Driver’s License

April 7, 2014

By Gabrielle. Images by Blue Lily Photography.

A milestone has been reached at our house. Our oldest child has a driver’s learning permit! Not a license yet, just the permit, which allows him to legally practice driving. And if I understand correctly, he’ll be able to take his driving test and get an actual license in 6 months.

Ralph’s experience with getting a driver’s license is so different than my own. In the community I grew up in, it was common for kids to get their driver’s license on the day they turned 16 years old, which was the earliest legal day they could get it. Getting a license was something we talked about the whole year we were 15 years old. We would take Driver’s Ed that year — it was part of the standard curriculum at the high school — and practice driving with our parents, older siblings and the Driver’s Ed teacher. By the time the actual 16th birthday arrived, the kids in my school were ready to take the test.

Once I had my license I could drive myself to my part-time job at the movie theaters, I could help out dropping off younger siblings at school and picking them up too. I could get myself to track meets and stay after school for meetings without having to bug my parents for a ride. Driving seemed like an essential part of a teenagers life!

But in the places we’ve raised our kids, the attitudes toward driving have been different than in my home town. In New York, there didn’t seem to be any urgency about learning to drive at all. It was common not to even think about it until kids were 18 years old and ready to leave home. In France, where Ralph spent his 15th year, getting a driver’s license was something the kids didn’t really even talk about. In fact, I think it’s not legal there till you’re 18 — I’m not actually not sure what the driving age is in France. Even here in Oakland, very few kids drive to our high school. Most are either dropped off or take public transportation, and again, Ralph doesn’t seem to feel a huge urgency about his license, though he’s been 16 since last August.

But even though it’s not urgent, he does want his license. So we’ve been working toward it, and trying to fit in driving practice where we can.

From other parents, I’ve heard it’s wonderful when your teen can drive, because it’s so helpful — errands for last-minute dinner ingredients, or picking up a sibling from dance class. But I’ve also heard it’s terrifying! I’m sure we’ve all read the heart-stopping statistics about teens and car accidents. I definitely have mixed feelings about it. But I also remember how much freedom and independence I felt when I could drive. I loved that feeling! And I hope my kids experience something similar.

How did it work for you? Did you get your license as early as legally possible? Or did you wait until you were older? Was it a big deal where you lived? And what’s the attitude toward getting a driver’s license in your current community?

P.S. — When we bought our vintage Renault 4L, we totally pictured Ralph driving it as his first car. We left it in France, but I still like the idea of my kids driving something old school — though I realize older cars don’t come with airbags or anti-lock brakes or other current safety features, so aren’t necessarily the best option for new drivers. We’re a one car family at the moment and have been for years and years. I wonder if that will change when Ralph actually gets his license.

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A Few Things

April 4, 2014

succulents

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? How was your week? I’m really looking forward to the weekend! We’ve had a ton of rain here and the whole yard is green and fresh. I’m hoping it’s dry enough tomorrow to work outside. I confess, I’m quite intimidated by our yard. It’s unlike any yard we’ve ever had — wild in a good way, but still in need of some major grooming. I’ve never worked with a landscape architect before, but I’d like to find one and hire her/him to help us come up with a plan. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start!

One funny idea: We have 20 years worth of fallen leaves and broken branches under all those trees. We’ve been clearing it out one leaf bag at a time, but it’s slow going. Then, the other day, we heard you can rent goats to eat all the leaves and twigs! Have you ever done something like that? I’m dying for more info.

While I research goat options, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

Change your typeface and save $400 million.

- Gandalf checking his email.

- You can touch my hair. Thanks, Jess.

- A cool nursery with lots of fun surprises.

- A letter to frustrated parents about New Math.

- A baby sleeper that doesn’t involve snaps. (When Ralph was a baby, we had a similar version that zipped in the diaper area. 16 years later and zippers still haven’t replaced snaps in any big way. I wonder why that is?)

- Sesame Street has a new toolkit for families navigating divorce, deployment, and other grown-up challenges.

- Easter treats! 16 yummy ideas you can make and add to your Easter basket — even homemade versions of Cadbury Eggs, Peeps and Reeses Peanut Butter Eggs!

- Affordable DSLR sliders for budding filmmakers — I bet this would get tons of use at our house. Thanks, Lindsey.

- Reminders of 2 fun contests: You can still win $250 at Chairish! Super easy to enter, just submit your email address. Ends Monday, April 7th.

- And you can win $500 in awesome new light switches and outlets from the Adorne line. Go here to find simple giveaway instructions.

I hope you have a really wonderful weekend. I have LOVED the conversations we had this week. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Remember the pretty succulents I showed in the hallway makeover? Well, all but 3 have died. : ( So the plants pictured at top are my replacements. I hope I can get the hang of watering them correctly!

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My Sweet Muffin Giveaway

April 4, 2014

DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

Oh goody! You’ll love today’s giveaway. It’s hosted by My Sweet Muffin and they’re offering a $150 gift certificate!

Easter Gift Ideas from My Sweet Muffin

My Sweet Muffin is one of my long time sponsors and I always get a kick out of seeing their new collections. Shina, the owner, does a really wonderful job of seeking out the very most interesting and unique and beautiful and quality gifts and toys. Her wares are perfect for babies and toddlers, and My Sweet Muffin is definitely one of my go-to online shops when I’m seeking a really good baby gift to give.

My Sweet Muffin Easter 2014

This month, I’m taking inspiration from the My Sweet Muffin Easter collection. Check out this page for a visual guide to filling your Easter baskets — with helpful categories like Easter Parties, Baskets for Girls, Baskets for Boys, and Baskets for Baby. So many beautiful spring gifts! My favorites? The Rabbit Nightlight, the Reversible Bibs, the Botanist Case and Explorer Case, the oversize Tin Eggs that open so you can put a treat inside, and the Hopper Family Paper Dolls.

Visit My Sweet Muffin and leave a comment below to enter, the winner will be announced on Tuesday. Good luck!

——-

Cathi is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Paint Colors

April 4, 2014

blue paint chips

Image and text by Gabrielle.

I’ve kind of surprised myself as I’ve picked paint for The Treehouse, because throughout 85% of the house, I’ve chosen white. In other houses we’ve lived in over the years, I loved putting color on the walls! I painted our first nursery in the perfect shade of sky blue. For years I was obsessed with a certain Dove Grey that had blues and pinks and purples in it — it went in the living room of the first house we bought. I remember in our initial New York rental, I painted the family room a dark blue. I’ve done a basement entirely in yellow. And I’ve painted Napoleon Dynamite in a bedroom.

But in this house, I’ve mostly craved white. Origami White by Sherwin-Williams to be exact. I love it so much! It hits that sweet spot between warm and cool and everything looks good against it. On the main floor, I used it on walls, ceiling and trim — everything in semi-gloss. In the upstairs, I chose a brighter white for the ceilings, but stuck with Origami White for the walls and trim.

There are only 2 other colors I’ve used so far: a medium grey on the woodwork in the lofts (you’ll see it when I share the reading loft tour), and the beautiful grey/green in the hallway makeover — I used it on the lower walls. Other than that, it’s Origami White all the way!

But. Over the last week, I’m feeling like there are a few places I might want to work in more color. There’s a wall in the boys’ bedroom that could use a dark shade of paint, or maybe wallpaper. And I’m almost done with the Reading Loft and feel like the wall behind the bookshelves could use a shade of blue. Something not too light and not too dark.

So I picked up paint chips the other day and have been studying them in the loft. I still haven’t decided on a color — or even if I’ll paint the wall at all. But I’m having fun thinking about it.

I’d love to hear: Do you prefer white walls in your home? Or do you long for a different color in every room? And do you pick out colors quickly? Or do you labor over the decision for weeks? Are you a white is white is white person? Or do have a particular shade of white that you know you love? What’s your take?

P.S. — This isn’t a sponsored post, but I met the folks from Sherwin-Williams at Alt Summit and have been working with them as I paint the house. We’ve done some of the painting ourselves, and hired out some rooms as well. The painter we hired is a young sculptor who paints houses and does handyman jobs on the side. After a couple days of painting with Sherwin-Williams paint, he was raving about how good the coverage was! And that he needed much less paint than when he used other brands. I’m no paint expert, but I was glad to hear it.: )

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First Concert

April 3, 2014

morrissey cityscape

By Gabrielle. Image spotted on Eric Alber’s post about Morrissey’s Autobiography.

What a funny day it’s been. We had a random power outage for most of the work day, leaving me with nothing to do but dishes. Hah! So here I am, minutes from the end of my work day, and happily sitting down to write a post. Because there’s a question I’ve been curious to ask you all day long!

This morning, I saw a photo of Morrissey in somebody’s Instagram stream. And when I saw it, it sparked memories of my first concert: Morrissey performing in Las Vegas. I was 16 years old.

I guess when I say concert, I should clarify that I mean first rock concert, the first concert I bought tickets for myself. I’d certainly been to other musical events prior to that concert, but this was different, felt much more independent, and was the first of dozens and dozens of concerts I’ve attended through the rest of high school, college, and throughout my whole adult life — Nirvana and They Might Be Giants and Jane’s Addiction and Brandie Carlisle and Justin Timberlake and The Cure and The Killers and Sufjan Stevens and Sting and James and on and on.

For that first concert, I went with my friend Robyn. Las Vegas was about 2 hours away by car, and we drove there in Robyn’s car with my older brother Josh and two other boys from school — Kerry and AJ. The concert was on the UNLV campus and the auditorium was maybe 75% full. I was blown away. I hadn’t really known what to expect, but I loved it. Once the concert was in full swing, everybody left their seats and moved as close to the front as they could. At one point, an audience member jumped on stage, past security, and hugged Morrissey while he sang! From that moment on it was a steady stream of people hugging Morrissey — some with tears running down their faces as they came face to face with one of their idols. My brother and Kerry and AJ all hugged him, but Robyn and I were too chicken to jump on stage.

My older brother had introduced me to the music of Morrissey and The Smiths when I was in 6th grade, so I’d been listening to their music for many years, and this concert felt like such a prize. I couldn’t believe how lucky I was!

After the concert was over, it was late, but we were all awake as can be and drove back to St. George that same night.

Thinking about that concert made me wonder: What was your first concert? Was it rock, pop, singer/songwriter? And have you been to many concerts, or few, or none at all? How old were you when you went? Was it what you expected? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — When I was at dinner in Washington D.C. — the trip where I lobbied Congress — we talked about this same thing and it was so fun to see if that first concert reflected the current personality of the person who attended.

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Art in Your Home

April 2, 2014

Minted Art Collection 1

By Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Minted. Take advantage of the rare Minted sale going on now — get 15% off your entire order.

On yesterday’s post, the oversized art print got people asking questions (I’m still hunting down a source for that print, by the way). And it reminded me how intimidating it can be to purchase and frame art for your home. So I think you’ll be very happy to know about Minted’s Art Print Collection.

There’s something for every room in your house! Keep your kitchen in perpetual summer with popsicles. Add a map or constellation to the nursery. Or the neatest moon in the whole world. Put something abstract in the living room. Or something with a pattern over your bed.

Minted Art Collection 2

The Art Print Collection is a fairly new thing at Minted, and here are 5 reasons why I really like it:

A) It’s a truly dependable source for beautiful art. And you don’t have to wade through a thousand pages of not-very-good-stuff to find the best pieces! Every piece is good. In fact, as I was picking out favorites to share in this post, I found it so hard to narrow it down! The collection is excellent. So if you feel unsure about art, Minted is a wonderful place to shop. Take a look at their offerings and find something that speaks to you, then buy it with confidence, because you can trust that it’s in fact really good.

B) The art prints are Limited Edition. Why does this matter? I suppose to some people it won’t. But I like that because it means there won’t be millions of people out there with the exact same thing on the wall.

C) They offer small and large sizes, and everything in between. I’m typically drawn to oversize pieces — like 2 or 3 feet across in a frame — so the large sizes offered by Minted are just my thing. If you’re craving a big statement piece for your home, I would recommend this, printed as large as possible.

D) Adding a frame doesn’t add much to the cost! This is huge. Having artwork framed is a hassle and an expensive one. I speak from experience, because my dad had a frame shop in our basement. : ) As you look at prices, you’ll see you can choose framed or unframed, and you’ll notice the cost doesn’t quadruple if you pick framed. Their prices are very reasonable for framed art — and they offer several styles to choose from as well.

E) I don’t know if you know this about Minted, but they’ve always sourced their designs (for cards, stationery, and everything else they carry) from independent designers and illustrators and artists. They’ve been a huge supporter of creators big and small for many years now, and extending their offerings to art prints makes brilliant sense. Plus, it’s another wonderful way to enjoy the gorgeous creations their community of artists creates.

Minted Art Collection 3

Now, let’s do something fun. I want to see Minted Art hanging in your house! If you have a Minted print in your home — in your nursery, in your family room, in your bathroom, in your entryway — snap of photo of it and send it to me. Or, take advantage of the 15% off sale, and choose something new. Then, once you’ve got it hanging, send me a picture!

I’d really, really like to see how you incorporate art in your home! I’ll gather the photos, then share some of them here on Design Mom. We’ll do a follow-up post on May 1st, featuring your photos, and a big Minted giveaway too. I think seeing how families incorporate art is inspiring — I’m hoping the post with your photos will be a helpful resource. I can’t wait to see what you send!

Minted Art Collection 4

P.S. — The artwork featured:

Animal World Map by Jessie Steury. Celestial Moon by Katherine Morgan. Pops I by September Wren. Tools by pottsdesign. Constellation by Annie Clark.

Block Printed Arches by Katharine Watson. Bejeweled by Four Wet Feet Design. Chicken Run by Betty Hatchett.

Brownie by Amy Wagner. Natura by trbdesign. Rings by 2birdstone.

What You Want by Kristi Kohut. The Rapids by Rose Lindo.

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Show Us Your Wall!

April 1, 2014

Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by the Adorne line by Legrand. Win $500 in in Adorne products in the Show Us Your Wall Giveaway!

——–

Today I’ve got a before-and-after reveal to share with you. It features something I hadn’t really given much thought to until we started getting heavy into renovations. The topic? Light switches and outlets!

Prior to these renovations, my knowledge of outlets was that A) you could pick between white and that sort-of 80′s creamy color, or B) if you’re really fancy, you might wallpaper or paint or otherwise customize your switchplate to help it blend into the wall. When I actually saw the available options these days, it was one of those we’ve-come-a-long-way-baby moments!

Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom

Friends, this might be old news to you, but there are outlets that are USB ports instead of plugs. You can get switches that have nightlights that pop out so you can carry them down the hall with you. There are outlets that disappear into the wall, and then POOF! provide 3 spots for plugs at the push of a button. You can choose wallplates in every color under the sun, and in really gorgeous natural materials like walnut, and bronze and mirror. The options are remarkable!

Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom

Essentially, what I deduced is that for the last century, we’ve sort of ignored wall plates and switches — blending them into the room, trying to strategically hide them or make them as un-noticeable as possible. But there seems to be a realization that outlets and electricity are indeed here to stay. : ) So instead of ignoring them, builders, architects and designers have embraced them, and are now making them a key part of the room decor in the same way they might consider the light fixture itself. Outlets and switches can now add to the style of the room instead of detract from it.

I love the new trend!

Click for the before shots and to hear more about how we chose these plates.

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By Gabrielle.

I think living with kids in Holland would be pretty wonderful. Traffic exams for children to make sure they’re safe bicycle riders, tulips on every table, a generous parental leave, and “Come on, Mom! Van Gogh, again?” Yes, I would say that Susanne van der Lee and her family are living very well together, and smiling a lot along the way. Just one look at their home shows us the family’s style: equal parts humor and good design.

Friends, please help me welcome the van der Lee family, all the way from Holland!

Q: Tell us all about this family living in Holland!

A: Hello everyone! My name is Susanne, and I am an interior designer (or interieurarchitect in Dutch). We live in Holland, in Nieuw-Vennep, a town in the middle of the Randstad, which is basically one big metropolitan area connecting Amsterdam, Haarlem, The Hague, and Rotterdam.

I am married to Hans, who has his own business as a creative writer, journalist, and interim publisher. Let’s just say he is good with words.

More sweet inspiration (and maybe tulips!), just ahead.

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French Food Habits

March 31, 2014

berries

Image and text by Gabrielle.

We’ve been in Oakland for 8 months now, and it’s been interesting to see if any of the food habits we picked up in France would stick with us.

When we were in France, I can’t say that we ever completely adopted the French way of eating, but we got close! Partly, because living in such a rural area, we didn’t have much choice.

If you’re curious about French food habits, the two books I read that I found most helpful were Bringing Up Bébé and French Kids Eat Everything. As I spoke to French friends and neighbors about what I’d learned in the books, some people agreed completely with certain parts, but thought others were false stereotypes. So I wouldn’t consider the books as flawless, but I think they give a helpful description.

Click here for a ton of my personal observations on French eating habits.

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Slow Cooker Recipe: Ridiculously Easy Shredded Ham  |  Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Images by Lindsey of Café Johnsonia.

Are you ready for the easiest slow cooker recipe ever? You only need two ingredients for this ultra-simple recipe, but don’t underestimate how amazing it is. This is something our family loves, loves, loves. We learned this recipe from our friend, Emily, when we were brand new newlyweds (that seems like ages ago!), and it is so good and reliable, that the recipe has since been adopted by dozens of friends and by pretty much every one of my siblings. It’s also become part of our holiday tradition — we make it every Christmas Eve.

Slow Cooker Recipe: Super Easy Shredded Ham  |  Design Mom   #crockpot

The bonus is that it’s the recipe that keeps on giving. The first night, you might serve this yummy slow cooker shredded ham as a main course, with a side of yams or carrots. The next day, it’s the perfect lunch served on bagels with cream cheese. Put the rest in the freezer, and pull it out the following week for creamy pesto, ham, and pasta. And you get all of that from one bone-in ham plus a little bit of water and a day of slow cooking!

It’s delicious in every season, and we make it throughout the year. Friends, I’m so happy to share this recipe with you! I hope you’ll love it as much as our family does. If you make it, I’d love to hear what you think!

Click for the recipe and tips!

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A Few Things

March 28, 2014

New York Tribeca

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you doing? I arrived home from New York yesterday (I snapped the photo above near my hotel in Tribeca). It was such a good trip! I’m definitely on a post-travel high. That said, it felt wonderful to wake-up and go through the usual morning routine today — packing lunches and getting little June dressed and cooking breakfast and putting in some laundry. Sometimes getting to go through my usual day feels like such a treat. And I know I wouldn’t feel that way if I didn’t get breaks now and again. It has me counting my blessings today. I’m a lucky girl!

Other fun news: this morning, my sister-in-law Margaret Blair Young, the incredibly talented author and scholar came to town and we get to spend the weekend with her! She’ll be speaking about her work at an event on Sunday night. (Let me see if I can find a link with some info, for those of you who might want to attend.) How about you? Has it been a good week? Are you excited the weekend has arrived?

While I go put clean sheets on a bed for our guest, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share:

- An interesting read: How to Get a Busy Person to Respond To Your Email. Via SwissMiss.

- This dad built a maze out of cardboard boxes for his kids in the basement. Thanks, Burgin.

- Last chance! Today is the LAST DAY to enter the Get Messy Contest yet. If you win, I’ll be coming to your house to throw a big party with Mrs. Meyers Clean Day. And I really want to come to your house!

- Wow! These near and far perspectives on world landmarks is fascinating. Thanks, Bridget.

- Go ahead, let your kids fail.

- The Iris Award Nominees have been announced!

- A classic nursery for a baby boy.

- I’m kind of obsessed with my patent leather black penny loafers. I bought them for Alt Summit last January, and wear them almost every day. In New York, I wore them instead of black flats when I had lots of walking to do! But note: if you buy a pair, plan on breaking them in. They arrive stiff as can be. As soon as the black ones are worn out, I think I’ll get these gold versions.

- I don’t follow much celebrity news, but this threw me for a loop.

- No doubt I’m the last one to see this, but just in case – 24 Hours of Happy.

- And my Babble posts. I shared these last week, but I added them late, so in case you missed them — 18 Easter Craft Ideas I’m considering this year, and 17 egg decorating ideas that might be fun.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Meri Meri Giveaway

March 27, 2014

By Gabrielle.

Hooray! I’ve got a terrific giveaway today. Festive and celebratory and perfectly springtime-y. The papergoods shop, Meri Meri, creators of some of the prettiest party supplies and paper goods on the planet, is offering a generous $150 voucher for their charming products!

Meri Meri Easter 2014 Party Goods

UK- based Meri Meri is a long-time sponsor of Design Mom and I’m always delighted to write about their wares, because their products are completely charming! Garlands and cake stands and cupcake sets and plates and napkins and platters and gift bags and stationery and boxes for baked goods, and on and on. All with designs you’ll only find at Meri Meri.

They offer sweet and unusual party themes, and they offer products for every holiday as well! Take a look at their Easter Collection. You’ll find adorable plates, cups, napkins and accessories that are pretty enough to keep in a scrapbook. With one shopping trip to the Meri Meri website, you’ll have everything you need for your next Spring gathering.

Meri Meri Easter 2014 Cupcake Liners

$150 is plenty to buy everything you need for an amazing event! If I won, I would be tempted by the Funny Bunnies Cookie Cutters and the Peter Rabbit Napkins and the adorable Cupcake Kits — I want to buy a box for everyone I know.

Visit Meri Meri and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to know if you have a favorite party theme. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

——

Virginia is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Book Report

March 27, 2014

Super easy! This poster was made from postcards of book covers by Penguin. You can buy a whole box of them on Amazon. Search: Penguin Bookcover Box

Image and text by Gabrielle.

I’m writing this from JFK while I wait for my plane to San Francisco. It’s been a wonderful, jam-packed trip to New York full of get togethers and meetings. And I was able to fit in one more meeting this morning before I grabbed a taxi to the airport — a meeting with my editor at Artisan Books!

Earlier in the year I mentioned I would be giving updates about my book from time to time, and I think today is a good day for one of those updates. Because this very week, I’m handing in the manuscript. That is a big deal! No images yet, just text. An entire book’s worth of text. My editor, Lia Ronnen, will begin reading it this weekend and then the major editing begins.

In this morning’s meeting, we didn’t look at the manuscript at all. Instead, we talked about what size the book should be and looked at a dozen existing books for reference. We also talked about what style the photography should be, and even got into a little bit about what the book design should be — an aspect of this project that I am especially excited about.

We also talked and talked about all sorts of things because Lia is endlessly interesting.

Then I was introduced to 8 people on the Artisan team that will end up helping with my book in one way or another. It was wonderful for me to put names to faces, and being in the office was so reassuring. Artisan is responsible for some of the most beautiful, most useful books out there — like the Kinfolk book and the Remodelista book and the Young House Love book too — and I know they’ll make sure that what I create is remarkable.

One of the takeaways from today’s meeting that I was most excited to share with you is the amazing poster at top. It’s a DIY poster that was Lia’s idea and hangs in her office. She used postcards of book covers from the Penguin collection, and attached them to a posterboard. Simple, genius and beautiful! I love the idea so much. I think I should copy it for the reading loft. I thought you’d like the idea too!

That’s it for today’s book report. And hey, I’d love to hear if there’s anything you’re particularly curious about as for the book goes.

P.S. — If you’d like to see what I’ve been up to in New York, feel free to check out my Instagram stream.

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By Gabrielle.

If you’re an avid Instagrammer and lover of moms who mostly snap adorable glimpses of their babies, chances are good that you’re already following Madelon, known as MadeByLon. There’s just something about her that charms her nearly 18,000 friends. It might be her aesthetic, it might be her sweet humility, or it might be the way she strives to capture all those moments you think you’ll remember…but you don’t. We cheered her on while she was pregnant with her daughter, and waited anxiously alongside her when baby Reva took her sweet time getting here.

Here’s a little chat about it all, plus how she enjoyed having so many Instagrammers follow along her birth story. Oh, and the importance of good maternity jeans! Enjoy, Friends!

Q: Describe the moment you learned you were pregnant.

A: The second time around, it’s less romantic. You decide to try to have a second baby, while with your first it’s something you talk about all the time! It’s more carefree, you just see what happens. So, we decided to give it a go, and two months later I just knew. I was tired, I was nauseous, and I blew up like a balloon. I took a test and within a few seconds it said pregnant.

I was anxious. Two  babies! My life would be over for sure! But I was over the moon at the same time.

We told Sylvester a little later. So much can go wrong the first weeks. Also, he was only two, so to tell him he would have a brother or sister and then let him wait for almost nine months felt cruel. We told most people after the first ultrasound. I don’t know how others experienced it, but the second time you know what the end result is like, so you are more afraid and aware that something can go wrong.

The cutest idea for older siblings before baby, straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

As Michelle describes it, she’s been living a semi-permanent life for the past eight years. Since she and her husband have added three daughters – four year old twins and a two-and-a-half year old – they’ve moved country three times to Hong Kong, Australia, and California, moved house five times, and completely remodeled their new home that we’re touring today. Whew!

Luckily, it looks like Michelle and her family have finally found home. And oh my…it’s a gorgeous spot. Please enjoy the beauty, Friends!

Q: Let’s meet your sweet family!

A: There’s my husband and I, who met as design students 16 years ago in Sydney, and our three little girls, twins aged four, and their little sister who’s two-and-a-half. That’s right: we went from a happy couple to a family of five in 18 months!

I’m a freelance creative director, blogger, and full-time mom (no URL for this one!). My husband also works in the design industry, which is great as we have a lot of shared interests, and not so great as it means we have to display his vintage appliance collection around the house.

So, so, so much pretty! Just after the jump.

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Neighborhood Eggs

March 25, 2014

local eggs

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Here I am, waving hello from a plane to New York. Hello there!

It’s a short trip. I’ll fly back to California on Thursday — but I have a packed schedule full of meetings, errands and events. I always love a visit to New York!

One funny thing is that snow is expected in the city this week. Funny to me because we’ve been in shorts for the past couple of weeks in Oakland. So yesterday I was hunting down gloves and hats in the back of my closet as I packed, and getting advice on whether or not there would be enough snow to need my winter boots.

But the thing I want to tell you most is that we found a neighbor who keeps chickens and we asked her if we could buy a dozen each week! This has me grinning like it’s the biggest news ever!!

I realize I’m unreasonably happy about it. It’s not like there aren’t eggs in every single grocery store in the entire country. It’s just that we Loved-with-a-capital-L eating eggs from our neighbor in France — we even made an Olive Us episode about it! The chickens roamed free on the little farm and we could see them from our window. The yolks were huge and orange instead of yellow, and the eggs were so delicious! We ate at least a dozen each week — boiled, scrambled, or poached.

We assumed we’d get re-adusted to the standard U.S. eggs when we moved back, because we weren’t picky about them at all in years past, but it turns out we haven’t re-adjusted. In fact, we’ve pretty much stopped eating eggs altogether except in baking. And we’ve missed them. So I’m hoping these local eggs will expand our menu once again.

We just got them yesterday and I haven’t even eaten one yet, but they’ll keep till I get home. I’m crossing my fingers they are as delicious as they are beautiful! It’s a little hard to tell in the photo, but the pale ones are a wonderful shade of green/blue/grey. The only thing left to decide is whether we’ll keep them in fridge or on the counter. : )

Tell me friends, have you ever had a similar experience? Maybe had a particular bread, or cheese, or fruit, or ice cream that was so good that you were spoiled for all other versions after that? Or maybe you buy eggs from your neighbor too? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — I feel like such a food snob about these eggs! I shake my head at myself when I think about it.

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Cottage New Roof 1

By Gabrielle. Images by Caroline.

I’ve been working like crazy on The Treehouse, and I have a few spaces that I’m almost ready to share. The reading loft is close to done. The boys’ room is like 75% finsihed. The living room is really shaping up as well! So you may be getting a house-sharing overload in the next few weeks. But today, I thought it would be fun to cross the ocean and tell you about some progress we’ve made on The Cottage in France.

Cottage New Roof 3

If you remember, when we bought it, the building was basically a shell. Good bones on a pretty piece of land. But no electricity. And no plumbing. And guess what? There is still no electricity or plumbing! We closed on the cottage about a month before we moved back to the U.S., and I was sure we’d have electricity installed that month. Hah! Instead, it’s 8 months later and if we tried to stay at the house right now, we would basically be camping. : )

That said, we have actually made major improvements. The roof has been repaired and replaced. The chimney is now in working order. The cracks in the stone walls and the stone fence have been repaired as well. And a new dormer was added!

Cottage New Dormer

Essentially, what we’ve done is make that “shell” weatherproof and ready for interior work. I admit, none of that is very sexy work — it’s much for glamorous to choose a bathtub, or share photos of a new kitchen; images of a functioning roof are not that dramatic. But honestly, I get goosebumps! chills! butterflies! when I see photos of the progress. Sometimes in our day to day routines I forget we have a little piece of French paradise waiting for us, and when I remember I catch my breath.

Our friend Caroline went to the house to check out the work and sent us these images and it was like Christmas morning!

Now that we have The Cottage in a stable place, we can start thinking about the interior — where we’ll put bedrooms and bathrooms and gathering rooms. And now that the exterior is secure, we can go at a slow pace if need be. Which is nice. It gives us time to make decisions, and also gives us time to save up budget for improvements.

Cottage Repaired Fence

Two things I’m curious about: 1) Have you ever taken on a similar project? Maybe created a cabin off in the mountains? Or a little vacation spot on a lake? I’d love to hear. And 2) If you could have a little cottage/cabin/bungalow anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

P.S. — As I looked back through The Cottage posts, I realized I’ve never shared photos with you of the whole property. Would you like to see it? I took about a million pics before we moved! I’m thinking I should do a “Introducing The Cottage” post.

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A Few Things

March 21, 2014

Train Town Sonoma

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you doing? Was it a good week? I felt like this one flew by! I’m not sure what it was. I started the week believing Monday was Wednesday and thinking: Oh dear. This is going to be a long week. Then, I woke up today thinking Friday already? Hah!

Last weekend we started out with no plans, but ended up taking the youngest four to Train Town in Sonoma with Liz and her kids. (Ralph had a camping trip, and Maude had a track meet, so they couldn’t join us.) If you ever get a chance to go, Train Town is idyllic and wonderful for the 10 and under crowd. It feels old school and small scale and simple, and it’s a beautiful, hour-long drive North of the city.

This weekend, we once again don’t have any big plans, but I am hoping to get some work on the house done. We shall see! How about you? What are you up to over the next few days?

While I finish up my work week, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

- The Café of the Chosen. Thanks, Travis.

- Tea Collection interviewed Oscar & Betty for their blog! A sweet little post.

- And here’s a fun (short) interview of me at the Australian site, Blog Society.

- Oh my word, it’s interview week! Here’s one more — a longish interview of both me and Ben Blair at Made+Remade. We talk about work-life balance and ponder what’s next for the Blairs.

- The Send Happy Project.

- An adorable little girl’s room that was put together on a budget.

- 73 Questions with Sarah Jessica Parker. This is so fun! Thanks, Kelly.

- For your Easter baskets, 32 ways to dress a bunny.

7 Leadership Principles from an Unexpected Source.

- Choose happiness. Thanks, Azra.

- Atlas Visual shares beautiful video tours of Greece. Great for future travelers, perfect remedy for snowy couch-travelers. Ben Blair and I haven’t been back to Greece for 16 years. I think it’s time!

- Now that it’s officially Spring, are you ready to think Easter? I am! I’ve started collecting Easter Craft Ideas, and I’ve also been gathering egg decorating ideas as well — here are 17 I’m considering this year.

- Have you entered the Get Messy Contest yet? I want to come to your house and have a craft party!

Thank you so much for visiting Design Mom this week. I always love reading your comments and emails! I hope you have a beautiful Spring weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Seven easy ways you can officially welcome Spring!

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Toto Knits Giveaway

March 20, 2014

DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

Oh my. You will love today’s giveaway. I just know it. It’s sponsored by Toto Knits, and the prize is a $150 credit at the shop!

toto knits crochet blanket

Do you know Toto Knits? Their products are a treasure, heirlooms in the making. Toto Knits is a company with a heart — they make organic cotton knitwear ethically made by a group of single mothers in Kenya. The knitters are paid by the piece which allows them to work as much or as little as they like. It’s all about putting family first — especially for these moms.

toto knits striped hoodie

Another cool thing about Toto Knits is that each piece is knit to order! Which means you can design exactly what you’d like. You can choose something custom (like legwarmers in the color combo of your dreams), or choose one of the beautiful options they list on the site — in either case, it takes 1 week to knit, and then 2 weeks for international shipping. Their tagline is “slow fashion that’s worth the wait”. I love that.

Toto Knits Aviator Cap toto knits legwarmers Toto Knits Bonnet with Trim

Yet another great thing is that the prices are super reasonable! So if you win, $150 will go a long way. My favorites among their products? I love the Cozy & Light Hoodie — unisex and the perfect weight for Spring. I’m crazy about the gorgeous Antique Style Baby Blanket. I think the Animal Sweaters are cheeky and fun. And the Knit Easter Eggs would be perfect for the season as well. Extra fun: Design Mom Readers get 15% off at Toto Knits with coupon code: designmom.

Visit Toto Knits and leave a comment below. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

P.S. — Remember the Nairobi home tour of the Toto Knits founder? So cool!

——-

Aura is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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By Gabrielle.

Happy Spring! I believe today is the official first day of the new season. I thought it would be fun to mark the moment by sharing a fitting Olive Us episode: Spring Flower Bouquet.

Every Spring in Normandy, the jonquils (miniature daffodils) would grow wild along the roads and hillsides. Our kids would collect fistfuls — even armfuls — and we would have bouquets all over the house. It was such a sunny, happy thing, and such a wonderful way to greet the new season. So this episode is all about collecting and sharing that happiness. I hope you enjoy it!

gathering daffodils

Tell me, Friends. Ignoring what the calendar says, has spring actually arrived at your house? Or is the snow still coming down? And do any wild flowers grow where you live?

P.S. — Would you like to know more about Olive Us? Here you go:

- Olive Us has a really charming Instagram stream. You should totally subscribe!
- Find the official Olive Us website here, and subscribe to the Olive Us Newsletter here.

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

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