By Gabrielle. Love Of A Mother by the breath-stealing photographer, Dewan Irawan. (Prints available!)

Imagine working in a field where you’ve never personally experienced your specialty. Like a chef at an Italian restaurant who has never feasted on pasta. An artist who never stood in front of a Klimt and blinked away the dazzling golds. A sky-diving instructor who has never pulled her own cord. Or a policy-shaper who works tirelessly to improve maternal and child health services who has never experienced childbirth. I think experience changes everything, don’t you?

Julianne Weis would agree. She has spent the last ten years advocating for women. Clear in her purpose to eradicate preventable maternal deaths, it all somehow became even clearer when she experienced childbirth herself. This is a wonderfully eye-opening tale, and I feel proud to share it with you! Friends, please welcome Julianne.

I’m an American, but over the last 10 years I have lived in a dozen countries, including Niger, Brazil, and Ethiopia. In every place I’ve lived, I have worked on ways to improve maternal and child health services. I have counseled teenage moms addicted to crack in the slums of Brazil, helped clinics in the Congo adapt to the needs of handicapped mothers, and planned policy reforms to reduce maternal and infant mortality rates in Nigeria. I have witnessed a woman die from complications in childbirth.

Such a moving piece. Enjoy, Friends.

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happy meal

Image and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by McDonald’s.

Hello, Friends. Can you believe I partnered with McDonald’s for this post? Not the typical Design Mom sponsor, right? And before you jump ship all at once, know that when my ad network asked me about working with McDonald’s, my initial response was: no thank you. But I later reconsidered, because once I learned more about what McDonald’s is trying to do, I confess, I was intrigued. And also because I felt hypocritical — I felt like I was pretending I’m never a McDonald’s customer, when actually, from time-to-time, I am.

McDonald’s knows they have a bad rap with moms, and they’re attempting to see if they can upgrade their reputation by making some concrete changes — like being really transparent about the farms where they buy their ingredients, and being incredibly open about their nutritional information. I don’t know if they’ll be able to reach their #WinningMomsOver goals, but I do have honest opinions about McDonald’s, and they promised me I could speak openly. So here I am. Laying it all out on the table.

Here are my thoughts on McDonald’s in list format — it’s sort of a McDonald’s confessional:

- As I’ve written before, in France, it wasn’t unusual for us to eat at McDonald’s (see the reasons here), and the restaurants there are viewed differently than they are in the U.S.

- On family road trips, if we’re driving in the morning, McDonald’s breakfast is our preferred meal-on-the-go.

- I remember hearing about my friend Amber, who had a child who was having a hard time falling asleep, so at the spur of the moment, they jumped in the car late at night and went to McDonald’s. I loved hearing that! And I knew it must have made the best memories for that child. I vowed to copy her.

- During the last trimester of my pregnancies, I would consistently have cravings for Quarter Pounders with Cheese (hold the ketchup, please).

- When we lived in New York, one of my most stylish friends, Erin, would come pick up toddler Oscar and take him to McDonald’s with her own son, so I could have some quiet time with baby Betty. Oscar adored these trips to McDonalds! And I remember thinking at the time, that it was so refreshing that my friend openly and un-embarrassingly went to McDonald’s. And she was still cool! At the time, if I ate at McDonald’s, I felt like I had to keep it a secret.

- I think that feeling (of not wanting to admit of ever eating at McDonald’s) is kind of a national one — when my brother was recently traveling in Thailand, he stopped at a McDonald’s and his friend took a photo of him in line and posted it on Facebook with a caption: Caught red-handed!

Seeing someone you know at McDonald’s, or having yourself documented there, can be cause for blushing. My brother is actually quite the foodie, but sometimes McDonald’s is the best, quickest, easiest option.

Keep reading for more of my random thoughts, plus tons of excellent comments!

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By Gabrielle.

I have a soft spot for this home. Any home, actually, that provides a safe and sweet haven for someone who needs it most, which is exactly what the Anderton home does on the daily.

It’s been the spot for homeschooling and studying, wrestling and relaxing, dreams great and small – even Cher’s youthful goal that someday she would allow her kids to write on their walls! But maybe most significantly, it’s been the landing pad for their recently adopted son, making room for one more with just a few tiny shifts.

If you’ve ever thought about foster care adoption, this is the read for you. Maybe your home has room for one more? While you consider that, please welcome Cher!

Q: Tell us all about your family.

A: Jon and I started our family 16 years ago when we married, then became parents 14 years ago with the arrival of Ella, and added Will 12 years ago before adding Noah eight years ago. Jonny joined our family two years ago and is ten years old. We are in a short period of even numbers!

Jon works market hours as a bond trader with a small start-up on Mercer Island. My job history has been a little eclectic with short stints as an interior designer and property manager, among other jobs. I homeschooled our kids for five years before making the switch to public schooling last year so I could pursue a remote Masters in Social Work at Boston University. The process of adopting our son from foster care helped me recognize the huge need for therapists who specialize in trauma and adoption, so that is where I really want to focus my career.

More goodness, straight ahead!

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Ask Design Mom: Travel Camera

September 8, 2014

askdesignmombanner

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness. The last time I posted an Ask Design Mom question was in December. Hah! It seems I mostly answer questions via email or blog comments these days. But I’ve received this question so often lately, that I thought writing up a post would make sense.

Question:
Hi Gabrielle. Would you mind sharing what camera you used for your trip to Sweden. I was following along on Instagram and the photos were beautifiul. Were they taken with your phone? — Sent in from several readers

Sony NEX 5T:L4

Answer:
Good question! I was originally planning to bring our Canon DSLR 50D which is what I use to shoot photos for Design Mom (including the photo here). But I wasn’t looking forward to it, because it’s HEAVY. Especially with my most flexible lens. Plus, knowing we were checking into a new hotel practically everyday, we packed light — one carryon size suitcase each plus a backpack. But a big camera, with a big lens, needs padded protection during transport and takes up a hefty bit of space. So I wasn’t sure how we were going to deal with it. I even wondered if I could get by with my cell phone.

I asked my sister, Jordan, for advice, and which camera she had taken with her on a recent trip to Paris & Morocco, because I new she had also needed to pack light for that trip. And she mentioned that she tried something new. A very small Sony NEX-5TL that takes DSLR quality photos.

So I bought one for the trip, and it was a hit!

Keep reading to find out why this is my favorite Instagram camera.

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Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff

September 8, 2014

Slow Cooker Recipe: Beef Stroganoff   |   Design Mom   #crockpot

By Gabrielle. Images and styling by Lindsey Rose Johnson.

School has started. Fall is here. Life is as busy as ever. It’s a great time to start relying on slow cooker recipes to help get dinner on the table. And what could be better as cooler weather returns than a plate full of slow cooker Beef Stroganoff?

Stroganoff originated in Russia, but different versions have popped up all around the globe. This one is a pretty basic, traditional one made with big chunks of stew meat, flavorful cremini mushrooms, and red wine. The low and slow cooking time transforms the stew meat and it becomes super tender. All you need is a big bowl of buttered egg noodles and you’re set.

Slow Cooker Recipe: Beef Stroganoff   |   Design Mom   #crockpot

Any meat+sauce over egg noodles works as a comfort food for me, but I have a special fondness for Stroganoff because of a funny little childhood memory. My little brother Jared was making a spotlight poster about himself for an assignment — hobbies, favorite colors and foods, stuff like that. For the food example, he cut a picture of stroganoff out of a magazine, just to represent that he liked food in general — he didn’t know there was a name for the dish in the photo. But his teacher saw the image and recognized it has Beef Stroganoff and determined — to Jared’s surprise and confusion because he didn’t know what it was — that his favorite food was specifically Beef Stroganoff.

Throughout the rest of our childhood and into adulthood, any time Beef Stroganoff was seen on a menu, eaten in our home, or mentioned in any way, someone would be sure to comment, “Hey Jared, look, it’s your favorite meal!

A silly little memory that is making me nostalgic today. I hope it reminds you of a funny memory from your own childhood home. : )

This recipe makes enough for a large family. It’s great with some green veggies or a salad on the side.

Click for the recipe and tips!

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A Few Things

September 5, 2014

Bison near Grand Canyon

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? Are you getting adjusted to your fall schedules? It’s been a good week for the Blairs — we’ve had reports from England and France that Ralph and Olive have started school and are excited to be there. So comforting!

As for me, the summer was unusually crazy, so I am trying hard to limit my commitments. I have the hardest time saying no to things, but I promised myself I wouldn’t say yes to any new travel or events until my biggest current project (which is my book) is complete. I said no to two invitations this week and it about killed me. But the result was some really good book progress. We’ll see if I can keep my promise to myself. : ) Speaking of the book, I feel like I haven’t updated you guys about it in ages. I’ll try to write a post this week.

While I get back to work, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- The one word men never see in their performance reviews.

- Also job related: He dropped one letter of his name, and the job interviews rolled in.

- Did you see this IKEA commercial? So clever!

- Why writers are the worst procrastinators.

- Are you discussing racism in America with your kids and your community? This letter to white moms is a reminder of why it’s so important.

- A playset that teaches your kids how to take care of a real car. Thanks, Aaron.

- An irreverent and hilarious post poking fun at Anthropologie’s furniture line. Thanks, Amy.

- As a protest, a Columbia student is carrying a twin size mattress with her wherever she goes.

- What pets actually see with the GoPro. Thanks, Rebeccah.

- I’m obsessed with these leather perforated Vans. Should I go with black or white?

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — I’ve heard from readers that my RSS feed and daily email stopped working last week. I believe it’s all fixed again, but please let me know if it’s not. Thanks! Also, I took the photo at top on our epic roadtrip. The herd of bison was grazing very near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We stopped the car and watched them for ages.

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Pop & Lolli Giveaway

September 4, 2014

DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.  

As you may have noticed, I had a bit of a giveaway break while my summer traveling took over. But today, I’ve got a terrific one for you! It’s sponsored by Pop & Lolli, and the prize is a $100 store credit, so you can pick out exactly what you want. Hooray!

6 D2D 600_500

Pop & Lolli is all about Larger Than Life fabric wall decals. Their selection is outstanding! Tons of themes — trains, robots, mermaids, pirates, family trees, flowers, animals, and on, and on. The decals are colorful, beautifully designed, and offer major impact in a room. They even have a recently launched collection by Sarah Jane, an artist you may already know and love.

7 FT 600_500 2 SJBP 600_500

Another new product they just introduced is adorable Pop & Lolli Wallpaper! The argyle and gingham are probably my favorite, or maybe On The Go. So many cute options! And I should note: these wallpapers are fabric! They are eco-friendly and non-toxic. No glue, no mess, and no professional installation needed.

Made in the U.S.A., the decals (and wallpapers!) are removable, reusable and completely reposition-able — simply the BEST decals out there!

oversize fabric wall decals by Pop & Lolli

Pop & Lolli’s chic wall art will transform any blank wall into a space that encourages imaginative play. Their decals would be darling in a playroom, classroom, child’s bedroom, or boring hallway. Right this minute, I’m considering Pop & Lolli’s colorful World Map decal for our family room. I still need to take measurements, but I think the large one would be perfect for the wall I have in mind!

Extra fun: Use coupon code HAPPYDESIGN15 for 15% off! The code is valid for duration of giveaway.

To enter, visit Pop & Lolli and leave a comment below — I’d love to hear which decals you want most! The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

——-

Jen G. is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Kiwi Crate

September 4, 2014

Kiwi Crate14

Images and text by Gabrielle. // This post is brought to you by Kiwi Crate.

——

I first heard about Kiwi Crate a year ago, but I didn’t actually try one till this week. I wasn’t sure what to expect (would my kids care? would they be too old for it?) but Oscar, Betty & June spent the afternoon with the box of activities and LOVED it. (As a sidenote, the funniest part was when Betty accidentally made a puppet that looks like an evil dictator. See below).

The 411 on Kiwi Crate is that it’s an award-winning, monthly subscription service for kids. Each crate includes 2-3 hands-on projects — they cover things like art, science, games, and imaginative play. There’s a new theme each month, and the box also includes Kiwi Crate’s explore! magazine, which features bonus activities and kid-friendly recipes.

Kiwi Crate01

One thing I appreciate is that the activities are legit — before they send out anything, Kiwi Crate tests the projects with a crew of kids to make sure everything is developmentally appropriate, enriching, engaging, fun, and universally appealing. To get an idea of what they offer, you can see their most popular crates here. And best of all, if you’d like to try it, you can save 25% on your first month subscription with code DM25.

Kiwi Crate12

My main takeaways are 1) This is genius for tiny apartment dwellers. 2) This is genius for any parent who isn’t artsy/craftsy. 3) This is genius for parents who feel like their schedule is too full to run extra errands (that’s me.). 4) It’s also hugely appealing to me because there is nothing to store or use up when you’re done. It’s exactly what you need for the projects. Nothing more, nothing less.

Kiwi Crate07

I wrote up some notes about our experience with Kiwi Crate below in case you’re curious about how your own kids might react, or how different aged kids might respond. I hope it’s helpful!

Click here if you’re curious about the evil dictator puppet. Hah!

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Online School

September 3, 2014

ralphschoolclothes_201102

By Gabrielle. Photos from Back to School photo shoots in France.

I’ve been getting lots of emails on how we’re handling Ralph’s schooling while he’s in England and France, which is a really good question and has taken some figuring out. The whole thing is so new to us, I’m not even sure how I feel about it. For the first half of this school year (his junior year of high school), he’ll be attending the online school called K12. Then, when he returns to the U.S., he can either reenroll at our public high school, or continue on with K12 for the rest of the year.

We decided on this for several reasons. When we were in France, we had two different nieces come and stay with us. In both cases, they would attend class at our local school, but wouldn’t get graded or do French assignments — neither one knew much French so it wasn’t realistic to really fully participate. Instead, they continued with their American schoolwork using their laptops, and would spend some class periods in the school library doing their U.S. homework.

ralphschoolclothes_201104

Then, when our French exchange students, Charles and Victor, came from France to stay with us this last Spring, the same thing happened. They attended class with Ralph at our local high school, but they didn’t participate in class or get graded. Instead they would work on their French homework. (The exception was French class, where the teacher would sometimes want to involve them to model pronunciation or phrases or talk about culture to the American students.)

Keep reading. Lots more ahead!

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Olive Us: To The Sea

September 2, 2014





By Gabrielle.

Hooray! A new Olive Us episode!! The last Olive Us video I shared was our Goodbye to France (my eyes get teary every single time I watch it). Then we took the summer off. And now, we have brand new episodes to share. In fact, they are our first episodes filmed here in Oakland!

First up is To The Sea. We made it last November — smack in the middle of crabbing season — as we started settling in to our new surroundings and getting to know our new town. And the footage is beautiful. It makes me want to drop everything and get out on the water.

Betty on the Boat

Even though it was filmed 9 months ago, sharing it now feels just right to me, because now that we’ve been here for a whole year, Oakland (and the entire Bay Area) feels more and more like home. I think we all really felt it as we returned from our epic roadtrip this summer — the kids couldn’t wait to get “home”. Home to The Treehouse. Home to their friends and schools and life here.

For those of you who have moved your families, did you feel at home right away? If not, how long did it take you to start thinking of your new home as “home”?

I hope you enjoy the episode! Be sure to subscribe to the Olive Us Newsletter so you never miss an update.

P.S. — Today is the first day here in our home without Olive and Ralph. Such a strange morning making lunches and breakfast for only four. Making only four beds. I suppose this feeling of our family being incomplete will hover around until Christmas.

Also, would you like to know more about Olive Us? Here you go:

- Find the official Olive Us website here.
- Find all the posts I’ve written about Olive Us — including every episode — here.
- We’ve made 44 episodes so far and ulive commissioned 20 of them! You can find the Olive Us page on ulive here.

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Living With Kids: Amy Doak

September 2, 2014

By Gabrielle.

Amy seems like the type of friend who will always tell you like it is. The unedited truth, if you will. Those of us who have a treasured friend or two like that know how valuable a trait this is! So I can assure you that if you’re thinking of starting an online endeavor or company of your own, Amy has some solid advice for you. And if you’re ever worried about your child not displaying traditional boy/girl qualities, worry no more. Truly.

A number of lovely reminders, just ahead. Please enjoy Amy, Friends!

Q: Tell us all about your family.

A: There are six of us in total. I’m Amy, and I still don’t feel like a grown up or a parent despite how it all looks on the outside. There’s my husband Rod, an incredibly talented carpenter and an absolute perfectionist and details man compared to the big picture gal that is me.

Rounding out our family is our eldest son Oscar, almost five, who is sweet, and kind, and loves beautiful things and making things beautiful), and my younger son Sebastian, freshly two, who is funny and charming and and crazy and has a greater sense of self than any person I’ve met in my life.

And then my fur-children: a black cat with green eyes called Halle who goes missing in cupboards for most of the day, but when the house is quiet late at night and I have a good book and a moment on the couch, she always appears to sit in my lap, and a mad golden cocker spaniel called Keira. We were told that cockers are fairly crazy for about four years and their puppy stage lasts longer than most breeds, but Keira is 11 this year and still acts and looks like a puppy! So we wait for her to one day calm down.

More sweet spaces, straight ahead!

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A Few Things

August 29, 2014

19th Anniversary

Image and text by Gabrielle. 

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

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

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

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

- Lunch ladies are heroes. Thanks, Reshma.

- I’ve fallen in love with tiny kitchens.

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

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

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

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

- Laces help kids learn to tie shoes.

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

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

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

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

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Marstrand Island in West Sweden

Images and text by Gabrielle.

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

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

Day 1 Bohuslän 

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

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

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

Public Swimming Pool, Swedish Style. On Marstand Island.

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

Full itinerary ahead. Keep reading!

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Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

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

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

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

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

Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

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

Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

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

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

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

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

Garden at Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

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

Breakfast table set at Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

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

Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

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

More favorite hotels! Keep reading.

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DIY: Cereal Box Embossing

August 27, 2014

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom DSC_0625-1

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

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

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

Click here for the full tutorial.

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By Gabrielle.

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

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

Rachel’s Balinese experience, just after the jump.

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Jylare Smith Photography.

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

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

Q: Tell us all about your family.

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

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

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

Effortless and airy, coming right up. Breaths of fresh air included!

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DIY: Cement Pencil Holder

August 25, 2014

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

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

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

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

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

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

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

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

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

Ready to get to work? Let’s go.

Click here for the full tutorial.

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Eiffel Tower View2

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

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

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

Keep reading, more good stuff ahead.

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A Few Things

August 22, 2014

Marstand Island - Sweden

Image and text by Gabrielle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Beautiful script.

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

- Fully functional chocolate legos.

- 52 powerful photos of women who changed history.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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

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