Flag & Gate1

Image and text by Gabrielle.

For those who are celebrating today, I hope you have a wonderful 4th of July! Wishing you cold watermelon, sparklers, small town parades, flag cakes, and blankets on green grass for firework watching.

I’ll leave you with my favorite lyrics from a patriotic hymn:

America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self control,
Thy liberty in law.

— from America the Beautiful

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A Few Things

July 3, 2014

4th of July 20111

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I’m sharing my link list a day early this week, because tomorrow is a holiday. Can I tell you how excited my family is for Independence Day? We’re feeling very patriotic just being here in the country (we didn’t move from France last summer till July 15th if you’re keeping track). In fact, last Sunday in church we sang American anthems like America the Beautiful and The Star Spangled Banner, and it made me super happy to belt them out!

Our plans are: waterpark, BBQ and watching fireworks. And running around with the kids in red, white and blue (of course!). How about you? For my American readers, will you be celebrating tomorrow? And for my readers who are not American, forgive me for posting my link list a day early. : )

We bought a BBQ on Monday and it’s supposed to be delivered today. Assuming it arrives intact, tomorrow will mark the inaugural BBQ get-together at the Treehouse! While I check in with the delivery truck, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share:

- Life changing password?

- Kids getting too much screen time this summer? Lock it up.

- An Adopted Child’s View of the Christian Adoption Movement. Woah.

- The trick to mixing patterns in a nursery.

- Hilarious. If Independence Day never happened.

- 5% of sales from this Joss & Main flash sale go to Habitat for Humanity.

- Nazi’s “perfect Aryan baby” was actually Jewish.

- Want to add to the research on adult peer relationships? Take this survey.

- “I Just Watched The Notebook and Am Here to Ruin It for All of You.” Dying laughing! (But it’s written with lots of cuss words, so not for everyone.)

- And one more funny from The Onion. Does anyone else relate to this?

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Yay for fireworks! Yay for sparklers! Yay for America! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — The image is a a #throwbackthursday to our first 4th of July in France.

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Maude & Oscar Exploring1

Image and text by Gabrielle.

While I lived in France, I launched a recurring column called Love the Place You Live. It’s all about exploring your own town or community — appreciating and acknowledging the good things around you. I adore travel! But the idea of this column is that you don’t have to travel to find wonder and beauty; the idea is that everywhere has something to offer.

This month marks 1 year of living in Oakland! Though I found the move overwhelming, we love it here and have been feeling more and more settled in. We’ve done some really fun exploring since we’ve been here, but we feel like we’ve only scratched the surface of cool things in our community, and I want to start exploring more earnestly.

So, I concluded that it’s time to bring back Love The Place You Live!

This is how it works: I’ll announce when the next Love The Place You Live column is going to appear. Then, anyone who wants to, can join in by exploring something in their community. It can be anything. A coffee shop you’ve been meaning to stop into. A vintage clothes store. The new library. A new-to-you park. A pretty hike. A food truck. The ballet. Anything you like! And I’ll explore something with my family as well.

I’ll write up my report and publish here on Design Mom. You can write up your report wherever you like (your blog, your Facebook page, etc.). Then, you can add the link of your writeup to my blog post. It’s awesome! It creates an easy way to explore all the different reports and is a great reminder about how much there is to celebrate in each of our communities.

Sound good? I hope so! I’m planning to post the next Love The Place You Live on Monday (that’s July 7th), and I would love you to join me. Do something fun this week or this weekend — maybe a local Independence Day parade! Then, plan on linking to your writeup on Monday.

I can’t wait to read about your adventures!

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DIY: Leather Earrings

July 2, 2014

DIY: Tiny Leather Earrings. Easy and Inexpensive and Cute!   |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.

Have you seen the new trend in tiny leather earrings? I’m loving it. So I thought it would be fun to create my own — for myself and as gifts. I love the natural texture of the leather and the soft pop of color.

DIY: Tiny Leather Earrings. Easy and Inexpensive and Cute!   |   Design Mom

Leather is an easy material to work with. It’s soft, but keeps its shape. It doesn’t fray or wrinkle (unless you really, really want it to) and the texture and color options are endless.

I tried a ton of variations and always concluded that simple is better for this particular look.

DIY: Tiny Leather Earrings. Easy and Inexpensive and Cute!   |   Design Mom

With a few bucks and very little time, you can make yourself a whole new batch of accessories. They’re so simple and easy to make it’s barely a tutorial!

DIY: Tiny Leather Earrings. Easy and Inexpensive and Cute!   |   Design Mom

Come and check out this easy, satisfying project!!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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By Gabrielle.

When Jennifer casually mentioned her home was an in-fill in Ottawa, I casually wondered “What is an in-fill?” And it happened again when she told me it had earned Platinum LEED certification. Oh, I just love when these tours give me new dinner party conversation starters!

Truly, this family’s life sounds very intentional. They think about the food they eat, the music that fills their rooms, and the health of their home materials. I loved reading about their life in Canada, and I hope you enjoy Jennifer’s words, as well. Welcome, Jennifer!

Q: Please tell us all about your family!

A: I met my husband, David, in 2006 via an online dating profile that a friend forced me to sign up for. I was about to delete my profile when I saw his, and we immediately started corresponding. I liked that he was a vegetarian (I’m vegan) and that he had two cats and two dogs (I had one cat and one dog) and that he made me laugh a lot, which he still does. We have very similar values, but very different ideas of what constitutes a good time. He has no interest in music, where as I like to collect records and go to see live bands. I have little patience for board games or computer games, but he loves them. Luckily we both like to read, so before our son was born we spent many weekends sitting in cafes together reading the newspapers or fiction or graphic novels. We got married in Las Vegas by an Elvis impersonator! David planned the whole thing as a surprise for me, which was perfect because I am not the wedding planning type.

Our son Milo was born in October 2012. He also loves books and animals and music, is generally very cheerful and fun to be around, and amazes us on a regular basis.

We also live with our close friend Meghan who has her own space in our basement. She is helpful and silly and creative.

We have four roommates of the furry variety: a sweet lab-shepherd mix named Sacha, a wiley husky-border collie mix named Catie, a very waggy border collie-terrier mix named Oreo, and an ancient tabby cat named Potter. All the animals were rescues, which is something we feel very passionate about. Unfortunately they are all senior citizens, and we are now dealing with the new challenges and heartbreaks that come with older animals.

Lovely home, lovely words! More of both after the jump…

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DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

I love starting the week with a really great giveaway! Today’s prize is sponsored by Olive Juice Kids. They’re offering a generous $150 gift certificate. Yippee!

No doubt some of you are in need of some fresh, warm weather pieces for family reunions and summer vacations. And others are already searching out sturdy, classic clothes for the next school year. In either case, Olive Juice  has you covered. They’ve been a fantastic sponsor of Design Mom for the past few years and I simply love their clothes! Their designs are consistently beautiful, high quality, and with style that will last.

olive-juice-kids-summer-2014

If you’re looking for something with a European feel, something that feels unusual, Olive Juice will have the perfect thing. Take a look at their LookBook for inspiration! Best of all, their clothes truly are made to be worn by kids — the cuts and materials are comfortable and realistic. Right now, I’m shopping for summer clothes — this Liberty Print Annie Dress, this Fresca Ruffle Bib Dress, and these Loungewear Pants have caught my eye (all three are on sale as part of the Summer Clearance!).

Visit Olive Juice Kids and leave a comment below to enter. I’d love to know what you’re shopping for these days — a family vacation? summer portraits? or maybe your child’s wardrobe just needs some fresh pieces? The winner will be announced on Thursday. Good luck!

——-

Marlena is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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#LikeAGirl

June 30, 2014

By Gabrielle.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, I wanted to share this powerful video. It’s actually a commercial, but doesn’t feel commercial at all. And I think it brings up a really important topic. Ralph sent the link to me and I’ve watched it a dozen times — and I had the kids watch it too.

Little June was uninterested. : ) Oscar and Betty were a little confused by it. They haven’t yet learned that the phrase “like a girl” is often used as a way to cut someone down. But Olive, Maude and Ralph were all impacted. We had a good discussion about the commercial, and that it wasn’t trying to set up competition between girls and boys, but was simply highlighting the fact that there’s nothing shameful about being a girl. I loved this line near the end:

“I would run like myself.”

like-a-girl

Have you watched it? Or shared it with your kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

P.S. — I linked to this a couple of Fridays ago, but I think it relates well to the video above. The words we use matter! That old rhyme — sticks and stones may brake my bones, but names will never hurt me — is dead wrong.

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A Few Things

June 27, 2014

Gabrielle Blair in a Tree

By Gabrielle. Image by Ben Blair.

Hello, Friends! How was your week? In my own life, I tend to measure my days by productivity (I realize, it’s not always a great measurement), and in that light, this week was not my best. But, if I measure it in laid-back family time, it was a pretty decent week! : )

This weekend, we’ll be picking up Olive & Maude from Girls Camp, stopping by Lowe’s to choose some items for the Front Porch Makeover we’re working on, and I’d love to find a good place to go walking. How about you? Any fun plans?

While I read your (awesome!) procrastination tips, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- Have you heard of anti-jokes? Thanks, Laurie.

David Sedaris meets Fitbit.

Typographic blocks.

Two parent households can be lethal.

Pantone directory of skin color. Thanks, Maude.

- OKGO’s new video.

- Bright Lights & Brothels. Hard to read, but we need to read it.

- Just as I suspected — one of my ancestors must have been terrified of spiders.

- Charming! Sarah Jessica Parker and Jerry Seinfeld.

- One 12 year-old’s solution to keep babies from being forgotten in cars.

- What do you carry to the beach? I’m considering this mesh tote.

- A sweet read. How my parents fell in love, 30 years later.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Did I tell you I finally did some tree-climbing in our backyard? It was super fun! I’m sorry I waited so long.

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Procrastination Mode

June 26, 2014

June Swinging1

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Oh man. I can not seem to get a handle on this week. I had three possible posts on the schedule for today (one about the stools we recovered, one about the cottage in France, and one about last week’s Alt Summit), with plans to write two of them. And now it’s almost 4:00 in the afternoon and I haven’t written anything at all.

The week after Alt Summit can feel like this, so it’s ridiculous that it still surprises me, but here I am, surprised yet again. I’ve been trying to figure out what threw me off this week and concluded that some of it is playing catchup after being gone, some of it is processing what I learned and experienced last week, and some of it is adjusting to the summer schedule with the kids home. Combined, it definitely feels like I’m falling into procrastination mode.

June Swinging2

But. I really, really can’t be in procrastination mode! I’ve got kids and commitments and deadlines that need attention. So I’m trying to remember my best methods for getting back to work. Alas, I’m coming up short.

Help a girl out, please! If/when you find yourself in procrastination mode, how do you get out of it? Tips, tricks, and techniques all welcome! : )

P.S. — I love these images of June practicing the particular skill of lifting oneself onto a swing. She’s officially a preshooler! Also, did I tell you she’s had a big haircut since these photos we’re shot? I need to share pics.

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DIY: Sun Dye Bandanas. You've got to try this. Sun dye is awesome!  |  Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle. This post brought to you by Quaker Chewy — they’re all about fueling backyard fun. In fact, they’re offering free Nerf toys! Details at bottom.

———

Last week, I told you about the Welcome to Summer party we organized with Liz and Jordan — we had the cousins over for a fun afternoon in the sun to mark the end of the school year. Each family handled two activities, which made for a full, happy, party agenda and eliminated any chance of boredom. Hah! It turned out to be a really memorable event, and I’m sure the kids will continue to talk about it for weeks and years to come.

DIY: Sun Dye Bandanas. You've got to try this. Sun dye is awesome!  |  Design Mom

I was in charge of Lemonade Toasts and Sun-dye Prints. I’m excited to tell you all about the Sun-Dye process today! Liz and Jordan are writing about their activities too — a Bubble Relay Race, and a Giant Water Balloon Slingshot.

DIY: Sun Dye Bandanas. You've got to try this. Sun dye is awesome!  |  Design Mom

Let me start by telling you I’m kind of obsessed with sun-dyes. They are super cool and feel a little magical. Essentially, they are dyes that are colorless when you apply them, but turn vibrant colors when exposed to sunlight. My mom introduced sun-dyes to me when I was in college and I’ve been going through sun-dye phases ever since.

For this activity, we decided to dye bandanas. I couldn’t actually find plain white bandanas, so we used square cotton dishcloths instead. They’re a generous size and work as head wraps, capes, or can even be tied around the waists of little ones as a beach/pool coverup.

DIY: Sun Dye Bandanas. You've got to try this. Sun dye is awesome!  |  Design Mom

The only brand of sun-dye that I’m aware of is called Inkodye. It doesn’t come in a ton of colors, but you could do a little color-mixing if you want to expand the palette. The main trick with sun-dye is you need both a low-light area and a sunny area to work in. The dye will start exposing as soon as there’s even a hint of sunlight, so you want to apply the ink, and add any objects that you want to use to block the sunlight, in low light.

DIY: Sun Dye Bandanas. You've got to try this. Sun dye is awesome!  |  Design Mom

Adding objects creates a pattern — we used plants, leaves, even clothespins. Pretty much any opaque object could work. In fact, Jordan told me about a friend who painted a duvet cover with Inkodye, then took a nap on it in the sun, and when she woke up, the imprint of her body was on the duvet. So cool!

DIY: Sun Dye Bandanas. You've got to try this. Sun dye is awesome!  |  Design Mom

One of the nice things about this activity is that there is some downtime. After bubble relays and water balloon sling shots, the kids could sit and relax and have a snack while the sun did its work.

DIY: Sun Dye Bandanas. You've got to try this. Sun dye is awesome!  |  Design Mom

One note: I would recommend having extra dyeable items on hand, because the process is super fun! And you’ll definitely want to dye more than one item. : )

DIY: Sun Dye Bandanas. You've got to try this. Sun dye is awesome!  |  Design Mom

I love this project! Even if your kids aren’t artsy, they’ll get a kick out of seeing the colors appear in the sunlight. And it’s pretty much no fail — no matter what objects you add, or even if you add none-at-all, the bandana is going to look fantastic.

DIY: Sun Dye Bandanas. You've got to try this. Sun dye is awesome!  |  Design Mom

Tell me, Friends. Have you ever tried sun-dyes? Is your imagination running with objects you could use to create patterns? (Me too!)

quaker-chewy
Thanks to Quaker Chewy for sponsoring our Welcome to Summer Party and fueling backyard fun! Quaker Chewy gives kids the energy they need to play. That’s why Quaker and NERF are teaming up to fuel backyard fun, helping families get active together, right in their own backyard. When you buy three specially-marked boxes of Quaker Chewy, you can enter the codes online at http://fuelfun.quakeroats.com to get a free Nerf sports item.

Click here for more DIY notes and instructions.

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By Gabrielle.

Nadine Mellor has believed in adventure – at least once a month – for most of her adult life, and that didn’t change when two kids were added to the equation. While it seems to be a much easier proposition to just stay at home with young ones, she lays out a pretty convincing argument of why we should just pack a carryon and go! I like her style.

Traveling with kids is, admittedly, a huge part of Nadine’s life. She is the London-based editor of i-escape Kids Collection, which features over 850 stylish family-friendly hotels, B&Bs, city apartments, and house rentals spanning 45 countries worldwide. I can’t wait to take you on a tour of her life! Friends, please welcome the Mellor family!

Q: Tell us about this jet-setting family.

A: Hi, I’m Nadine and my lovely Irish husband, Colman, and I have two charming and articulate children: our daughter Esme, almost seven, and son Cormac, who will be three in a couple of months. We currently live and work in London, but two years ago we returned home to this great city after five and a half wonderful years in San Francisco – and yes, we definitely left our hearts there! Both kids were born there so they have American citizenship (as well as British, Irish, and Australian nationalities).

Q: You’ve lived and travelled a lot of places with your family. Tell us why you’ve settled in North London.

A: I am actually from Islington, which is where I still live and my parents are 15 minutes’ walk away, which is super now we have kids. I was born and raised in this village. When I met Colman, he was living in South London, which is a great part of town but just not my village, so he did the gallant thing and moved to my area when we decided this was for life. And then just a year later, we had the opportunity to move to San Francisco, which I resisted to start with as I couldn’t imagine uprooting to live abroad again – I had already lived in Australia for seven years in three different stints – but once I was there I fell in love with it and we very nearly stayed in the States.

However, it is the right decision to return to London, closer to family and friends, and being in Europe speaks to us. Ultimately, we are from the British Isles. And Europe is such a fab place to live – so many different languages and cultures in a relatively small and accessible area – so we will never run out of great places to visit!

More fireplaces and charm, after the jump!

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Appearance

June 23, 2014

Bangs

Selfie & text by Gabrielle.

Thank you for the terrific comments and discussion last week about experimenting with looks and identity. I went out that same day and had bangs cut! Not an extreme change, I realize, but still fun to get a glimpse of myself in the mirror and see something new.

Related to the same topic, Ben Blair told me there’s a section in the book, The Singularity Is Near, that talks about the future, and predicts that a time will come when we can control how we appear to others. To be clear, it doesn’t say that we will actually change our bodies, but that we would control how we are perceived. So, if we want to appear taller (or shorter), we can. If we want to appear with darker (or lighter) skin, we can. If we want to appear curvier (or thinner), we can.

I have no idea how this will technically work (I think he said something about avatars), but let’s pretend for a minute that it will. Let’s imagine for a minute that it’s a fact. If you could appear however you like to the people that you encounter — without actually changing your body (no pain, no surgery) — would you choose to look any different than you do now?

My first thought, when Ben told me about the concept, is that we will all choose to appear as supermodels — bronzed and tall and lithe like Iman. It will be non-stop super models all day long. Supermodels at the grocery store, supermodels at the bank, supermodels at the dry cleaner.

Then, I thought: no, to appear as a completely different person will be difficult — people will want to be recognized by friends and family and colleagues. So perhaps it will be subtle things, like being perceived as having straighter teeth, or smaller pores, or a scar that can no longer be seen. This would be closer to what some people do right now — dyeing hair or getting nails painted or wearing spanx.

Next, I thought: I can already guess at the backlash. If everyone appears as a perfectly coiffed, super gorgeous human all the time, I can imagine a resurgence of appreciation for appearing naturally. A recognition of the true beauty found in the variety of the human race.

As I continued thinking about this, my friend Rona came to mind. I met Rona when Ben Blair and I lived in Athens, Greece, seventeen years ago. She was an expat from England, and sometimes we would discuss accents in England and how they affect social status. She said that in certain shops, she would use a different accent — an accent that made her sound like she was part of the nobility — in order to get better service. It wasn’t a change to her body, but still affected how she was perceived.

This got me considering characteristics beyond physical bodies — things like accents, or confidence, or attitude (maybe rebellious, or obedient), or even clothes and brand names — and how they affect how we are perceived by others.

I haven’t read the book, and it’s very likely I don’t understand correctly, but ignore that for a minute and chat with me. What thoughts come to mind for you? If you could appear differently to those around you, would you? Would you go for a drastic change, appear as is, or something in between? And whatever you would choose (from drastic to no change at all), what does that tell you about your self-image? Do you like how you look right now? Do you feel like people perceive you accurately and positively?

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Slow Cooker Recipe: Chicken Taco Salad   |   Design Mom  #crockpot

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Lindsey of Café Johnsonia.

It’s almost been a year since we moved to The Treehouse, and now that we have such a wonderful gathering space, we’ve really upped the frequency of get-togethers. We have a few standby menus that we like to serve to guests, and Taco Salad sits right at the top of that list — taco salad is like the easiest thing to serve ever!

Just lay all the toppings out on the table and let guests build their own. This is particularly great if you’re accommodating special diets. Vegetarians skip the chicken. Dairy-free eaters skip the cheese. Everything is naturally gluten-free. Everyone finds something they can eat. : )

Slow Cooker Recipe: Chicken Taco Salad   |   Design Mom  #crockpot Slow Cooker Recipe: Chicken Taco Salad   |   Design Mom  #crockpot

For this recipe we’ve used chicken thighs, which are really great for long, slow cooking because they are more flavorful and tender. It’s a snap to put together too. Just put everything into the slow cooker (or Dutch oven — that’s what we use!) and forget about it for a few hours.

Beyond that, the only other prep work is shredding the lettuce and getting the other toppings ready. It may not be a true 30-minute meal in that it cooks for several hours, but it sure comes together in a flash. I love those kinds of meals!

Let’s get cooking.

Click for the recipe and tips!

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A Few Things

June 20, 2014

Martha Stewart at Alt Summit

By Gabrielle. Image by Laurie Smithwick.

Wow! What a week. I LOVE Alt Summit. What an amazing thing it is to meet and spend time with so many inspiring women. Old friends, new friends, and lots of family. And I’m still on a high from getting to interview Martha Stewart for her keynote address! She was as down-to-earth and gracious and smart and funny as could be. I can’t wait to tell you more about it when I’ve had time to process —and when the video of the keynote is ready to share.

Now, on to the weekend! Ben Blair flew in to Salt Lake City yesterday — just in time to see the big interview. And tomorrow, we’ll attend the wedding of our nephew here in Utah. We’re very much looking forward to it. How about you? Any weekend plans you’re looking forward to?

While I attend my Friday meetings and say my Alt Summit goodbyes, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- The last women footbinders of China.

- This is how my neighborhood sounds when Brazil scores in the World Cup.

- Why Blue Ivy’s hair matters.

- Every English novel ever.

- Kind of surprising news – but don’t spray that sunscreen on your kids! (I adore the convenience of sunscreen sprays, so this bums me out.)

- Meet The Exodus Road.

Generation Grit — American Girl, but for boys. Thoughts?

- Silly: Mentos suit + Diet Coke dunk tank.

- These beach cake toppers made me smile.

- The critical importance of kindness.

- Are you doing anything to mark the Summer Solstice? Maybe a visit to Stonehenge?

I hope you have a marvelous weekend — and greet the new season with open arms! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Since the year began, I’ve been trying to average 7 posts per week, but this week, I’ve only managed 5. It was just one of those weeks! Ben Blair and I fly back to Oakland Saturday evening, so I should be back to the usual schedule starting Monday.

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By Gabrielle. pray4trax necklaces available in the little vikings Etsy shop.

Oh, goodness, but I enjoy browsing through Kassi Bacquet‘s life with her five lovely babes. Her experience began with the birth of her son when she was in high school and ends with the arrival of twins, one of whom was born with a fatal genetic disease. I thought we could all glean a lesson or two from this mama, especially the honesty and grace she carries with her daily. Please enjoy her words, Friends!

Q: Tell us about you and your beautiful family! 

A: Gosh, my husband and I are both thirty-four and very young at heart. I had Tyler at sixteen, so he and I have always been pretty close…although now that he’s a teen and almost seventeen, he has far less time for dear old mom! We have a lot of dance parties at home with my two daughters – Tannyn, who is nine, and Tayli, who is six – and the twins, Tavvi and Trax, who are 19 months. Our home is loud, crazy, and wild almost all of the time! It’s never quiet until the kids are in bed.

We’re a family of surfers. Dan, my husband, and the three older kids surf competitively here on the gulf coast. We love the beach and now that the babies are older, they are surfing, too.

A birth and a diagnosis and a gorgeous shot of Kassi with her twins, just ahead.

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Cassie Jones.

When I put together a Living With Kids tour, I try to mix in at least one photo of the family – or just one small member of it who happens to be running through a gorgeous glimpse of a room! But never have I posted a home tour where every photo includes a family living in it. This week is different, then. And instead of distracting from the interiors and bright ideas, the Carpenters added something decidedly sweet to our peek. The home came alive. You’ll see. (And you’ll also probably laugh out loud when you read Hannah’s response to when her home works best!)

Welcome, Carpenter family!

Q: Please tell us all about this adorable family.

A: We are the Carpenters. My husband, Heath, is a writer, college English professor, and is currently getting his doctorate in Heritage Studies. His most loved authors range from the greats like NT Wright and William Faulkner to the equally great Andre 3000 and Johnny Cash. Needless to say, Heath has diverse interests…which keeps things fresh around here.

I am a freelance illustrator and, like many moms, I enjoy blogging. Between my illustration work, blogging, and homeschooling our kids, I have a full plate and a full life. Heath and I spend our lives learning the balance; the balance of home and work, of family and friends, necessity and want, of us and others, and the ultimate balance of the secular and the spiritual. We’re a good team, Heath and I.

We have four kids: Tristin (11), Silas (seven), Enid (five), and Tom (almost two). Tristin is your classic first child, responsible to a fault. She is a second mother to my other children. She loves Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, and manatees.

Silas is my creative child. While he can’t focus on a task like cleaning his room for longer than, oh, 30 seconds, he can sit and draw for hours. His little brain is always creating, and he can make up a killer joke:  ”Why wouldn’t the wheel turn at night? It was notturnal.”

Enid is emotional and excitable and skips everywhere she goes, even from one room to the next in our little home. She loves koalas and sucking her thumb and has the power to simultaneously make you feel like the best person ever and the worst.

Tom. Oh, Tom. Tom has rocked our world. He is unlike any of the others: busy, destructive, fearless, needy, and just sweet enough that we love him anyway. We all live together in a little home in a little city just north of Little Rock.

More day-in-the-life scenes, coming right up!

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Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle. This post brought to you by Quaker Chewy — they’re all about fueling backyard fun. In fact, they’re offering free Nerf toys! Details at bottom.

——–

Have you ever thrown a party at the end of the school year? We like to mark the change in weather with an outing or a get together. This year, we had the cousins over for a Welcome to Summer party. Jordan, Liz and I divided up the activities and turned a regular old Sunday afternoon into an epic event! There was lots of laughing, lots of mess, and everyone ended the day with big grins plastered across our faces.

I was in charge of Lemonade Toasts and Sun-dye Prints. I’ll tell you all about one activity today and another next week, in case you’d like try them out at your own parties this summer. Liz and Jordan are writing about their activities too — Fruit Kabob Sundaes and a Giant Color Fight!

Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

Lemonade Toasts was Ben Blair’s brilliant idea. It’s simple, adorable, and was a great way to start the party and get people thinking about how much good stuff there is to look forward to in the summer.

Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

We printed out a basic prompt on cardstock and cut it into strips. Then the kids filled out the strips. The wording of the prompt is: This summer, I want to ________. Here’s to ______ and ______!

The kids filled them in with things like: This summer I want to go to the beach. Here’s to surfing and sand! Or, This summer I want to read 50 books. Here’s to free time and no school!

Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

Then, they took turns standing on a crate and reading their toasts to the whole family — with a fancy glass of lemonade in hand!

Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

Things that are awesome about this activity:

1) It couldn’t be easier.

Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

2) The kids LOVED it. It gave each child a chance to be in the spotlight. Each child could think about what they wanted to say, and each one received a round of applause when they were done. It feels good to be heard and acknowledged!

Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

3) Sometimes, kids doing grownup things (like toasts) is the cutest thing ever. Seeing their faces get serious, so they could concentrate and read the words correctly, then clinking their glasses of lemonade with their cousins, was as charming as can be.

Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

4) It’s nice to find out what they’re looking forward to most about the summer!

I highly recommend this activity. Five stars! It really was a wonderful way to kick off the gathering, and was as fun for the grownups to watch as it was for the kids to participate.

Tell me, Friends. Anything fun you’re doing (or you did) to welcome summer vacation?

quaker-chewy
P.S. — Thanks to Quaker Chewy for sponsoring our Welcome to Summer Party and fueling backyard fun! Quaker Chewy gives kids the energy they need to play. That’s why Quaker and NERF are teaming up to fuel backyard fun, helping families get active together, right in their own backyard. When you buy three specially-marked boxes of Quaker Chewy, you can enter the codes online at http://fuelfun.quakeroats.com to get a free Nerf sports item.

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This Is Forty

June 16, 2014

matteo montanari for d la repubblica delle donne

By Gabrielle. Image by Matteo Montanari for d la repubblica delle donne.

So. I didn’t mention it last week, but on Saturday it was my birthday. I feel odd about mentioning my birthday on the blog. With a forum like Design Mom, I’m lucky, because I get kind comments and emails from readers regularly, so it somehow feels greedy if I mention my birthday, as though I’m hoping for special greetings. But now that’s it’s over, I want to talk about it. Because it was a big one. I turned 40!

I’ve been thinking about this birthday for awhile. Forty has a reputation for being a difficult birthday, and I wanted to avoid feeling bummed out. I figured if I made a good plan in advance, I wouldn’t be caught off guard when the big day arrived. The idea of a mid-life crisis is really discouraging to me, and I think I’m actively trying to avoid it if at all possible.

So in January of this year, when I was working on New Year’s Resolutions and plans for 2014, I put some thought into my birthday. What did I want to do? Have a big party? Go on a trip? Accomplish a goal? Get in good shape? Make a list of 40 things I could do to commemorate the day?

I pondered possibilities over a few days and the thought that kept coming back to me was: grooming.

What do I mean by grooming?

Keep reading for a long post on the topic…

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A Few Things

June 13, 2014

polkadot windows

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? We are feeling festive at the Blair house. School is out! Hooray! We’ve been celebrating with ice cream and a day of nothing on the schedule. Which is the best!

This should be a fun weekend. A laid back Saturday and Father’s Day on Sunday. I’m also headed to Salt Lake City on Sunday afternoon — because Alt Summit Summer is next week! It’s going to be a terrific conference — feel free to check out the speakers and schedule if you’re curious. The thing I’m most excited about? On Thursday, I’m interviewing Martha Stewart for her Keynote Address! Holy moly. I admit, I’m a little nervous. And I can not for the life of me figure out what to wear. Hah!

While I start getting packed for next week, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- How to Not Review Women’s Writing.

- I regret to inform you that my wedding to Captain Von Trapp has been cancelled.

- Grilled Cheese for grownups (and don’t forget the tomato soup!). Thanks, Dani.

- Were you ever left in the car growing up while your mom ran into the grocery store to get milk? Or paid for gas? Fast forward to 2014: One mom did just that. The boy was completely fine, but she became a criminal. The Day I Left My Son in the Car.

- Have you seen this ad? It’s like a punch to the gut. Words matter!

- He turned his bedroom into an arcade.

- When negotiating, should women Lean Out?

- Ideas for a Welcome Summer party!

- Nothing like Father’s Day to make me miss my dad. Enjoyed this article about honoring dads who aren’t here anymore. Thanks, Amy. 

- 5 minutes in a mom’s head.

- I’m crazy sad about this news. Two people, whose work I view as hugely positive to the Mormon community, are being threatened with excommunication. I’m following the story closely (this interview was informative), and trying to wrap my head around what possible good could come from this action. I think this article did a good job of articulating some of the disheartening implications. It feels like the church is saying, “There’s room for everyone! Except you and you.” I’m grieving for my community.

Sorry to end the list on a bummer note. In contrast, I hope you have a truly wonderful weekend! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Brimful Toys Giveaway

June 12, 2014

DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

What is it about June that brings out the awesome giveaways? Whatever it is, I’ll take it! Today’s giveaway is a really good one. It’s sponsored by Brimful, a happy shop stocking the most wonderful toys and gifts for babies, ages 0-18 months. For a prize, they’re offering a $100 store credit so you can choose your favorites for all the lovely babies in your life!

Brimful Toys - Summer 2014

If you’re like me, you have a dozen pregnant friends at the moment (or maybe you’re expecting yourself!), so stocking up baby gifts is a good idea. And Brimful has everything cute thing you could want. Created by two mothers, Brimful focuses on stocking modern, whimsical and well-crafted items — toysdecorbooks and accessories.

Brimful Toys - Summer 2014

There are several sweet items I have bookmarked for baby gifts — Juliette Rabbit, the Rainbow Teething Ring, and the Trotting Horses pull toy, are among my favorites. I love picking out sweet things for babies!

Extra fun: Brimful is offering a 20% off coupon to all Design Mom Readers. The code is DMBRIMFUL20 and is good through June 16th.

Visit Brimful and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to hear what you think of the shop. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

——-

Jessica C. is the lucky winner. Good luck!

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