Photos and text by Gabrielle.

As I mentioned last month, I’m working with ScholarShare, California’s 529 savings plan, on a series of 4 posts about family finances. In August, we talked about teaching kids how to budget and save (and I shared the budgeting game I made up for my teens!). For the second post in the series, I’m covering the topic of Bookkeeping 101.

I mentioned this in the last post, but it’s worth repeating: I know talking about finances can trigger worry or shame for lots of us, so I promise to keep things shame-free and totally approachable. ScholarShare feels the same way — they want to make saving for college as easy and effective as possible, and have lots of tips to help you get started. (And if you’re a California resident, you can even win $500 toward a college savings plan!)

So. Why Bookkeeping 101? Well, from what I’ve seen, the road to good financial health starts by simply having an accurate current picture of our finances. Because if we don’t, we often end up making decisions blindly and then putting out financial fires later (and paying for it with interest, late fees and overdraft charges). Plus, without an accurate picture of what’s happening with our funds, it can be practically impossible to achieve savings goals.

How do we get an accurate picture? Bookkeeping! We record our income, we record each expense, big and small. We do things like make a record of any debt, what our recurring expenses are, and a projection of incoming funds. Maybe we save or scan receipts.

Sounds simple enough. But it can be really hard to get started. And then, even if we have started, it can be even harder to be consistent. Do we need to do bookkeeping daily? weekly? monthly? (Or for some of us, maybe hourly? Hah!)

I’m no expert on bookkeeping, so I turned to Ben Sutton of Mazuma. Ben offers accounting and bookkeeping services, and I met him at Alt Summit, where he manned the Ask An Accountant help desk. I called Ben up, and he was kind enough to share awesome information, like key reasons bookkeeping is so beneficial, and some his very favorite financial tools.

Overwhelmed? Ben has wise words for you!


Call It A Day: Misty Brough

August 13, 2015

By Gabrielle.

I started my Call It A Day column for one reason and one reason only: I am fascinated by how each of us travels through an average ordinary day. We all seem to carry along a little something heavy, don’t we? I’ve found that when we share our load, well, it feels lighter, somehow.

At first glance, Misty’s account looks like an average ordinary day. But if you read between the lines, you’ll notice how much she’s doing behind-the-scenes to prevent any drama or unnecessary commotion for her family. It reminds me of watching ducks float on top of the water, gracefully and seemingly without a care in the world. A peek below the surface, though, tells a totally different story!

Please help me welcome Misty! It’s so good to have her here.

Don’t miss the family’s sweet evening ritual, straight ahead!


Eating Disorders

August 12, 2015


By Gabrielle

The topic for today’s post is eating disorders. I know. It’s pretty heavy. And there’s a lot of misinformation out there. I haven’t experienced an eating disorder myself, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t touched my life. In fact, something that makes my head spin: 5 of my nieces have battled (or are battling) anorexia. Five! Five girls from five different sets of parents (and in case you’re tempted to feel judge-y, please don’t. I assure you, these are all loving, kind, involved, attentive, wonderful parents.)

According to the Mayo Clinic, no one knows the exact cause of anorexia, but as you can guess just based on my first sentence, there appears to be a genetic predisposition to it. So you can imagine, as parents of four daughters and two sons, in the same extended family of 5 people who have experienced anorexia, we try to keep our eyes open for possible eating disorder warning signs, while at the same time attempting not to get buried under unnecessary worry. (Ah, parenthood.)

For those of us who know someone struggling with an eating disorder, and who are feeling helpless as far as how to improve the situation, I have a solid new resource to share. My sister-in-law Lisa has a child who has battled anorexia off and on for years. And Lisa found that navigating the illness and recovery was insanely confusing, often ineffective, and completely discouraging. But after lots and lots of frustration, then lots and lots of research, she finally found proven therapies — evidence-based therapies — that really work. Since then, she’s dedicated much of her time helping other parents avoid all that confusion and frustration

Lisa launched a website called Parents-to-Parents, to share what she knows. There, you’ll find specific resources, and advice on finding a therapist. You’ll also find a new video Lisa created — she made it for parents who have just discovered their child has an eating disorder and don’t know how to start responding. Her mission is to help parents take action as quickly as possible, because the quicker parents take action, the more likely a full recovery will be made.

The video is super impactful. It helps parents get into the mind of their child, to get a picture of how their child is suffering. It’s 40 mins long — so you may want to watch it in smaller segments, or set aside time to watch the whole thing.

As I touched on above, eating disorders are not uncommon, and they end up touching the lives of almost everyone. If someone you know is suffering and you don’t know how to help, I highly encourage you to watch the video — it’s like a quick crash course on the disease.

A couple of big takeaways from the video:

1) As parents, don’t feel guilty. You did not cause this. Really. You didn’t. And the guilt won’t help. The disease is not your fault.

2) As much as you’re suffering, your child is suffering far more. This is a mental disease. Their brain has essentially been hi-jacked, and they are in a very, very dark place. So do what you can to get an idea of how much pain they are in (the video will help), and use that understanding of your child’s suffering to gain an extra dose of patience and compassion. You may need that extra dose, because eating disorders have a way of wreaking havoc on relationships.

Lisa’s goal is to reach as many parents as possible. She knows friends will spread the word, and she hopes pediatricians will share the video link with parents, if their child is diagnosed with an eating disorder.

Eating disorders can be hard to discuss, but I know there are so many people struggling with these diseases, and so many parents worried sick about their kids, and so many friends and relatives that want to help but don’t know how. I’m sharing this here, hoping that the video and website will offer encouragement, plus practical steps that families can take on the road to recovery.

If you’re up for sharing, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you had any experience with the confusion and frustration of eating disorders — as a parent, a victim, a sibling, or a friend? (And feel free to remain anonymous if this is not something you want to share publicly. Obviously, everyone has their own comfort level as far as sharing about this sort of thing goes.) Do you have any good resources that you’ve found that you would add to Lisa’s list? If you’re on the other side of it now, do you remember what happened to finally turn things around?

Lastly, know that I am sending huge love to any families going through this right now.


By Gabrielle. Photos by Maribeth Romslo and Nicole Feest.

I get so many notes from readers wishing they could find the courage to send photos of their homes, but then months pass without even a peek! When I check back in with them, they sometimes tell me it’s not yet camera ready or they just need one more perfect piece to make their living room livable or “WE ALL HAD THE FLU AND NOW I WANT TO MOVE!” The goal of perfection really does get in the way of life, don’t you think?

I get it. And so does Kimberly Senn. But somewhere along the way, after missing out on opening up her home to old and new friends because of a fear that it wasn’t stylish enough or clean enough, she consciously stopped pausing her life and holding her breath and waiting for everything to be perfect. Instead of sitting alone pondering the layer of grimy fingerprints on the lower three feet of her walls, she and her family now open up their home as often as possible — today, to us! (As she put it so eloquently, “Our friends don’t like us because we have a perfect house. They like us because we keep our fridge stocked with good beer.” Ha!)

And guess what? No one notices the grit. All I can see is the joy. Come see it, too! Welcome, Kimberly!

We’re a family of four, the adults born in the Midwest and the kids in California. My handsome husband Marty is a writer and nonstop creative force. We met working together at an ad agency in NYC and became instant friends. He’d tell you he knew from the moment I started working there we would be together. We couldn’t get enough time with each other and eventually admitted we were both smitten. He’s now a creative director at an agency here in Minneapolis and works so hard to spend all of his free time with me and the boys.

More loveliness ahead!


Half Moon Bay Miramar Beach

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

In July, you may remember I wrote a post with an identical title, and I’m toying with making it a regular once-a-month feature. In the old blogging days, before Instagram and Facebook and Pinterest, random thoughts like these might have become short blog posts. Those were the days where I would post on the blog 3 or more times a day! Things have changed and now my blogging is much more long-form — with lots of words, or lots of photos, or both. And those shorter posts have migrated to my social media accounts.

But sometimes I miss having those shorter posts here on the blog — because I know there are Design Mom readers who don’t follow along on social media. So a compilation post like this could be a good way to share all those little thoughts without overwhelming people with too many posts. And it’s also a way to let people share their thoughts on all sorts of topics. We’ll see. As you know, it’s always a big experiment for me. : )

On to the randomness!

1) The first thing I’m dying to tell you is that the backyard bridge is done! And the zip line is up! I’m super excited to share all the details with you. If I’ve hesitated, it’s because I’m finding it’s hard to capture a full photo that gives a sense of the scale — though I keep trying. I suppose I just need to share what I have so far. The whole thing is pretty dang fantastic, and the additions have added a major does of magic to the yard. If you’re feeling impatient for the post, definitely take a look at Instagram — I’ve shared (and continue to share) lots of photos there.

2) Summer is coming to an end. It’s been a good summer. Very laid back. And I’m not ready to face the daily school grind again. I’m holding on to these last two weeks of summer vacation with everything I’ve got! We signed up the youngest four for one more session of swimming lessons, and I’ve put a moratorium on screen time so that the kids get outside as much as possible. (Honestly, with the new bridge and zipline, it’s not that hard to tempt them to get out doors.)

3) Next week is our wedding anniversary! It’s a big one and we wanted to make sure we marked it properly, so Ben Blair and I (just the two of us!) are heading out on a little getaway. We’re going to Lake Louise in Canada! It is hard to express how excited I am about this little trip.

I’ve never been to Lake Louise, but I read about it when I was 19 year old — it was featured in a fashion article in the now defunct Victoria magazine. (Do any of you remember that magazine? I LOVED it!) I was so taken with the images of the mountain lake that I immediately got on the phone with the resort there to see if they were hiring. I was picturing a summer job in the mountains! But alas, it was quickly established that unless I had a work visa, I couldn’t get a job in Canada.

It was the first time I had ever heard of a work visa. I had no idea up until then. Hah! And though I couldn’t go there for work, I’ve had Lake Louise on my travel wish list ever since.

Have you ever been? Please tell me it’s as awesome in real life as it is in my head!

4) But: I seemed to have lost my passport!!! And I’ve never lost my passport. I’m actually pretty decent at keeping track of my stuff and I don’t typically lose things at all. I’m mystified. I remember having it at Alt Summer in June, but I haven’t seen it since. And it’s not in the usual spot where I keep it. So now I need to make a last minute appointment in San Francisco at the passport office.

I’m nervous this won’t work out and so I’m trying not to think about it and I keep searching new places in the house hoping my passport isn’t lost after all. It’s so last minute. We leave on Sunday! But I had no idea the passport was missing.

UPDATE: Passport found!! Huge sigh of relief.

5) We started back to school dates. I go shopping with each kid one-on-one. We pick out something for the first day of school and get a cupcake or go out to lunch. It’s a great way to connect with each child individually and hear their thoughts, hopes and fears about the upcoming school year.

Since I’m traveling next week, this is the key week for making it happen. Do you do something similar? It’s a pretty new tradition for us. We only started these back to school dates when we moved here. But the kids already seem to think of this as a long-standing tradition.

6) Maude is very close to getting her license. She has a permit and asks to drive at every opportunity — and of course, we want her to get as much time behind the wheel as possible. I feel like driving well is so much about logging hours. Right?

Not much to report on this. Just something that’s on my mind.

7) On Friday, we took a break from backyard construction and went to the beach. We tried a new-to-us beach on Half Moon Bay called Miramar. You can see it in the photo at top. The pros: beautiful, plenty of space, great waves, clean sand. The cons: no ice cream shack or surfboard rentals right on the beach.

Apparently it’s known as a surfing beach — and there was a surf camp going on while we were there. We loved it and will definitely be back.

8) Erin Conner, the architect I mentioned last month, is coming to take measurements on Wednesday morning. So awesome! I grin every time I think about the upcoming transformation in the master bedroom and bath. I know it’s going to be a ton of work, and totally disruptive. But worth it!

9) Remember I mentioned the kids have been taking sailing lessons? Well, Ben Blair has too. And suddenly, we now sail!!

We’re totally beginners of course, but we’ve spent two afternoons with rented sail boats on Lake Merritt here in Oakland so we can practice. (I say we, but I mean the family, and not me — I haven’t taken any lessons at all yet.) The thing that has surprised me the most: how much vocabulary there is that is related to sailing only. I feel like I’m learning a new language. Hah!

The other thing that has been a wonderful surprise: how much we love sailing. We love it so much that we’re killing ourselves that we didn’t start lessons the moment we moved here — it feels like wasted time. Because being able to sail is an amazing way to take advantage of one of the best parts of living here: the water!

Do you have any experience sailing? We’re laughing, because we’re so new to it but find ourselves already scheming about sailing off to exotic locales.

Anyway. As I said, lots of randomness. Feel free to comment on any topic above — or consider this an open thread and bring up a completely different topic. I can’t wait to hear what’s on your mind!


A Few Things

August 6, 2015

Treehouse bridge

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? Has it been a good week? We’ve had an exciting one — there are lots of big things happening in the treetops here at the Blair house! And I’ve been sharing photos on Instagram if you’d like to follow along. We’ve built platforms in 3 different trees across the yard — two platforms are about 30 feet up, and the other is about 50 feet high. We built and added a bridge between two (today we’re working on the hand rails), and we’re adding a zip-line between two platforms as well. Very high adventure! It feels like a ropes course right in our yard. : ) I’ll definitely share a full post with lots of photos when we’re done.

Amid the construction and runs to the hardware store and lumber yard, and the usual summer activities (like swim lessons), we’ve been trying to take  breaks to make sure our visiting cousins/work crew get to do lots of  sightseeing and fun stuff around the Bay Area, so I’m actually signing off early this week so we can fit as much as possible in — maybe even a beach day! But before I go, here are a few things I hope you’ll enjoy reading and watching:

- Why we need older women in the workplace.

Human-looking faces on animal bodies.

- I already miss Jon Stewart.

- An opinion on the debates, access, and subscription TV.

- Women who wear makeup earn more and are treated better.

- Related: Amy Schumer’s Girl You Don’t Need Makeup video.

- Do you drink lemon water? I’ve never tried it.

- This Beach Boys sketch gets funnier every time I watch it.

- In America, only the rich can afford to write about poverty.

- How about a pretzel party?

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



Bunny Rabbit Rolls

August 5, 2015

Little Bites - 100 recipes for healthy, kid-friendly snacks

By Gabrielle.

Last week, when I has kid snacks on my mind, I heard from Christine Chitnis and Sarah Waldman, authors of Little Bites. It’s a new (and beautiful!) recipe book focused on 100 fresh and healthy snack ideas for kids. Christine and Sarah offered to share a recipe from the book and I said, “Yes, please! We’ll take all the good snack ideas we can get!!”

IMG Little Bites_ Bunny Rabbit Rolls

So today they’re sharing the recipe for Bunny Rabbit Rolls, and here’s what they say about them:

“Ideal for picnic lunches, these rolls make use of summer’s abundant veggies and include a vari­ety of tastes and textures: different kinds of crunchiness from the bell pepper, cucumber, carrots, and sunflower seeds, and creaminess thanks to a smear of cream cheese. Easy to pack and great for eating on the go, Bunny Rabbit Rolls also lend themselves well to creativity. If you like a bit of sweetness, add in some shredded apple. If you prefer sophisticated creaminess, layer in a few avocado slices. Experiment and customize your ideal roll, or set up an ingredient bar and let your kids build their own.”

Doesn’t that sound delicious?

Click here for the recipe and notes!


New luxe mattress for the Guest Loft. Ordered online from Leesa, it arrived in a small box, then magically expanded!

Photos and text by Gabrielle. The post is sponsored by Leesa — get $75 off your purchase. Find the code below!

As I mentioned yesterday, we have lots of company this week, so we wanted to freshen up the guest space. We don’t have a dedicated guest room, but we have a double bed that we keep in the loft in our family office, specifically for guests. But the mattress on the bed came with the house. It’s an old, worn out, beast of a mattress and we promised ourselves we would update it before our guests arrived this month. So we did!

The Guest Loft - just enough room for a bed, nightstand and dresser.

We ordered a new mattress from a company called Leesa which I had never heard of before until last month. I was told that Leesa is like the TOMS Shoes or Warby Parker of mattresses. For every 10 mattresses they sell, they donate one to a shelter! I thought that sounded fantastic, so I looked up their site and I was impressed.

New luxe mattress for the Guest Loft. Ordered online from Leesa, it arrived in a small box, then magically expanded!

After the social good component, I think my favorite thing, is that ordering from Leesa meant I got to skip the awkward mattress showroom experience! Instead, the shopping happened completely online and the mattress shipped for free to my doorstep — it showed up compressed in a box much smaller than I was expecting. You can see from the pictures, but it’s about the size of a mini-fridge. And it’s a no worry purchase! Leesa gives you 100 nights to try your mattress, risk-free!

New luxe mattress for the Guest Loft. Ordered online from Leesa, it arrived in a small box, then magically expanded! New luxe mattress for the Guest Loft. Ordered online from Leesa, it arrived in a small box, then magically expanded!

I want to show you the unboxing, because it was really fun! I enlisted Olive to open the box while I snapped photos. We put the box on the bed and then she opened it, noted the instructions, and slide out the mattress.

New luxe mattress for the Guest Loft. Ordered online from Leesa, it arrived in a small box, then magically expanded!

The mattress looked very thin and was all rolled up.

More photos, plus a discount code straight ahead!


By Gabrielle.

Have you ever thought about what your decor style says about you and your family? When guests walk through your front door, what do you think they can instantly sense about you? Is the first impression you make modern and clean, with any trace of a childhood hidden in a sleek cabinet system… or the basement? Perhaps guests sigh when they walk in, instantly craving whatever peaceful design you’ve got going. Or maybe you’re sporty and just can’t escape a home decor accessorized by the sticks and balls and cleats and — oh my, watch your step — more balls! Maybe you like blue. Every shade.

In Callie’s case, her family’s style is true throughout. I think we can get to know her by one or two or 20 glimpses of her home. She keeps her memories and crafts in the open, she loves a good collection, and she’s not afraid of putting reminders on the wall in case anyone loses the plot! She’s consistent in her message, which is the big sign that she’s clearly found her most-loved style and is sticking with it.

That’s a nice thing when it happens, don’t you think? Come see her house! Welcome, Callie!

We are a family of six. My husband, Steve, and I have four children.

Jakob is our responsible 12 year old, Isabelle is our passionate nine year old, Karter is our entertaining and humorous seven year old, and Beckett is adventurous two year old. As a family, we enjoy reading together, outdoor adventures, arts and crafts, sports, and music. There is a lot of hustle and bustle within the walls of our home. A lot of play, a lot of noise, a lot of messes to clean up, and a lot of love.

We live in the Pacific Northwest in a city just outside of Portland. Both my husband and I grew up in the area, and we love Oregon. My husband grew up on five acres out in the woods and has always wanted property for our children to enjoy. With his business, we have needed to live closer to the city and our home was a unique find — a home with property close to the city. We have loved the space, the view, all the trees, and surrounding green space.

The bedrooms are delicious! Just ahead!



By Gabrielle. Best confetti ever from Oh Happy Day Shop.

This is going to be a fun week at the Blair house! Our nephew, Josh Sabey and his wife Sarah Perkins (creators of everyword), arrived this morning to help us do some building — way up in the tree tops! We have two goals for the week: 1) install a zipline, and 2) build a rope bridge. So awesome!! Oh. And more Sabey helpers are coming tomorrow! Ben’s sister Lisa and her husband Mark, and our nephew Matt too. I can’t wait! The Sabeys are one of the best families in the world and we try to copy their parenting skills as much as we can.

But back to Josh & Sarah for a minute. Yesterday was their first wedding anniversary! That’s a big deal. This month will mark a big anniversary for Ben Blair and me as well: 20 years! And a few weeks ago, we went to dinner with friends who were celebrating their 35th anniversary!!

Anyway, I’ve got anniversaries on my mind. And specifically anniversary symbols. The symbol for year one is paper. The symbol for year 20 is china. The symbol for year 35 is coral.


For our first anniversary, we didn’t have much in the way of a gift budget, so instead of buying something, we wrote each other love letters — which was perfect for a paper anniversary! After that, I had big plans to use the anniversary symbols to guide our gift-giving each year. But that totally didn’t happen.

In fact, we actually haven’t been very good at celebrating our wedding anniversary. Two of our kids have birthdays the week after, and it’s back to school time as well, and over the years it’s been so easy to push off celebrating. So anniversary symbols have been almost entirely ignored.

What about you? Have you ever paid attention to anniversary symbols? Did your parents? Or maybe your grandparents? Do you favor the traditional or the modern symbols? Have you ever given or received a particularly awesome gift based on an anniversary symbol? I think it would be fun to read a list of gifts given from a couple who followed the symbols every year!

P.S. — Did you read Gone Girl? Since I read it, every time I think about anniversary symbols I think of that crazy (and NOT romantic) story!


A Few Things

July 31, 2015

Oakland Cranes

By Gabrielle. Photo by Ben Blair.

Hello, Friends! How are you? Has it been a good week? We have lots of fun stuff going on. Our 4 oldest kids took sailing classes this week run by the local parks & rec, and Ben Blair has his first sailing lesson this afternoon. We’ve never tried sailing before! But every time we’re near the Bay (which is practically daily), we have this overwhelming urge to be on the water more. We’re hoping that learning how to sail will fix that. Ralph’s class has the most adventurous program. Yesterday morning they sailed from Oakland to Sausalito on a Big Ship, and then stayed overnight on the boat. Very cool!

Maude had to cut her sailing lessons short this week — she has a week long back-packing trip through Yosemite with her best friend’s family. It’s always such a funny feeling to have the kids gone. Four kids at home feels so different than six! Any good stuff happening at your house this weekend?

I’ve got a few appointments this afternoon, but before I check out, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- Jess Lively interviewed me on her popular podcast! You can listen in here.

- The science of romance and “slow love”.

- The Prime Book.

- Bay Area to Standard American English Translator.

- On the death of Sandra Bland and driving while black.

- To celebrate their 100 birthday, the Minneapolis Institute of Art had a local bike company create fully functional “art bikes” based on famous pieces in the museum.

- If we loved teachers as much as pro-athletes.

- Paper flower headbands!

- Mobile school follows girls when they move for pasture work.

- Just the headline will get you laughing.

- 3-minute corn on the cob.

I hope you have a really lovely weekend. Thank you for the fun conversations this week! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.



Budget Game

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Over the next 8 weeks, I’m working with ScholarShare, California’s 529 savings plan, on a series of posts about family finances. I’ll be covering topics like creating a monthly budget, financial plans, saving for college, and teaching kids about finances. These topics are all super important, and depending on how a family approaches them, they can add or subtract a lot of stress from daily life.

But I know talking about finances can trigger worry or shame for lots of us, so I promise to keep things shame-free and totally approachable. ScholarShare feels the same way — they want to make saving for college as easy and effective as possible, and have lots of tips to help you get started. (And if you’re a California resident, you can even win $500 toward a college savings plan!)

For this first post, I’m going to start with the topic of teaching teens about budgeting, because we happened to have a real success story with this last summer. Last July I was casually chatting with my two oldest kids, Ralph and Maude, about college. We were wondering aloud where they might attend, and talking about dorm life, and what it’s like to get an apartment, choose your class schedule, and do your own grocery shopping.

Suddenly, I had this moment of panic about teaching my kids to create a monthly budget. They earn money, and spend money, and save money, but at the time, I had never really talked them through a full monthly budget and what it’s like to live within one. I had this compelling I NEED TO TEACH THEM THIS RIGHT NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE feeling. Hah!

So I sat down at my laptop and came up with a game/challenge. It’s a rough-draft sort of thing, but it turns out they really enjoyed going through it. A year has passed, and we’re still talking about the budget game, and getting requests from the younger kids for their turn.

What’s the challenge? Essentially, it’s a game that takes about an hour to play, where they go through 12 months of budget, and each month they have new challenges thrown their way. The goal was to go through all 12 months of pretend budgets and end with a minimum amount in pretend savings, plus a certain number of pretend “Social/Mental Well-Being Points” (more on those in a bit). I created a Budget Worksheet to help us play, plus a sheet of “Banker’s Instructions” and an explanation of “Budget Options” (you can download all 3 below).

It’s a game designed to boost my teens’ awareness of consequences that come from money management (or mis-management), based on things that they value (like their favorite chocolate milk). What do I mean? I’ll explain. And I promise, it’s actually way more fun than it sounds. : )


Click here to find out how the budget game works, and get a free download too.


By Gabrielle.

I think most people are a little scared of morning sickness. It can leave us feeling like we’ve just run two marathons in a row, when all we’ve really accomplished is a feeble walk from our bed to the couch. It can surprise us during an important meeting with the realization “Huh. The smell of paper makes me vomit.” And then one day, it packs up and leaves and we forget all about the ghastly beast that interrupted our well-being for a few weeks.

But there is morning sickness, and there is MORNING SICKNESS. The all-caps version sticks around all day and all night, despite the hours of operation clearly stated in its name, only departing upon baby’s sweet arrival. In Erika’s case, however, there is morning sickness, and there is MORNING SICKNESS, and then there is Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I hope none of you experience this. But if you ever do, you are not alone.

Here’s Erika Weaver’s harrowing story, and her very happy endings. Yes, endings. Three cases of Hyperemesis Gravidarum and three boys as reward! Welcome, Erika!

Erika’s story, straight ahead!



Images and text by Gabrielle.

Well, it’s been almost a year since I posted an Ask Design Mom question, but when I shared my 9 year blog anniversary post, I had a whole bunch of requests to post them more often. So here we go! I’ll do my best to make this a regular series again — and in the meantime, you can find the Ask Design Mom archives here. Now, on to the question!

Olive & June 2014-1539

Hi Gabrielle. You wrote a post a while ago about two extroverts raising an introvert. My family is the opposite. My husband and I are introverts and our only child is an extrovert (we think!). She is 5 years old and always wants someone to do something with her. The only time she can play by herself is watching TV or using the iPad. Even while coloring her coloring book she wants someone to do it with her. It’s very noticeable when compared with her same aged cousin. He is perfectly fine playing by himself and our daughter begs him to play with her. Do you have any suggestions for introverted parents raising an extrovert? — Angel

Find my answer straight ahead!


Healthy Snack: Raw Almonds + Peaches. In a snack-time rut? Click through for food "pairings" that will spice things up!

Photos and text by Gabrielle. Sponsored by Blue Diamond.

I can’t pretend we’re healthy eaters every single day, but I do try hard to keep healthy snacks around the house, so that when the kids reach for something, the options are weighted heavily toward real food and away from junk food. The tricky thing is, we tend to find ourselves in snack-time ruts — the food that was once a perfect mid-day treat becomes boring because we’ve eaten it too many times.

So I thought it would be fun to work with the kids and use a “pairings” theme to come up with some snack ideas. I’m working with Blue Diamond on this post, so we used four of our favorite almond varieties as the base for the snacks.

One of our goals was to use items that are easy to keep stocked in the pantry — most of the options I’m suggesting below have a long shelf-life. Another goal was to avoid junk food, though I realize, “junk food” means different things to different people. We also wanted to come up with ideas that are really simple. Nothing to mix or measure. The hope is that these could be set out quickly with little to no prep.

June, Betty and Maude helped me experiment with flavors as we came up with the pairings, and it was a really happy way to spend an afternoon. Though I didn’t predict this, I can imagine us holding a “pairing” activity whenever we’re getting bored of our current snacks. The kids ended up feeling ownership of the ideas, and for the sake of the experiment, they tried foods that they previously thought they didn’t like. So if your kids are bored, I definitely recommend using the “pairing” theme to come up with new flavor combinations and snack ideas. It’s super fun!

Now, on to the pairings!

Healthy Snack: Raw Almonds + Raisins. In a snack-time rut? Click through for food "pairings" that will spice things up!

Pairing #1: Whole Natural Almonds + Raisins

It doesn’t get simpler than that! This is definitely a favorite go-to snack for several reasons. First, it’s literally two ingredients — raisins and almonds. There isn’t even added salt! Second, this requires zero prep. Pour the raisins and almonds in a bowl and you’re done. Third, even though it’s simple, it’s super satisfying. I have a huge sweet tooth, so the raisins help with that, and the almonds really satiate my hunger quickly. Lastly, this combo works anytime. As an after school snack, in my handbag on-the-go, or even as something to snack on during dinner prep.

Healthy Snack: Raw Almonds + Raisins. In a snack-time rut? Click through for food "pairings" that will spice things up!

A variation on this? If peaches or nectarines are in season, they pair wonderfully with Whole, Natural Almonds as well (as pictured at the top). The flavors are perfect together.

Healthy Snack: Smokehouse Almonds + Savory Treats: Swiss Gruyere; Dried, Salted Green Beans; and Salami. In a snack-time rut? Click through for food "pairings" that will spice things up!

Pairing #2: Smokehouse Almonds + Savory Treats: Swiss Gruyere; Dried, Salted Green Beans; and Salami

It’s hard to beat classic Smokehouse Almonds. They might be the perfect flavor. They’re wonderful on their own, but to beat snack boredom, they’re great for pairing as well.

Healthy Snack: Smokehouse Almonds + Savory Treats: Swiss Gruyere; Dried, Salted Green Beans; and Salami. In a snack-time rut? Click through for food "pairings" that will spice things up!

This particular grouping has a lot of good food going on. You could practically make a meal of this “snack” — it would be ideal on a road trip or hike, or for a simple picnic. We paired the Smokehouse almonds with slices of salami, slices of Gruyere cheese (though any favorite cheese would work), and something new to us: dried, salted, green beans.

Beyond snacking, I thought this combination might also be fun as dinner party hor d’oeuvres.

More pairings ahead!


By Gabrielle.

At some point during the process of preparing these tours for publication, I usually ask our tour guides for just one more photo or just one more story or just a few more sentences about that sweet thing they mentioned in passing. Or “Where did you get those vases, because they’re super chic?” In Shelly’s case, I simply asked for a few more close-ups of her stunning gallery wall plus maybe a bookshelf.

And this is when she told me she was in the process of moving out of this home, away from her stunning gallery wall plus definitely her bookshelf! I still wanted to show you her home and share her words, because she has a lot to say about following our gut instincts and being brave and tackling DIY even if it scares the heck out of us. Also, there’s that gallery wall.

Please welcome Shelley as she takes us on one final tour of her home! She’s been in her new state for a day as of this writing, and so far, so good.

Hello! I’m Shelly and I’m living in Illinois with my best friend, lil bean, and pup. I could gush about my family all day.

My husband, Jeffrey, and I met at Purdue where I fell head over heels for him and his pet bunny. My mood is VERY much affected by his, which is good because he is the yin (calm/quiet/thoughtful/patient) to my yang (anxious/loud/quick to speak/impatient). He is a curious learner who can figure out how to do/build/navigate just about anything, but most of all, he makes me laugh.

My daughter makes us both laugh. Constantly. She is almost two years old, and such an empathetic, kind-hearted child. She’s great for a pat on the back, share of her cookie, or silly face to make you laugh. My husband has instilled his love of books while I have instilled my love of dancing in her.

And the pretty continues! Straight ahead.


The Treehouse - a wordless picture book

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I think you’ll love this month’s round up of books! There are knock out illustrations, really good stories, and a non-fiction selection as well. First up, let’s talk about The Tree House, by Marije and Ronald Tolman. This is a wordless book — which means the images have to work even harder. But they totally do!

The Treehouse — a wordless picture book The Treehouse — a wordless picture book

A polar bear rides a whale to a tree that’s growing out of the water. How’s that for a magical opener? And it just gets more fabulous from there. Polar Bear isn’t alone for long — as the water recedes, more and more animals join him. Some by land, some by air. Your kids will want to study every image.

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Remember Iggy Peck, Architect? Well, today I’m happy to introduce you to Rosie Revere, Engineer. It’s written by Andrea Beaty, with gloriously detailed illustrations by David Roberts. Jessie Arora, the founder of Embark Labs, sent me this book to welcome our family to the Bay Area. Such a sweet gift!

Rosie Revere, Engineer Rosie Revere, Engineer

Though Rosie may seem a bit quiet during the day, her nights are filled with visions of inventions. Not every invention is a hit, and Rosie is tempted to give up her dream of becoming an engineer. But maybe her invention “flops” aren’t as bad as they seem.  The whole book is written in memorable rhyme, and the message of the book is so encouraging, it appeals to kids and adults alike.

Keep reading for two more books!


A Few Things

July 24, 2015

Apple Jacks

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness I CAN NOT WAIT to have my family back today!!! Ben Blair and the 5 youngest get home from Cousins Week this afternoon, and Ralph gets home from Scout Camp tomorrow. Hallelujah! I was having fun for the first few days, I went to a couple of movies, read like crazy, did some exploring around town, and ate some of my favorite treats (like sugar cereal!). But after that I was like a ridiculous combination of lonely and couch potato. Hah! I’m clearly not very skilled at living alone. : )

I’m going to sign off so I can think of something fun to welcome everyone home (have any ideas?). But before I say goodbye, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

- For Seinfeld fans. Comedians in cars featuring Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

- An open call for essays about childhood.

- The prettiest paper blooms.

- Where are all the aliens? It’s long, but I loved reading all the theories.

- So much beauty! A G0Pro camera attached to a sea turtle.

- A new theory about addiction.

- This shower curtain kicks you out after 4 minutes.

- Is that really an opinion? Or are you just wrong.

Edible Sprinkle Bowls.

- The trolls are winning.

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


P.S. — Thanks for chiming in with your thoughts on Monday’s school post. I LOVE your comments.


By Gabrielle.

If I ever feel like my day is overflowing with challenges, I’m going to re-read Maggie’s account of her day. She’s a Peace Corps volunteer currently serving in Ethiopia, and her daily life is probably very different from yours or mine. For example, it might take her 15 minutes to properly and politely greet everyone on her way to work in adherence to local customs; there is no casual smile and wave allowed, even when sour moods are in the air! The internet is unreliable and slow. Also, her house has no indoor plumbing.

It all kind of makes me a little sheepish when I’m stressed about wrangling traffic or tackling a super long must-do list!

I’ve repeated one of Maggie’s thoughts to myself more than a few times since I interviewed her: “You can’t think about things you can’t have if you want to survive in the Peace Corps.” I guess that applies to all of us in some way or another, don’t you think? Please help me welcome Maggie! You’ll want to hear about her bedtime rituals; they’re quite lovely.

Maggie’s unique Ethiopian day, just ahead!


Homemade and All-Natural Skin Care Recipes - made from ingredients you already have at home!

Photo and intro by Gabrielle. Expert advice by Rachael Weesjes. 

My new friend, Rachael, is an esthetician. In April, she generously shared her best skin care tips, and lucky for us, she also offered to share her fabulous at-home concoctions to solve our skin concerns. These are natural, food-based, creams and cleansers — I’m betting you’ve got all the ingredients you’ll need in your kitchen right now. So let’s get started! Glowing skin, straight ahead!

A lot of people avoid the word oil when it comes to buying products for their skin. They think they have oily skin already and that’s a bad thing, so adding more oil to it will make it worse. But I wish everyone would throw that mindset out the window today and never let it back in!

Oil dissolves oil. Say it with me: Oil dissolves oil. Cleansers for oily skin tend to be drying, so your sebaceous glands, which are microscopic glands in the skin that secrete the oil, are going to go into overdrive because they are getting the message that all the oil is gone and they then produce even more oil than before. That leads to more blocked pores, more blemishes, more oil, more cleansing, and round and round it goes.

Let’s start with a cleansing option. You’ll need two oils for this part. First is castor oil. This is your base oil and you will not be using a lot of it. For oily skin you will use 30% castor oil to 70% of your secondary oil choice. You might want to tweak the amounts depending on your own personal results. You know those travel-sized shampoo bottles? Perfect size in which to mix your cleanser.

Your secondary oil will be a vegetable oil or sunflower seed oil or sweet almond oil. I like extra virgin olive oil. Castor oil will remove the impurities in your skin, has anti-inflammatory properties, and will heal your skin as well. The EVOO prevents dryness. Remember, if you use too much castor oil you will end up with super dry skin.

Once it’s mixed, pour a puddle into the palm of your hand, rub your hands together to warm it, and start to massage your face. For the castor oil to do its job properly, massage for five minutes. I say five because everyone always does three! Then, take a hot washcloth and lay it over your face, leaving it there until it’s cool. Wipe away the oil with the washcloth. You will probably have to repeat this step two or three times to make sure you’ve removed all the oil. This is actually where many people stop because they find that their skin is moisturized enough just from the cleansing. And you can stop here if this is how you cleanse your skin frequently, but if you want that little extra treat of a facial you can continue with the next steps. I will add that if you start to do the oil cleansing method, you really should do it only at night before bed;  if you are washing your face at night, there is no need to wash it in the morning. And bonus! A lot of people don’t find the need to cleanse every night once they start with this method.

Next is toner. Mix two teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar – it must be organic – and two teaspoons of tap water. Dip a cotton ball into the mix and wipe your face. If you find the vinegar too strong of a smell, wait five minutes after toning and then rinse with water. Otherwise, continue on with the facial. If you find your skin reacts to the vinegar, dilute it more with the water.

On to exfoliating! Grind one tablespoon of oats, add one tablespoon of honey, apply to your face, and rub in gentle circles for three to five minutes. Rinse off with water.

And now for the mask, which is my favorite step because you get to be a scientist and mix up ingredients any way you want! This one is a lemon and egg-white mask. Lemon is rich in Vitamin C, it’s great for getting rid of sun spots and uneven skin tone, and it will help exfoliate. You will notice tightness once you apply the egg whites, but that will go away once you remove the mask.

Beat one egg-white until it’s frothy. Add lemon juice (the equivalent of half of a lemon) to the egg-white, apply it to your face avoiding the eye area, leave on for 15 minutes up to 30 minutes, and rinse off with warm water.

I like to use coconut oil as a finishing cream. Choose the organic, unrefined kind. It is a hard white substance when cold, but at 24 degrees Celsius it melts and becomes oil. Melt about half a tablespoon in your hands, and massage your face with it.

You may find that your skin will get a bit worse before it gets better. Apple cider vinegar will definitely open up blockages and a lot of oil will be released, which can cause more breakouts. But be patient: it will subside once your skin adjusts to how nicely you are treating it!

Solutions for dry and aging skin, just ahead!

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