, the sleepless nights, the teething. More so, I will remember the hugs, the kisses, the bedtime snuggles, the back rubbing, the hand holding, the giggles, the squeaky voices, the love, and the day-to-day rituals that will leave me with the most wistful memories as I grow old. I never want to leave this stage of my life. It is the most blissful experience and I couldn’t be more grateful.

–-

Thank you, Alicia! I loved reading about your career path, and hearing about how you continue to grow and improve. I especially enjoyed this: “It is hard to admit the struggles we have inside to those on the outside.” I’m a big fan of those who bring the inside out — in decorating and in life!

I’m wondering if anyone wants to share their own difficult space stories? Which one is your room you want to hate but can’t help but love? How did you turn it around? How did you make it a little more livable and lovable? I always enjoy when you share 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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Four Picture Books You’ll Love http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/four-picture-books-youll-love-10/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/four-picture-books-youll-love-10/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 18:28:27 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=65465

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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I’ve got four terrific book picks for you today. One funny, one sad, all gorgeous.

Let’s start with the sad one. It’s called The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown (yes, the same author as Goodnight Moon). You may already be familiar with the story, because it’s been around for a very long time. But this is a re-issue with new illustrations by award-winning artist, Christian Robinson.

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Some friends happen upon a dead bird in the park. They carefully bury it, cover it with flowers, and sing songs to send it on it’s way.

This sweet story had our June weeping — weeping for a pretend bird that was already dead when it was introduced in the pages of the book. I mention that as a demonstration that the author really excels at telling the story from a child’s point of view.

I know it seems like an odd subject for a picture book, but I find it to be a really sweet, matter-of-fact introduction to death and the rituals we have around death.

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Next, Bob the Artist, by Marion Deuchars. Bob’s legs aren’t quite like everyone else’s. The teasing really gets to him. So he decides to change himself to fit in.

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But it turns out trying to be like everyone else isn’t always the best way to thrive. (I’m guessing you already knew that!)

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Our third book today is called It Was So Quiet I Could Hear a Pin Drop, by Andy Goodman. It’s a beautiful book with simple, fresh illustrations that are a mix of modern shapes, silhouettes, and antique engravings.

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This book is all about sounds. Each page offers up a description of a specific noise that you kids will want to mimic or imagine. It’s a fun book to look at — lots of white space and just a few elements per page, which makes every detail stand out.

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Lastly, are you kids obsessed with the new live action Jungle Book movie? We saw it as a family and quite enjoyed it. If you’ve read Rudyard Kipling’s original Jungle Book, then you already know the movie doesn’t exactly follow the book. The character names are the same, but the story line is different.

And that’s the same for this picture book, The Jungle Book, illustrated by Migy Blanco. It’s a re-telling of Rudyard Kipling’s classic, which means it strays from the movie. I would recommend it to someone who wants to introduce their child to the real story before the child is ready to tackle the 200-page original herself.

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Also, the illustrations are really endearing!

How about you? What are you reading to your kids these days? Any gorgeous/clever/funny/interesting picture books crossed your path lately? I always love to read what you recommend.

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A Few Things http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/a-few-things-306/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/a-few-things-306/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 16:50:19 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=65364

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Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? How was your week? Anything you’re looking forward to? Our main goal for the weekend is to make some solid plans for our time in France this summer. If we get that done, I will feel both productive and accomplished! How about you? What’s on your plate for the weekend?

My inbox needs my attention at the moment, so I’m going sign off, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

- One of the kid-napped Nigerian girls was found!

- Why cursive should be taught first. Interesting.

- On the “cult of motherhood“. I want to reread this. Lot’s of meaty quotes — “I think people are mostly kind and don’t know that, when they ask these questions of women, they are asking us to perform a kind of ceremonial subjection—that we’re not allowed our achievements without first denigrating ourselves or saying, with a sigh, “Yes, that’s correct, I’m a writer and a mother, and it’s so hard, and, no, I don’t do it well.” The truth is, doing these things is hard because being a good parent is always hard, but the difficulty of parenting is separate from the difficulty of work.”

- Art directors around the world design a deck of  ”the woman card“.

- Are social networks boosting conspiracy theories?

- I’m sure this is ruffling lots of feathers — the National Academy of Sciences confirmed genetically engineered crops are safe and possibly good for the environment. Do you have an opinion on the subject?

- I just heard about the TSA shortage. Have you been affected by it? We fly to France 1 month from today. Sounds like we’ll have to get to the airport early.

- I found this infuriating. No one seems to know how much birth costs.

- So inspiring! Meet the man who planted a forest bigger than Central Park. (It’s long, about 20 mins, but worth it.)

- Not just a death, a system failure (NYT blog).

- Poverty is not a crime. It costs much more to punish them than to let them ride for free. (Why do we make life so hard for each other?)

- I keep staring at these photos.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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The Best Book Club Ever http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/the-best-book-club-ever/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/the-best-book-club-ever/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 14:00:14 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=65068

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Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Ghirardelli — join the Savor the Dark book Club!

Surely, this is the greatest idea ever conceived: A club that sends you Books + Chocolate! It’s called the Savor the Dark Book Club and it was launched a couple of months ago by Ghirardelli. Essentially it’s a new subscription box that comes with one of the most anticipated books of the summer, paired with three different varieties of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Chocolate.

You’ve heard of pairing chocolate with wine or fruit or cheese? Well this club is all about pairing chocolate with books! Brilliant, right?

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In the July box, subscribers will receive a brand new book from Terry McMillan called I Almost Forgot About You, plus three Intense Dark Chocolate flavors — 72% Cacao Twilight Delight BarCherry Tango Bar, and the brand new Cocoa Nibs Bar. Did I mention the book is signed by the author? It’s true! Oh, and the box also comes with surprise bonus materials that you can’t buy anywhere else!

Picture it now: A new ritual. You, eating amazing dark chocolate, while curled up with a great book. How does that sound? Heaven, right!?

I’m super into this idea. In fact, I think it would be fantastic to use this lovely box as the basis for an in-real-life book club! Invite your friends, gather around your coffee table, put out a stack of chocolate to nibble on/devour, and discuss the latest page turner. And speaking of devouring chocolate, check out Ghirardelli’s pairing ideas for suggestions and inspiration on what goes well with each Intense Dark flavor.

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Want to know more? Here’s a little about the book:

“Dr. Georgia Young has great friends, two beautiful daughters, and a successful career as a doctor; yet she finds herself feeling stuck and restless. When she decides to make some major changes, she embarks on an exciting journey that may or may not include a second chance at love.

Radiant, free-spirited, and bold are all words that simultaneously describe acclaimed author Terry McMillan’s female protagonists as well as the Intense Dark flavors that we are pairing with her latest page-turner, I Almost Forgot About You.”

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I know it’s only May, but orders for the July subscription box end in a few weeks, so order soon if you want in!

Okay, now I’m curious. Have you ever belonged to a book club? Or, do you belong to one now? If yes, what is it like? Do you meet at a central location (like a public library)? Or do you take turns hosting it in your homes? What kinds of treats do you like to enjoy when you meet? Is it casual — like maybe not everyone reads the book? Or is it more serious — like people come with prepared notes? And how do you choose the book? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — I love book club! The ladies at my church have one, but I’m out of town, or over-scheduled so often, that I’ve only attended once since I’ve moved here. I consider it a good month if I get to go!

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Throwback Thursday: House Hunters International http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/throwback-thursday-house-hunters-international/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/throwback-thursday-house-hunters-international/#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 20:02:34 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=65349

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness. Remember when we were on House Hunter’s International? I just received an email with this video link — it’s a 4 minute summary of the episode — and I’m dying of laughter. It was 2011. Everyone is so young! Little June is just a baby!

I’ve been so careful all these years when I talk about the House Hunter series — I don’t want to give away all the secrets about our episode, and I won’t ruin it for you today, but if you ever meet me in person and want to know the real behind-the-scenes story, I will totally tell you.

Did you ever see the episode? It’s called Historic Country Homes in Normandy. I can’t seem to find the full video anywhere, but you can watch the 4 minute version on HGTV.com, or you can see the full episode in 4 parts on Youtube.

Tell me, Friends. What’s your take on reality TV? Have you ever been on a reality TV show? Or applied to be on one? If you could choose any reality show to be on, which would it be? And do you watch any reality TV? My favorite is still Project Runway. It’s the best! I love how it showcases the creative process from beginning to end.

P.S. — One sort-of spoiler: If you’ve been reading my blog for a long-time, you already know that we didn’t find our French rental through HHI. We found it on a rental website while we were still living in Colorado. I wrote about that here and here. I say “sort-of spoiler” because those posts were public long before HHI ever reached out to us. : )

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Recipe: Spring Arugula and Pea Shoot Salad http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/spring-arugula-pea-shoot-salad/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/spring-arugula-pea-shoot-salad/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 16:00:11 +0000 Lindsey Johnson http://www.designmom.com/?p=64639

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Lindsey Johnson.

The weather really warmed up around here this week — it feels like summer! High temperatures always makes me want to mix things up cooking-wise. I either tend to move any cooking to the grill, or skip it altogether and focus on lighter fare like salads.

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My salad repertoire is uninspiring at the moment. In fact it’s kind of bumming me out. So I called Lindsey. I know she LOVES salad and I know she comes up with awesome salad combos featuring ingredients I would never think to use on my own. I asked Lindsey for a fresh, green, spring salad — and boy oh boy did she come through!

But before we jump into the recipe, I’d love to hear: what kind of salads are you making these days? Do you have any go-to combos? Do you change things up with seasonal food, or do you have reliable recipes that you never tire of?

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Here’s what Lindsey says:

My favorite food is salad. That may sound silly, but it’s 100% true! I love a good salad, and I’m quite adept at putting together a mighty fine salad, if I do say so myself. Years ago when I finally decided to dive in and learn to like salad (after years of claiming I hated it), I knew iceberg and gloppy Ranch dressing weren’t going to cut it for me. I started with baby spinach and moved on to other leafy greens and tried just about every combination of ingredients I could think of.

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The first tine I had a salad made with arugula, and I was immediately smitten with its unique, peppery flavor. Baby arugula tends to be a bit more mild, but I will go right for the really strong stuff too. For awhile, I was putting arugula in everything from salads to pasta to pesto to sandwiches. I love arugula so much, I even throw a handful into my morning smoothie every so often. (It’s really good with berries.)

My love for salads kicked into high gear when I spent a few years working for two farms nearby where I used to live. I was fortunate, or spoiled rather, to always have the freshest greens imaginable on my table every day. And the best arugula I’d ever tasted. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed that until recently. We are still gathering our bearings in our new city (even though it’s almost been two years!) and I’m still searching out a new farm with a CSA to join. In addition to that, this year is the first year for a few years that I will have a garden again. (You may remember my awesome container garden from a few years back. Such a great way to maximize your growing area.) Luckily, my co-op carries locally grown greens and herbs, so I get my fill whenever I can.

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I’m such a fan of spring greens and veggies, and it really is nice to find them locally grown, but I know that’s not always possible. Anyway, all of that is to say that this salad makes good use of fresh, green spring veggies, greens, and herbs – and not asparagus! (I’m totally NOT an asparagus hater, but it seems like we eat it and see it all the time during spring. It’s nice to have a few other favorite spring veggies to enjoy too. :) ) And hopefully wherever you live, you’ll have access to the same or similar ingredients because this really is a yummy combination!

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One of my very favorite, favorite, favorite spring veggies is pea shoots. The tender shoots are a cut above sprouts (I totally stole that from the farm’s packaging and label) and have a mild pea flavor. If they grow for longer, the leaves will become larger and cute little tendrils will spring up. If left to grow even longer, darling purple and white blossoms will appear and eventually turn into peas. Those tender leaves, tendrils, and stems are just as delicious. So if you can’t find one, see if you can find the other. If not, any mild shoot or sprout will do here. Some can be pretty spicy – like radish sprouts. (Trust me.) I also added fresh peas — no need to cook them first if they are super fresh. (And if you can’t find fresh, you can just thaw out some frozen baby peas and you’ll be set.)

Everyone knows peas and mint are a classic combo, so I’ve added plenty of fresh mint too. I like the saltiness of feta with mint and the sweet pea shoots. It’s all about the balance of flavors and textures for me. The fresh lemon juice is such a great and not-overpowering way to add an acidic and extra fresh element.

cooked farro

I’m also a huge fan of adding whole grains or seeds (such as quinoa, amaranth, rice, millet, etc.), along with nuts. It helps to bulk the salads up with extra protein and carbs to make it more filling. This salad would be great for lunch or dinner as is, but it’s great with a piece of grilled chicken or fish, or even veggie burger. This salad uses farro, which is an ancient variety of wheat. It cooks fairly quickly and you can find it near the rice at the grocery store. But another whole grain can easily be substituted. (I’ve included variations and substitutions below the recipe.)

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And after all that, all it needs is a good toss and it’s ready to eat. :)

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Spring Arugula and Pea Shoot Salad

Ingredients:
4 cups baby arugula
2 cups pea shoots, washed well and loosely packed
1 cup cooked farro* (or another whole grain such as wheat, barley, wild or brown rice, etc.)
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup shelled peas
1/2 cup toasted sliced or slivered almonds
1/2 – 3/4 cup fresh mint, torn
5-6 green onions, thinly sliced
Zest and juice of 2 medium lemons
1/4 cup olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions:
1. Place arugula, pea shoots, farro, feta, peas, almonds, mint, green onions, and lemon zest into a large mixing bowl.
2. Whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper.
3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well. Serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings

*Farro typically comes pearled or semi-pearled. It needs to be cooked before being used. They cooking time is about the same as brown rice, though you can sometimes find parboiled and dried farro that only takes about 10 minutes to cook.

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Notes:
- This can be made ahead. Don’t add the dressing until right before serving.
- Baby spinach or another tender green can be used instead of arugula
- Substitute parsley or basil for mint, if desired.
- Fresh, crumbled goat cheese can be substituted for the feta, as can another salty cheese such as Ricotta Salata, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, Romano, etc.
- If you can’t find farro, another grain or small pasta can be used such as wheat berries, freekeh, bulghur, barley, wild or brown rice, millet, amaranth, quinoa, couscous, orzo, etc.
- If you can’t find pea shoots, another variety of shoot or sprout can be used, keeping in mind that some are spicy or more strong in flavor than the peas. Look for sunflower shoots; broccoli, radish, alfalfa, or another sprout. Wash very well before using!

__

Oh my goodness. Thank you, Lindsey! My mouth is watering. I want to stop typing right now so I can go to the store and find pea shoots — I don’t think I’ve ever bought them before!

What do you think, Dear Readers? Anyone else craving salads these days? If you make this, I’d love to hear about it!

Credits: Images, styling & recipe by Lindsey Johnson

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Get Your Summer Bag Ready! http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/get-your-summer-bag-ready/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/get-your-summer-bag-ready/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 16:00:14 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=64924

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Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by The Honest Company. Get 35% off your first bundle — find details below!

In our hallway, we keep a big wicker bag at the ready. I call it our summer bag, as in, “Betty, will you please grab the summer bag when you head to the car?” Since this is California, and outdoor weather can appear during any of the 12 months, the summer bag stays in the hallway year round.

The summer bag is not jam-packed. It has a few essentials only, and is mostly empty space. It’s ready and waiting to be customized depending on the outing. Swimming pool? Add goggles and swimcaps. Beach? Add sand toys and baby powder and a paperback. When I say “a few essentials”, I mean it. This is what’s in the bag:

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1) A water bottle. We keep this empty and waiting. We’ve found it’s not hard to find a water source as we adventure, so we fill it as go throughout the day. The water bottle means we can push ourselves as needed. Weren’t planning on a hike, but happened on a good one? No worries, because we’ve got water.

2) A wide-tooth comb. This works best for my kids’ hair, which runs on the curly, knotty side, (especially after encounters with water). The comb means we can tidy ourselves — even post beach — if we end up somewhere requiring everyone to look presentable.

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3) Bandaids. There’s a more complete first aid kit in the car, but in the summer bag, a box of band-aids is all we need. The bandaids are comfort — they fix a range of ills. A scratch. A blister. A bug bite. They offer bravery as needed until we get home.

4) Sunglasses. My kids all have sunglasses, but typically only Olive remembers to bring them (she has a wide selection and likes to pick out a particular pair based on the fashion statement she wants to make). So we keep the rest of the kids’ sunglasses in the summer bag. I’m not sure if it’s the blue eyes or the California sun, but if we’re going to end up outdoors for any length of time, sunglasses really help keep the grouchies away.

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5) Sunscreen. Having good sunscreen on hand, and plenty of it, is just a non-negotiable fact for my un-able-to-tan offspring. Honest Co. recently introduced new versions of theirs and sent me some to try. Like everything Honest makes (they now have over 100 products and growing!),  the sunscreen is high quality, safe, and available at an in-reach price.

There are 3 options in their suncare line, featuring new packaging and design. Also new? The formulation for their Mineral Sunscreen. It’s mineral-based (non-nano zinc oxide) SPF50+, and it’s been pediatrically and dermatologically tested. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends it too as an effective broad spectrum sunscreen. The reason it’s so effective is that it contains 19% non-nano zinc oxide, which is the only FDA-approved single active ingredient that protects against UVA1, UVA2 and UVB rays. Plus, it was specifically created to be safe and gentle for the whole family.

Not counting the part about how it blocks harmful rays of the sun, my favorite part about their Mineral Sunscreen is that it’s lightweight and non-greasy, which makes it really easy to apply.

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That’s it. Just five items go in the summer bag. And then, like I said, we can throw in additional items as needed. But even when we add things, I still want it to be mostly empty as we leave the house, because one of the main jobs of the summer bag is collecting things as we go about our adventures.

Half an hour into any outing and our family starts shedding. June’s hoodie goes in the bag because she’s perpetually too warm. Ralph’s hat goes in the bag — it seemed like a good idea when we headed out, but the day turned out to be too windy. Maude’s book ends up in the back when sitting at the park turns into a museum visit.

Having a summer bag at the ready, with only a few essentials, may not sound that helpful. But I’ve found it truly allows us to be spontaneous. If we find ourselves with a free day on the weekend, we can be out the door quickly, building on our excitement and enthusiasm, instead of getting stuck and losing momentum while we figure out what to bring. The essentials in the bag allow for a lot of different adventures, so even if we don’t add anything to the bag, and we’re not sure where we are headed, we’re still prepared for all sorts of fun.

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Speaking of fun, how about that discount I mentioned? Design Mom Readers who use the code SUNDMOM35OFF will get 35% off their first Honest Company bundle!*

Now I’m curious and I have two main questions: 1) Do you have a summer bag? Either seasonally or all year round? And 2) If yes, what’s in it? I want to hear!

P.S. — Show me where you’re taking Honest Mineral Sunscreen this summer by posting a photo with #HonestlySunnyDays!

——

This post has been sponsored by The Honest Company who provided products and payment. All opinions are my own.

*Eligible for new honest.com Bundle subscribers only. Limit 1 Promo Code per customer/household. Code must be entered into “Promo Code” section at Checkout. Ends at 11:59 p.m. (PST) on 6/30/2016. Valid for up to 2 Bundles purchased in a single transaction. Cannot be applied to previous purchases, Gift Card purchases or Gift Bundles. Cannot be redeemed for cash or combined with any other promotion. Terms subject to change at any time.

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Living With Kids: Maia McDonald http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/living-with-kids-maia-mcdonald/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/living-with-kids-maia-mcdonald/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 16:00:01 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=65240

By Gabrielle.

Maia started a business with her mom, and once I heard that I couldn’t stop smiling and wondering if maybe one of my kiddos would someday start a company with me. Maia is a Midwestern transplant to my neck of the woods, a minimalist with secret hoarding tendencies — which she is fighting! — and a mom intent on sharing her own unique parenting gifts and methods with her daughter.

I love her perspective and path. I hope you will, too. Welcome, Maia!

Hi, I’m Maia! Our little family is made up of my husband, Travis, and our daughter, Ingrid, who’s two.

Both my husband and I grew up in Wisconsin but we now call Sacramento, California home. I was raised in an idyllic, small, rural farming town that not only has a thriving alternative arts community but also has the most per capita organic farms in the state — and I believe the country at one time, but that might be one of the those local bragging rights that have no basis in fact! Either way, it was great place to grow up.

I went to school for graphic design and worked for years as a designer and art director for brands like Shopbop.com, Williams-Sonoma, Cuyana, and Rue Magazine. Last year, I branched out and launched a sustainable and design-minded online children’s boutique with my mom, called Bitte.

Since I work from home and my husband is a stay-at-home dad, we spend a lot of time together as a family. Probably what would seem a crazy amount for most people! Ever since I met Travis, though, we’ve rarely spent more than three or four hours apart at a time. We just really like each other’s company.

When we met it was such an intense, instant connection. I pretty much knew we were going to be together forever after ten days of dating him, and we moved in together after four months. That was eight years ago. It took us a little longer to get married because we were young and broke and that was less of a priority for us.

Two years ago we welcomed our daughter, and now we’re a kooky little trio. Ingrid is a total riot; she’s funny and smart and so curious. Her favorite things to do are dancing, jumping in puddles, playing in the yard, and singing.

We live in a neighborhood called South Land Park. It’s a quiet residential neighborhood not too far from downtown and midtown, where there are a lot more restaurants and shopping. Right in our neighborhood, there is a great Japanese bakery that my daughter loves to visit. We also like to bike to the park or to the river to play.

Our neighborhood is fairly diverse economically. You can find a few homes from the low to mid $300s but there are also homes that are $700 to $800k. Then there are lots of families in our neighborhood who have been here for decades. It seems to be a pretty sought after area because there are a bunch of great schools nearby, but it’s not as popular as some of the older and more established neighborhoods, which keeps it accessible.

Our house is a 1962 California ranch style house. We bought it from the original owners so not much had been done to it over the years, which I loved. We eventually want to do a bigger renovation to the bathrooms and kitchens since those haven’t been touched in over 50 years, but they are in surprisingly great shape and totally livable.

The funny thing is we weren’t really looking that seriously to buy when we started down the path to purchase this place. We had been in Sacramento about six months, and we started going to open houses mostly for fun and also to get to know neighborhoods and the different areas in Sacramento. We went to an open house for a home just a few blocks from our current house, and completely fell in love with it. That place sold right away but it got us thinking more seriously about the whole process. We found a realtor through a friend the next week, and I think wrote an offer on this house just two weeks later! All the stars just aligned and I’m happy they did because we couldn’t be happier in this home.

The downside was having to move with a baby/toddler twice in one year! I don’t plan on moving again for a LONG time!

We moved first from Wisconsin to Oakland about five years ago, so that was probably a bigger transition than the one from Oakland to Sacramento. I still miss certain things about Wisconsin, mostly the people; friends, but also just the way people are there. There is an attitude and approach to life in the Midwest that I don’t even know how to describe. People always say Midwesterners are nice, which is true, but it’s more than that. Most people are just very genuine and humble.

But on the flip side, I really like that in California everyone is very open and warm and there is a different kind of can-do attitude. Not to mention you are exposed to so many more experiences and cultures. I’ve been really inspired by the energy and enthusiasm I have found living here.

Also, it might seem like a little thing but I love the produce in California! I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the fact that I now have multiple fruit trees in my yard bearing apples, mandarins, peaches, lemons…you name it!

The transition from Oakland to Sacramento has been more subtle since I’m still so close and able to visit often. Sacramento is sleepier and great for raising my daughter. But I definitely miss Oakland. I probably would have stayed if it wasn’t for cost-of-living constraints.

That’s the hardest part about living in California and previously the Bay Area: it’s just so expensive. We discussed moving back to the Midwest when we had our daughter, but ultimately decided that California is where we want to be. Sacramento allowed us to do that and live a little more affordably. Now I’m really glad we gave Sacramento a chance! There’s a lot of great stuff going on here. It’s got a burgeoning food and art scene, great schools, tons of outdoors stuff with the parks and rivers. And it’s a day trip to San Francisco, Tahoe, and the coast. I’ve grown to really love it.

Design wise, I like things simple, bright and airy. I think my style’s a little bit of a mixture of mid-century modern, Scandinavian modern, and just a splash of boho. I really like keeping my home as de-cluttered as possible, but I’m kind of a hoarder so it’s a constant battle.

I find that I can be much calmer and more creative when my house is clean, though. When people come to visit, I want them to feel comfortable. I love to cook for guests so I love that this house has a wonderful dining area. Our next project is to create an outdoor dining area since in California you can really take advantage of outdoor living most of the year.

Since having our daughter I try to make a home that is hers as well. I try not to have areas that are off limits or items that I wouldn’t want her playing with — except maybe all the cacti and a few items in my office.

I also have lots of art around, especially in Ingrid’s room. I really want art to be something she loves and appreciates, and you can never start too early. I still remember the artwork that was in my bedroom as a toddler, so obviously it left an indelible mark on me.

Bitte is an online children’s boutique selling sustainable classics for modern kids. We carry clothes and toys that have a focus on responsible and sustainable creation and manufacturing with an eye for modern design. I started it with my mom after my daughter was born.

We had always talked about starting something together. She had started her own all-natural toy business, Magic Cabin, when I was a toddler, which she built up over the years and eventually sold. So we really had a good marriage of skills and backgrounds. But it wasn’t until after my daughter was born that the idea really started coming together. I found as a new parent I wanted to shop more responsibly, especially when purchasing items for her. And while there were tons of great makers and artisans creating adorably designed eco-friendly goods, there wasn’t one place I could go to find these items in a beautifully curated selection. And as any new parent knows, time is a precious commodity so I wasn’t able to browse the Internet endlessly to find those gems I knew were out there. That’s when I decided I really wanted to create that trusted one-stop-shop for design and eco-conscious parents.

Right now my days are pretty crazy running the business. It’s just my mom and me doing everything! My husband also helps with shipping out orders. So it’s really a family effort. We’re currently working on designing some new products for our in-house Bitte brand, and picking all the merchandise for the holiday season which is always fun. For the summer we have some great new travel-related board books and really cute summer apparel that I can’t get enough of.

The best part is seeing customers post their little one’s enjoying their Bitte items on Facebook and Instagram!

The most important thing that has allowed me to start this business with my mom is that my husband stays home and takes care of my daughter. I grew up watching my parents do it the same way, though, so we have good role models. My dad was a stay-at-home dad and took care of my sisters and me while my mom built her own business.

I remember being so proud of her and thinking it was so special that she was doing something so different than a lot of my friends’ moms. I loved that both of them bucked tradition and struck out to do what was best for them and us as a family.

I learned from my mom specifically that I, too, could be an awesome business owner and mom. It might mean I’m not on every field trip or pack every lunch in the morning but that’s fine. I’m passing down different skills. I hope my daughter will one day feel the same about watching us build this business.

I really hope my daughter remembers our dance parties! And when she was a little baby I loved laying in bed with her and singing to her and telling her stories about how her dad and I met and who her aunts and uncles are. I’m sure I’ll keep doing that, but I remember thinking at the time she won’t even remember this but it still felt important. Now when we lie in bed together she’s the one telling stories, which I mostly can’t understand but I still love them.

I hope she doesn’t remember all the time I spend on my phone and computer. It’s the double edge sword of working from home. It allows me to spend so much time with her but I also have to get work done and it’s hard to explain to a two year old why I can’t play outside with her right this minute.

I love everything about living with my daughter. I sometimes describe it as gaining an awesome, tiny new roommate who’s adorable and hilarious. We have dance parties almost every night and sing endlessly in the car. She’s at this age now where she’s talking more and her personality is really emerging and it’s just the best! The other night she was supposed to go to bed but instead treated us to several rounds of No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed. It’s one of those things where you’re kind of like, Okay…go to bed already! But on the other hand it was so sweet and funny, my husband and I had a hard time not just busting out laughing.

It’s hard to lay down the law when she’s being adorable and I just want to laugh. That’s one thing that has surprised me about parenting. I was a nanny for years and I was always a pretty strict nanny, but as a parent I have such a hard time disciplining, I’m a total softie. Luckily my husband has taken on that role.

I know I’m going to miss everything about this age, because that’s how I feel about every stage leading up to now. It’s the little mundane things that I hope I remember. Her tight snuggles and kisses. Her sticky hands grabbing at my face. How she loves to play with my shoes, the fancier the better.

And made-up songs – my current favorite Daddy, Daddy, I love you!

If I could hand out some advice, I’d tell you a few things. Most are pieces of advice from others or stuff I tell myself all the time, but I either don’t listen or have no willpower.

Use your phone less. It’s become such an addiction. And it’s hard because most of the time I’m using it for work but I need to get better at separating work from personal life.

Being humble is great but it’s also good to recognize your own accomplishments and celebrate them! It might be my Midwestern roots but it’s sometimes hard for me to take a compliment or talk about myself positively without adding a self-deprecating spin on it.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is super hard for me! When I do ask for help I always think, “Why didn’t I just do that sooner?”

–-

Thank you, Maia! I’m not sure if it’s a Midwestern thing, but maybe we all have to get better at accepting a compliment gracefully. Today, I’ll start! I’ll fight to just reply “Thank you,” and not feel compelled to wave it away like it’s not true. (I’ll pretend it IS true! Ha.)

And yes to asking for help! It’s one of the best feelings in the world, like a gorilla has been lifted off your back. When’s the last time you asked for help? I always love your stories.

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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Random Thoughts http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/random-thoughts/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/random-thoughts/#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 18:57:35 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=65229

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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Well, Hello! Welcome to May’s installment of my random thoughts. Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments.

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- As I mentioned, Saturday was party central at our house. June’s was mostly outside in the backyard and on the deck. I adore pretty much any color spectrum anything, so I was delighted she picked rainbows as a theme. We put rainbow ribbons in the trees, and it won’t surprise me if we keep them there all summer long. They look so pretty!

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Two highlights from June’s party: 1) A sticker board. Ralph filled an oversize piece of foamcore with initials in a pattern — R, O, Y, G, B in diagonal stripes. Then the kids, age 5 and 6, would put 2-inch circle stickers in corresponding colors on the initials. Easy, fun, and the kids were excited about what they made. This was the activity we started with while guests arrived, and then kids would go back to it throughout the party to add more stickers. Before the party, we used the stickers to make cupcake toppers too.

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For lunch, we ate outdoors on our deck. There were hotdogs on the grill, and a big bowl of chips, but the best part was our giant cutting board filled with a rainbow of fruits and veggies. It sat in the center of the table and the kids helped themselves.

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Even the aftermath was pretty:

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- Betty’s party was also delightful. The theme was Series of Unfortunate Events. We started with VFD charades. Phrases with VFD play a big part in the series, (like Very Fancy Doilies and Volunteer Fire Department) so Maude used her typewriter and created 20 or so cards with VFD phrases on them. Some from the book, but most that our kids just made up.

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The books feature 3 siblings. The oldest likes to invent, the second likes to read, and the third likes to cook. So that informed the rest of our activities. After charades, the kids invented by doing an egg drop. We put out a bunch of materials — rubberbands, straws, popsicle sticks, a stack of newsprint, glue gun, masking tape, etc. — and each guest created a contraption to try and protect their eggs. We gave them about 45 minutes to work on their contraptions, then they took turns dropping their creations — with a raw egg inside — off our balcony onto the front walk. This was a big hit! None the of the eggs survived completely intact, but some only had a crack!

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After that, it was reading time — we had all the Series books out on display in the family room and reading loft, but mostly the kids wanted to watch the movie, so they did that for about 20 minutes. Then it was time to cook! They prepared Pasta Puttanesca for dinner — a meal featured in the first book. Though, we didn’t really follow the recipe. Instead, they made penne with marinara sauce and bolognese sauce.

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Our cousins joined in at the end of the day which was perfect. After the guests left, we could just hang out with family and relax and enjoy dinner.

- I’m craving a good date with Ben Blair. We do what I’ll call “mini-dates” almost daily. We work out together, do evening grocery shopping together, run to Target together. We’ll hit a late movie once or twice a month. I love any chance I get to hang out with him, so no complaints, but I’m in the mood for a real date. A concert or a museum or a restaurant where we’ve made reservations well in advance. I feel like we were really good at those kinds of dates when we lived in New York, but we’ve been crummy about them ever since. How do you handle dates with your spouse or partner?

- Speaking of museums, I want to see the new SF MOMA! It just reopened after 3 years of renovations. They started the work before we moved here, so none of my kids have seen it. I can’t wait to take the family!

- And speaking of reservations well in advance, I’ve come to realize that part of why we no longer go on planned dates is that we’re in a stage of life where advance planning actually stresses us out instead of relieves us. We seem to be in a phase of life where we can only do things spontaneously. There are exceptions, but mostly I find I’m resistant to put anything “extra” on our calendar. It’s generally pretty packed with school and work commitments, and I’ve found that if I add a dinner-with-friends to the calendar, or buy tickets to Pop-up Magazine event, seeing it on the calendar causes my heart rate to go up.

Instead, “extra” activities seem to be best at the last minute. We love calling friends at 8 or 9 PM and going out for dessert. And we’re great with someone calling at 5:00 and saying they have tickets for a show later that night if we want to go. Beyonce´is in town tonight, and it won’t surprise me if we’re on StubHub this afternoon looking at tickets.

I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I find I’m much happier about events when they come up last minute. In part, it seems to be so much easier to assess our home and the kids right then and there, and make a smart decision. Is anyone sick? Are there school projects due that someone forgot? Do we have the groceries we need for tomorrow? Are the older kids home and available to babysit? We can get immediate answers and can make a plan.

On the other hand, when we plan in advance, stuff tends to come up and I often find myself wishing we could cancel. It definitely wasn’t always like this, and I’m assuming it won’t be like this forever, but while it lasts, we’re kind of awful to try and make plans with. Does anyone else feel like this? Am I the only one?

- I can’t believe we’re headed to France next month! We get two whole months there!! June 20th to August 20th. Just thinking about it seems so dang dreamy. We’ll be working on our house, doing some traveling, reconnecting with all the people we love in Normandy and mostly just soaking up how much we love being there. The countryside, the food, the pace. All of it.

Right now, we’re trying to figure out how much of our time there we should plan out and how much to keep flexible. Have you already made your summer plans?

- Speaking of summer, the summer fruit has arrived and we are eating piles of it. Apricots and nectarines for miles.

- I’ve had another major run-in with poison oak. Which I’m kind of incredulous about because I try to be so dang careful. But despite my precautions, my shoulders, back and stomach are covered in the awful rash at the moment.

I’ve got a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday to renew my depression meds, and I’ll ask for a giant pack of the poison oak ointment too. I basically have to have a stockpile on hand to get me through the summer. But happily, I’m getting better at managing the pain if I do somehow get the rash.

What works best for me is to take 3 or more showers a day — I start with lukewarm water and soap up, then I turn the water super hot — it’s sort of a hurts-so-good thing and it seems to leach out some of the poison, then I turn the water cool. Then I towel off and put on ointment, and I’m good to go for about 4 or 5 hours.

- We have a fish! June’s big wish for her birthday was a pet. Though I grew up with both cats and dogs at our house, I haven’t felt comfortable getting a pet for my own kids. First because we were in baby stages and I didn’t think I could manage training a pet. And now, even though we’re well past the baby stage, we travel so much that it doesn’t seem like it would be fair to the pet. But we decided we could manage a beta fish. So that was June’s big birthday gift.

When she saw the fish, her eyes lit up. We asked her what his name should be and without hesitation she said, “James. James the Blue Fish.” It was pretty adorable.

Approximately 5 minutes later she was in tears wondering what would become of James when we were in France. I told her I thought one of our cousins would be willing to feed and care for him. That was comforting, but she’s sure she’ll miss him too much. Apparently she’s got that instant mother’s love thing going on. Hah!

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.

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A Few Things http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/a-few-things-305/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/a-few-things-305/#comments Fri, 13 May 2016 14:32:08 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=65087

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By Gabrielle. Photo by @bloesemblogs.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Looking forward to the weekend? At the Blair house, we are in full prep mode for Saturday. We’re hosting 2 birthday parties that day — one for June over lunch, and one for Betty over dinner.

June chose rainbows for a party theme — we’re hosting it outside with an obstacle course, a sticker installation and a water balloon fight. Betty chose A Series of Unfortunate Events as her party theme — we’re decorating with Very Fancy Doilies, inventing egg-drop holders, having a reading time, and making pasta puttanesca for dinner. (If you’ve read the books, that will all make sense to you.)

Remember when I vowed to do super simple parties back in January? Geez. It’s like I can’t help myself. Hah! How about you? How are your weekend plans shaping up? I’m off to run party errands, but before I head out I have a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems.

So fun to watch.

- On unsupervised time for kids.

- For bloggers and social media influencers, have you heard of the Family Forward event? you can get a family vacation worth $8500 for $1999! See what’s included here. My friend Jyl puts on this event and it’s amazing. This is the 4th year and as you can imagine, spots sell out fast!

- She used a male name and sent her novel to agents.

- A parent’s guide to using Snapchat.

Copper mining, oil mining, and lithium mining — don’t believe the memes.

- Actor’s careers summed up in gifs.

- My friend Irene of Bloesem Design creates the most gorgeous things. Take a look a this new magazine all about crafting with yarns. Like that gorgeous photo at top!

Africa uncolonized.

- The top love-language for each Myers-Briggs personality type. Is yours accurate?

- In defense of early bedtimes. (We used to be so good and consistent with early bedtimes, but we’re pretty crummy these days.)

The torture of high heels (and yet I wear them).

- On homecomings.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Girls & Sex http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/girls-sex/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/girls-sex/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 16:00:39 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=65023

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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

A couple of months ago, while running errands, I heard Peggy Orenstein on NPR talking about her new book, Girls & Sex. The conversation was compelling, and when I got home, I ordered the book immediately. When it was delivered, I put it on the coffee table so I would see it daily and remember to make time to read it.

Olive picked it up first, and read the whole thing (she said it got some looks when she brought it to school and pulled it out for free-reading time). Then Maude started it — but had to pause to prep for her AP tests. When Maude set it down, I picked it up. I finished it on Sunday (all I wanted for Mother’s Day was reading time — and I got it!). Now Ralph and Ben Blair are in line to read it.

It’s made for some excellent discussions.

The thing that struck me the most is the observation that when we discuss reproduction with boys, we focus on erections and climax — both pleasurable things. But for girls, we focus on periods and pregnancy prevention — neither of which are pleasurable at all. Most girls grow up not even knowing the actual names of their genitalia. They either hear a nickname/slur, or the whole area gets called vagina. Females grow up learning or hearing about all the ways they can bring pleasure to males, without an understanding of how they can feel pleasure themselves, or what they’re supposed to get out of a sexual encounter.

Our culture teaches girls to act and look sexy, but they don’t actually know how to be sexual, or what that means.

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Those ideas stood out to me, because from what I’ve seen and experienced it’s true. I had been thinking Ben Blair and I had done a decent job with our sex ed, but after reading the book I can see we need to do better. More conversations, more often, with both our sons and daughters, with a focus on removing stigma, and growing into a happy, healthy, loving sex life.

Some of the examples in the book were hard for me to stomach. Lots and lots of instances where girls are pressured to have sex when they’re not interested and take no pleasure from it. And there’s a whole chapter on rape and rape culture. But of course, those experiences need to be told and acknowledged and talked about before we will see improvement. So I found it well-worth reading even when I wanted to throw up.

One tip: I found the best conversations started when I simply sat in the living room and read the book aloud to Ben, while the kids walked in and out of the room, grabbing a snack, or sitting down to listen. It was easier for me to read the words in the book aloud instead of trying to come up with my own. And maybe more important, I think it was easier for the kids to hear the words (some of them no doubt shocking to hear coming from their mother’s mouth), and know I was reading them, not necessarily sharing a personal experience — no one (kids, teens, or adults) wants to think of their parents as sexual beings.

Another tip: in this Slate interview with the author, she mentions the idea of having a designated family friend that can speak frankly with your kids about sex. If you want to make sure your kids have this knowledge, but don’t feel like you can be the one to deliver it, you ask an Aunt or a Dear Friend — someone your kids are really comfortable with.

Anyway, I thought the book was excellent and I’m wondering if you’ve read it. I’d love to discuss it with you! If you don’t have time to read it, you can listen to the NPR interview with the author, or read the highlights, I mentioned the excellent interview about the book on Slate, and there’s an excerpt of the book on Time. Any of those is enough to get a conversation started.

I’m also curious: when did you learn words like labia and clitoris and vulva? And did you understand what they were? What their function was? Do you feel like your kids know? Both your daughters and your sons? I was definitely into adulthood before I had a solid understanding of female anatomy.

P.S. — Also from Time: how to talk to your kids about porn.

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Growing A Family: On Hyperemesis http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/growing-a-family-on-hyperemesis/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/growing-a-family-on-hyperemesis/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 15:00:16 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=64411

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By Gabrielle. Empathy cards by Emily McDowell.

Sierra Casillas is a midwife in Washington, DC, and expecting her first baby. But if you’re thinking this is going to be one of those stories where her professional experience has completely and utterly prepared her for her personal challenges, you’re going to be surprised.

I’ll let her tell the story. Welcome, Sierra!

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I am a midwife and will soon be a mother.

I have practiced as a midwife for eight years, but in my heart I have been a midwife since I was three-and-a-half years old. I distinctly remember gazing up in wonder at my mother’s swollen belly in our dark, damp basement as she moved clothes from the washer to the dryer. Clothed in a purple patchwork moo-moo, she paused for my little hands to rest on her belly and feel the baby inside of her kick. It felt like magic.

The first time I caught a baby, I felt as though a beam of heavenly light was shining down on me as I sat at that mother’s feet and welcomed her baby. As I have sat, kneeled, bent, and squatted at the feet of women bringing babies and life into the world, I have waited patiently (and not-so-patiently) for my own baby to make its way to my belly and arms. I have envisioned myself carrying and giving birth to my baby ever since I can remember. Those visions always ones of fulfillment, womanhood, triumph, contentment, and joy.

I have accompanied hundreds of women on their journey to motherhood, while waiting longer-than-expected for my own motherhood journey to begin, and I have seen how varied that pathway is. Each pregnancy is unique and each woman is singular in her experience. I have seen women through infertility, picture-perfect pregnancy, loss, first kicks, hyperemesis, smooth water births, hours of pushing, the first successful latch, preterm birth, the first trip to the bathroom after pushing out a baby, unexpected outcomes, the bliss of skin-to-skin, post-partum depression…and even still, I have been completely blindsided by my own pregnancy.

On October 30, 2015 I took a home pregnancy test. I hadn’t even missed my period but I had one in the closet and it was the first month we had actually tried to conceive. I was watching the calendar and paying attention to my body’s signs. As I waited the requisite sixty seconds I told myself it was too early to detect anything and I was wasting a perfectly good pregnancy test.

And then, there were two lines.

I took a few deep breaths, looked again, and hollered for my husband. When he walked in, I had no words — I just handed him the stick with two lines. Others have fun and creative ways of breaking the news to their partner but I’ve never been one of those; sitting on the toilet with my pants around my ankles is how I told my husband. I had also just come home from a run and was sweaty and gross, just so you get the full effect of the precious moment.

The next day was Halloween and my parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews (nearly all of whom I have caught as their mothers’ midwife and helped to have natural childbirths) gathered at my home for trick-or-treating. I remember feeling so dizzy as I watched those costumed children run loops around one another, and I smiled to myself imagining next Halloween with a baby in my arms. My very own.

About a week after I found out I was pregnant, I started feeling sick. A sick I have never experienced before. Every light, every vibration, every noise, every motion, every mention of food, every scent brought a heightened wave of nausea to the constant baseline nausea that would settle in as my norm. For the next four weeks I muddled through my work days and nights by stealing quick moments to sit or lay down and constantly nibbling on something that with every sip or bite became more and more repulsive. I tried ginger, peppermint, crackers, sea bands, meditation, apple cider vinegar, and Chinese herbal cocktails…anything and everything I could think of. Every single thing I had ever recommended to my patients. None of it worked.

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On December 4, I finished seeing patients for the day, called my husband to pick me up, and walked out to the car with tears streaming down my face and a huge box of expired anti-nausea medication from the sample closet at work. That would be my last day of work for almost three months. That was the day I first caught a glimpse of what being really, really sick means. I walked into my house, climbed into my bed, and that is where I would stay — with the exception of midwife and doctor appointments, hospitalizations for dehydration, acupuncture appointments, and ultrasounds — for the next ten weeks as my weight dropped, my muscles atrophied, my throat burned from vomiting, my abdominal muscles ached from retching, my bottom bled from constipation and I felt no tenderness or connection to the tiny life that was growing inside of me.

My baby, who I had yearned for and pictured since I was a little girl, was finally on its way and I tearfully fantasized about the relief I would feel if I miscarried and could escape the unrelenting nausea and vomiting. Aside from my immediate family, a couple of very close friends and my employer, I did not tell anyone I was pregnant because I could not muster the strength to pretend I was happy.

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I tried every remedy and medication under the sun to get some relief. Some approved for pregnancy, some not.  As I was admitted to the hospital for the first time just before Christmas, I finally allowed myself to admit what I was experiencing was not normal — it was hyperemesis — and I was not being wimpy; I had simply met my match. No amount of willpower was going to win this battle.

I midwifed my sister through a pregnancy with hyperemesis, and even that close encounter did not prepare me for my own struggle. I rang in the New Year violently vomiting, shaking uncontrollably and sobbing in my bed. My best friend started an IV and hung the fluid from my curtain rod. My sister rubbed lotion on my feet. My husband rubbed my back. I called anyone I knew and trusted who would bring me some marijuana. My medications were not even coming close to reaching the depth of my illness and desperation. When the marijuana arrived at my doorstep, I Googled “how to inhale” as I had never touched any drug, alcohol, or cigarette in my life.

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I am now 28 weeks and four days into this pregnancy journey and surviving on no less than three different anti-nausea medications (and way beyond the recommended dosage of Tums) and I am only able to work one day a week. My baby moves and kicks and flips all around inside of me, and I have begun to feel some tenderness and connection to him or her. But things are still hard and I am still sick. It’s been three weeks since I came home from my third hospital admission, and three days since my third visit to the ER.

I am sure this long-awaited baby will bring joy to my life and my home, but I am not quite there yet and nobody is more surprised than me at my experience and my emotional response. It is difficult to admit how I have felt, but I know there are other women out there who need to hear my tale, who have suffered through hyperemesis and the guilt associated with it: guilt brought on by taking so many medications that pass through to the baby, or wishing the pregnancy would end so there could be some relief, or feeling nauseated by the baby’s movements rather than thrilled.

To those women I want to say, you are not alone and you are not a bad mother.

The perfect, blissful, organic, pure, uncomplicated pregnancy I have always envisioned and helped other women to achieve is not my story to tell. And though it has been the hardest journey I have ever endured, I trust there are happy days to come. I recognize how blessed I am to have a healthy baby growing inside of me and I do not take that for granted. I am not looking for sympathy and I know there are women whose pregnancies are much more difficult than mine.

But to women reading this: Whatever your journey to motherhood entails, I hope you are able to allow yourself to feel and experience the highs and lows as you bring life into this world. As a midwife and almost mother, I’ve witnessed the strength of a woman and her body. I have shared in the triumph of a new mother as she lifts her baby out and up onto her chest. I am beginning to envision that moment of triumph for myself as I pull myself up, with my constant and supportive husband ever at my side, and journey on into my third trimester.

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A huge congratulations to you, Sierra, for not only enduring hyperemesis thus far, but also for thinking of how you can help others who are also experiencing this severe, severe, nausea. Your experience has comforted someone today. And I’m sure you hear this all the time, but it will get better, and we’ll all be thinking of you until it does.

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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Recipe: Firecracker Pops http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/recipe-firecracker-pops/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/recipe-firecracker-pops/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 15:29:27 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=63915

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By Gabrielle.

It happened yesterday: a Last Day of School photo showed up in my Facebook stream. The first last-day-photo of the year! Our schools here in Oakland don’t get out until early June, but I can definitely feel things winding down. And as they wind down, the temperatures seem to rise. Which means popsicle weather! In fact, for Betty’s birthday on Monday, she requested popsicles (an assortment of creamsicles, fudgesicles and rootbeer-float pops) in lieu of a birthday cake.

Well, just in the nick of time, my internet friend, Christine Chitnis has a mouth-watering new book called Icy, Creamy, Healthy, Sweet. It’s all about making yummy frozen treats — like ice pops, slushies, and floats — without refined sugars. There are 75 recipes, including vegan and dairy-free options too. As you can see, the photos are gorgeous and I can’t wait to try the recipes!

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I asked Christine if I could share a recipe from the book here and she sent over one called Firecracker Pops. They are adorable! And I love how simple and wholesome the ingredients are. You can find the recipe and photo when you click through, but before you do, I’d love to hear if you have any memories making popsicles as a kid. I sure do!

I remember filling the ice cube trays with orange juice — the kind of juice made from a tube of frozen concentrate. Remember that stuff? Run the cardboard carton under hot water, squeeze it to get the concentrate into the pitcher, then fill the carton with water 3 times. Hah! It’s been a long time since I’ve done that. After the juice was poured into the tray, I would  cover the it with plastic wrap and insert toothpicks through the plastic. Then I would check the freeze obsessively, waiting for the blocks to freeze. The toothpicks would never stand up straight, so they would freeze at an odd diagonal, making the popsicle challenging to hold.

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But still! The idea of making popsicles at home seems to be so universally appealing for kids of all ages. Yesterday, 17-year-old Maude suggested we try making pudding pops at home!

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Firecracker Pops
Makes 12 pops

Ingredients:
1 cup frozen blueberries
2 frozen bananas
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt, divided
1/2 cup almond milk, homemade (recipe included in book) or store-bought
1 tablespoon honey, divided
1 cup frozen raspberries

Steps:
1. In a blender, combine the frozen blueberries, 1 banana, 1/2 cup of the yogurt, 1/4 cup of the almond milk, and 1/2 tablespoon of the honey and blend until smooth. Pour into a pitcher or glass measuring cup and give your blender a quick rinse.

2. Combine the frozen raspberries and the remaining banana, 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/4 cup almond milk, and 1/2 tablespoon honey in the rinsed-out blender and blend until smooth.

3. Pour a small amount of the raspberry mixture into your pop molds, followed by a small amount of the blueberry mixture and alternate until the molds are full. For the most part the stripes will hold their place, as the mixture will be thick (work quickly before they have a chance to thaw and become runny); however, if you want perfect stripes, you can stick the molds in the freezer for 30 minutes after every stripe to set the color before adding the next stripe. Insert sticks and freeze for at least 3 to 4 hours, until hardened.

Credits: Recipe from Icy, Creamy, Healthy, Sweet by Christine Chitnis © 2016 by Christine Chitnis. Recipe and images reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com.

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Thank you, Christine! This looks amazing. Huge congrats on your book!

Okay, Friends, now I’d love to hear: have you ever made popsicles at home? Do you have a favorite recipe or fruit combo? And did you ever make them as a kid? Also, have you ever tried the Zoku? I haven’t, but friends swear by it. Apparently it freezes popsicles super fast.

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What Are Your Favorite Time-Saving Apps? http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/what-are-your-favorite-time-saving-apps/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/what-are-your-favorite-time-saving-apps/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 16:00:32 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=64990

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Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Postmates — get $10 off your first delivery. Details below!

Let’s talk about time-saving apps for a minute. There are new ones every year. Some of them stick for me (like Uber — it’s on the front page of my apps because I use it so much), and others don’t (like Taskrabbit — I tried it a bunch when we first moved here but haven’t opened it in a couple of years). Recently I tried a new-to-me one, it’s called Postmates, and I think I’m going to love it.

What Postmates does, is turn every single store into a store that delivers. We all know pizza delivery, and if we live in Manhattan, we might know Chinese food delivery too. But what about pharmacy delivery? Or shoe delivery? Or birthday gift delivery? I’m not talking about online shopping, where a delivery happens a few days later. I’m talking about a fleet of local couriers, probably in your town — because Postmates is in 40 different U.S. cities now, and growing — who respond to delivery requests on-demand.

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Postmates can deliver from any store or restaurant, anytime, anywhere – including Bakesale Betty’s in Oakland (which always has a loooong line down the block) in minutes. Order from Chipotle, Starbucks, Apple and thousands of popular local merchants (like my fave, Laurel Hardware) at the touch of a button, on-demand 24/7.

I mentioned it as a time-saver, and it is, but it’s also an I’m-not-in-the-mood-to-go-out-saver. Say it’s raining, and you’re not up for loading the kids in the car. Postmates will deliver! Or maybe you’re under the weather and craving some chicken soup from that out of the way noodle shop. Postmates will deliver! Or maybe you’re throwing a party tonight and just don’t have time to run all of your errands. Postmates will deliver!

Over the weekend, I tried it twice to see what it was like. First I ordered food from my favorite Greek restaurant. It couldn’t have been easier. I opened the app, found the restaurant name, and the whole menu was listed. I just had to choose quantities and place the order. I received a confirmation email instantly and a delivery ETA of 35 minutes — with a link to track the progress.

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Second, I placed an order from Trader Joe’s. I have some frustration with Trader Joe’s at the moment for two reasons. First, because they close too early for my schedule. These days, most of our grocery shopping happens after 10:00 PM, (Ben Blair and I go together after the little kids are asleep, and treat it like a mini-date), but Trader Joe’s is always closed at that point. And second, though we have several TJ’s in the area, parking at every single one is a beast. Just finding a spot can add an extra 30 minutes to the errand, especially on weekends. So I end up skipping it. It’s just not worth the hassle most of the time.

That said, there are some things I really love from Trader Joe’s, so I thought: Why not try Postmates? Using their app, I pulled up Trader Joe’s, found some of the items I needed in the app database, and described the rest in a custom order. A few minutes later I had a call from a Postmates Courier — she was in Trader Joe’s and wanted to clarify one of the custom items I requested. Then, in less than an hour, the delivery was on my doorstep!

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It’s hard not to be an instant fan. No having to wait in line, no having to talk to anyone if I’m feeling anti-social, no having to go out in the cold. Instead of taking an hour or more to run an errand, I spent a few minutes on my phone and tada! Errand completed.

Want to give it a try? Click here to download the Postmates app and use the code DesignMom to get $10 off your first delivery! (Applicable to new customers only, for use on delivery fee.)

If you do, I’d love to hear what you use Postmates for first. I’m also curious, do have any time-saver apps you swear by? I know different services work for different people. I’d want to hear what works for you!

P.S. — Have you tried the TJ’s kitchen cloths? They are the best ever. We haven’t needed papertowels since we started using these, way back in New York!

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Living With Kids: Lisa Fontaine http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/living-with-kids-lisa-fontaine/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/living-with-kids-lisa-fontaine/#comments Tue, 10 May 2016 14:00:39 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=65031

By Gabrielle. Photos by Michelle Drewes.

Lisa and her friend Nan started Ginger, a line of handmade caftans, because they wanted “a kickass dress that was flattering and simple.” So cool. Every time I see a woman strolling confidently in a caftan, I smile. I imagine she has a lot of events to attend, deadlines and dates she never breaks, a well-edited closet and pantry, probably, and a ticket to Corsica for the end of May. Maybe even a thriving garden and a lovely copper watering can. Right?!

I hope you enjoy Lisa’s words and beautiful space she’s sharing with us today. Welcome, Lisa!

Hi everyone! I’m so excited to show you around my life!

My husband and I met in San Francisco in 2001 and were married by the end of the following year. It was a bit of an opposites attract situation! As an economic consultant, he was very organized and methodical and craved routine. Myself, a designer, am more emotional, free spirited, outgoing, and artistic. I’m not so great at paying taxes, saving money, or keeping a clean car, but I love adventure, wild parties, and naughty little children.

However, our 12-year age gap makes us both land in the same Chinese astrological year, the year of the horse. Since horses are meant to race and travel, it wasn’t surprising that we shared the same vision for raising a global-minded family.

We both grew up in the Bay Area — San Francisco and Santa Cruz. Our households were quite different! Doug’s was strict and orderly which resulted in him skipping the third grade, learning to play the piano beautifully and to speak French. I grew up in a free-range creative household that involved lots of motorcycle riding in the Santa Cruz mountains, skateboarding, boogie boarding, and building stuff in my parent’s workshop.

We have decided to blend our upbringings with our own children. Bijou is ten, and enjoys swimming in lakes, horseback riding, traveling, and Taylor Swift. Eero is five, and our emotional wild child who loves music and basketball and building stuff out of things from our recycling bin. Wilder, also five, is mellow and kind and probably smarter than all of us. He likes chess and math and recently told me he likes the color mulberry. My husband Doug is an economic consultant in downtown Oakland, and enjoys cross fit in his free time. I teach art camps to kids in the summer, and design a caftan clothing line called Ginger with my friend Nan. In my free time, I love photography, taking craft classes, the farmer’s market, and treasure hunting at thrift stores.

We live in the Berkeley Hills just a ten-minute walk from Alice Water’s Chez Panisse and the original Peet’s coffee. Our mid-century home was built in 1955 as a two-bedroom bungalow and had three more rooms added in the 1970s. Our lot is shaded by two hundred-year-old oak trees and is on a quiet street where all the neighbors know each other.

Our street is particularly unique because several homes have been in the same family since they were built at the turn of the century. One neighbor even wrote a book called Tamalpais Tales, interviewing those who had stories to share dating all the way back to when the street was first developed. In recent years, some neighbors have passed away and young families have moved in. Others, who have become empty nesters, will rent out spare rooms to visiting international students and PhD students at Cal, also walkable from our house.

Our children love the neighborhood because we can walk to Codornices Park on a hidden stairwell that leads from our street directly into the park. They love the cement slide and creek. They also enjoy our community garden with chickens that a neighbor built a few years ago on a dilapidated tennis court. The high fences and sunny spot were perfect for building a garden and keeping the local deer out.

The homes in our neighborhood usually sell for over a million dollars. We were able to afford it from a smart real estate investment we had made a few years earlier in San Francisco. We bought a loft near AT&T Park at the end of 2002 when we got married and sold it a couple years later for 30% more than our purchase price. The San Francisco real estate market does have its perks!

We have lived in our home for ten years now and recently refinanced when rates were at an all time low, resulting in a monthly mortgage payment below what one needs to cough up today for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco.

The only downside to our neighborhood is that it is on a hill so it isn’t great for bike riding. I have a confession: my 10-year-old still can’t ride a bike.

We decided to sell our house in the city before shopping for our next house. It sold in just one week, so then we had to scramble to find something. We were able to negotiate a 30-day rent back from the new owner to give us a bit more time, but I was seven months pregnant with Bijou so time was of the essence!

We decided on Berkeley for the great public schools, unique architecture, great restaurants, and tree-lined streets. We found our home rather quickly and although it wasn’t perfect, it had good bones and we had a vision for what it could be. I personally love a home project but after three years of remodeling, I hope I never have to do that again. We lived in the house during remodeling and worked in stages, which was made extra stressful by having a new baby. Luckily, we had a great crew who felt like family by the end.

Buying in our neighborhood can be very competitive so you need to be aggressive. Inventory is low, so most homes go for significantly over asking. It’s also common practice to write an emotional letter to the seller telling them how much you love their house and what it would mean to you to raise your own family there.

My favorite part of my home is the floor to ceiling glass in our living room that looks out onto our garden. Our yard is small but I cherish it greatly after living in San Francisco with only a deck for so many years.

I like to buy high quality furniture that works with the mid-century architecture of our home. I prefer to buy pieces that can last for decades. I’m pretty minimalist with my decorating, but the things I do choose to display are meaningful. An inherited piece from Doug’s grandmother, vacation photos, a weaving made from my daughter, something collected at a flea market from when we lived in France, etc.

Admittedly, I’m a bit controlling when it comes to the décor in my children’s rooms. My twin boys don’t have much of their own opinion when it comes to décor so they let me do my own thing. They don’t even know race car beds exist so don’t tell them!

My daughter, on the other hand, does have an opinion. Fortunately, her style is quite similar to mine as she’s gotten older. We recently bought a desk and new throw pillows and a plant for her room. I made a Pinterest board for her with options I liked and then let her choose from that.

If I’m paying for it, I need to like it, too.

My daughter started at a French immersion school when she was four. Now at ten she is fully fluent and even has a very authentic accent despite us not speaking any French at home. My husband speaks enough French to help with her homework but is not as fluent as her.

I studied French for a year using Rosetta Stone before we moved to France in 2013-14. I know some vocabulary and can read it okay but I am very far from speaking it with any fluency. It has been a real challenge for me to learn a second language as an adult which is why I wanted my children to learn when they are young. My twins got their first exposure to French when we moved to France and they attended the local Maternelle (preschool) when they were three. By the end of the year they could comprehend but were not speaking French. They now attend a public English speaking school and have a French-speaking babysitter one evening a week to help them retain some of their French.

Moving abroad is deeply rewarding but also a ton of work. Luckily, my husband was willing to research and take care of all the nitty gritty. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have trusted me to dot the i’s and cross the t’s!

It was amazing to see how flexible and adaptable our children were to living in a foreign country. Kids are kids no matter where you are in the world and they will learn how to interact and play despite language barriers.

My daughter attended the third grade in our small village, population 800. The school did not have any play equipment for recess but she did enjoy the hour long three course lunch every day that the school provides for a small fee. It always started with a vegetable, next a protein, and finished with dessert. After lunch, the girls would play marbles on the drain covers in the play yard.

My husband and I did not work while we were there. We saved up enough to take a sabbatical. One way we were able to afford it was by sending our three children to the public schools in France vs. three private school tuitions at home. We also rented our home in Berkeley for the market rate which covered our mortgage plus some of the rental expense of the home we rented in France.

We bought a used inexpensive car in France and sold it at the end of our year. For insurance, we only purchased catastrophic insurance and paid out of pocket for any small visit. A typical doctor’s visit is only 25 euros. Imagine that!

Due to the amount of work that is involved in enrolling in school, buying and selling a car and securing Visas, I would probably just do a summer abroad next time. You can stay for three months on your passport and still really get the experience of living in another place without all the work.  And you will avoid the rainy season.

My favorite part about our year abroad was developing a real understanding of French culture and having the experience of living in a rural place. It was amazing to raise our children in that setting for a year. It sometimes felt like a movie.

My children were excited to move and adjusted easily to living in France.  Bijou quickly made friends at school and really enjoyed the experience.  The fact that she already spoke French I’m sure contributed greatly. My twins were quite young so they were happy to go wherever their family was. We wanted to do this while they were young and flexible rather than when they were teenagers and maybe more reluctant to leaving their friends. The fact that our farmhouse had a pool didn’t hurt, either.

Within 12 hours of landing back in California, we had eaten at our favorite Mexican restaurant and were making plans for play dates. We missed our friends and family tremendously so it was a sweet reunion.

My caftan company, Ginger, was started in May 2015. We were playing dress up with my friend Nan’s amazing vintage collection and musing over “Why don’t they make clothes like this anymore?!” The next day, Nan called me and said, “We should start a fashion line together.”

It wasn’t completely out of left field since we have both owned small businesses and sew, and Nan has attended fashion school. A year later, business is good and growing. We still work out of our respective home studios, but it’s easy to collaborate since her vintage cabin home is just a short distance up the hill from me in Berkeley.

Our two-piece collection may seem a bit unconventional, but deciding to make a perfectly constructed dress that flattered a range of body types was far more important than variety. Our caftan is currently offered as a knee length dress and as an ankle length caftan. The fabrics we use are sourced in America and sewn locally and ethically in Oakland which is very important to both of us.

The best part about Ginger is hearing the feedback from our customers. It is so rewarding to pour your heart and soul into a creative project and have it be received well. We completely sold out at our very first trunk show which encouraged us to keep moving forward. For our one year anniversary recently, we participated in Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco and picked up some new wholesale accounts in addition to spreading the caftan love to our new retail customers.

My favorite thing about living with my kids has to be the morning snuggles. My husband wakes up at 4:00 am and heads to the gym, so when I get up around seven he is not likely in the mood to be crawling back in bed to snuggle! Lucky for me, my kids now fill the void. Some kids like it more than others but I can always count on a good ten-minute snuggle session with Wilder before starting my day.

My youngest are now five, and I can honestly say I don’t miss the baby years. I’m much more of an older kid kind of person and even now when I have a rough day with them I fantasize about our relationships and friendships we will have when they are adults.

I hope my kids remember this home as a safe creative haven. We try to keep the rules to a minimum and let them be free to make muddy “soup” concoctions in the yard, have friends over, run around, and get messy. I hope they remember Doug as the dad always willing to play ball, and me as the cuddly creative mama who will make owies better, dry tears, bake cookies, and do an art project with them.

I hope someday they see their bedrooms as a fun play space and not as the place they had to take a timeout when they hit their brother.

I truly don’t mind making mistakes and learning the hard way. I try to see the silver lining of even the most difficult situations. With that said, having twins has been my life’s biggest challenge.

I wish someone had taught me to be better at accepting and asking for help. Those first two years I cried almost daily out of pure exhaustion.

One trick that would help me a lot during that first year after my twins were born was to wear ear plugs.  Now hear me out, I realize this might come off as sounding very neglectful! The truth is that I like to be a very attentive and nurturing parent, but I just never had enough hands to keep both babies satisfied at all times. This resulted in a lot more crying — mostly from Eero, my twin who had reflux — than I was comfortable with. Wearing ear plugs would take the edge off so I could calm my body down a bit more and feel like the relaxed parent I wanted to be.

Having survived the most difficult period of having twins, I now feel super comfortable and confident around larger groups of children. It has made teaching the art camp an easy and natural transition.

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Thank you, Lisa! I loved hearing about how you and your family managed your year abroad, and figure you’ve just persuaded a family or two to head off on a summer adventure. I also appreciated your honesty about ear plugs. Twins are hard, I’m sure, and you’re right about never having enough hands to do it all. If canceling out the crying took your edge off, bravo! Whatever works, right?

Also, this: “If I’m paying for it, I need to like it, too.” Anyone else subscribe to this decorating school of thought?

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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What Do Your Kids Call Your Grandparents? http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/what-do-your-kids-call-your-grandparents/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/what-do-your-kids-call-your-grandparents/#comments Mon, 09 May 2016 16:45:54 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=65013

Lucille Evans Pack

By Gabrielle.

My question for you today: How did you/do you address your grandparents? And how do your kids address their grandparents?

I was thinking of this because of a birthday note that June received over the weekend. Along with a birthday card, my mom likes to include a little info on one of the kids’ ancestors — just a paragraph or two with maybe a photo. Sometimes it’s a long-ago relative that lived in another country many generations ago. But this time it was someone a bit closer, someone I spent lots of time with as a child — my mother’s mother, Lucille Evans Pack, or in other words, June’s great-grandmother.

In the little note, my mom referred to her as GiGi, which is what her great-grandkids called her. I think that’s so cute — G.G., as in Great Grandmother! I’m not sure who thought to call her that. As grandkids, we called her Grandma Pack, so the name GiGi was only part of my life as an adult. Did she request it? Did one of the great-grandkids start it? Did one of my cousins or siblings suggest it? Or maybe it was thought up by one of her kids (my aunts and uncle and mother).

It has me wondering, what will my grandkids call me and Ben Blair? What will their kids call our parents? I want it to be something fun.

How about you? Do you stick with the classic, Grandma & Grandpa [last name]? Or do you use something more unusual? Maybe something you inherited from another country or another language? Gamma? Grammy? Poppa? Gramps? And what do you want your grandkids or great-grandkids to call you? I’d love to hear! If it helps, I just did a search for “alternative names for grandparents” and found this cute list. After reading it, I’m thinking our grandkids should call us Bubba and Ace. (I get to be Bubba.)

P.S. — The photo at top is Grandma Pack, age 82, on a boat headed to Santorini. She and my mom came to visit me and Ben when we lived in Greece. She even rode a donkey on the steep island paths!

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A Few Things http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/a-few-things-304/ http://www.designmom.com/2016/05/a-few-things-304/#comments Fri, 06 May 2016 16:00:04 +0000 Design Mom http://www.designmom.com/?p=64969

Microsculpture

By Gabrielle. Photo by Levon Biss.

Hello, Friends! How are you doing? Has it been a good week? We are ramping up for one of those mega weekends that happen from time to time at our house. Things that are on my family’s mind: An AP test today for Maude, and a track meet too. Ralph’s final papers of the semester due this afternoon. Betty getting home from 4th grade sleepaway camp. Mormon Prom on Saturday night, followed by a gathering (that will likely turn into a slumber party) at our house. Cousin’s sleepover at the Stanley’s house. Lots of rain. June’s birthday on Saturday. Mother’s Day on Sunday. And Betty’s birthday on Monday.

That’s a lot of things. Wish us luck! And I should note, though most of the items on our schedule didn’t have the option of rescheduling, we did move the birthday parties for June and Betty till next Saturday. More on that next week. : )

In the meantime, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share:

- A video from Elon Musk — what would it take to power the whole U.S. with solar energy?

- The white wall controversy.

- 4 men with 4 very different incomes.

- Stop saying “I feel like”. (NYT)

- I want to study the detail in these photos.

- It’s an ad about flying with babies. Made me cry. I feel like I’ve mentally blocked the memories of our most challenging flights.

- What pain are you willing to have in your life?

- Intersectionality: Boundaries, Bathrooms, and Black Lives.

- This history of the Billboard charts is endlessly fascinating to me. I listened to 3 decades of the music with the kids last night. So much nostalgia!

- Loving the at-home manufacturing trend. FormBox looks cool!

- Loved this interview with Ben Silbermann of Pinterest. Such a good guy!

- Hah! Obituaries my mother wrote for me.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping that you have a sweet Mother’s Day, or are able to ignore it altogether. : ) I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Knowing we likely won’t be able to fit in a date this weekend, Ben Blair and I are thinking about playing hooky from work today and hitting a matinee. I don’t know if we’ll make it happen, but just the thought is bringing a big smile to my face.

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