A Few Things

May 6, 2016

Microsculpture

By Gabrielle. Photo by Levon Biss.

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

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

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

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

- The white wall controversy.

- 4 men with 4 very different incomes.

- Stop saying “I feel like”. (NYT)

- I want to study the detail in these photos.

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

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

- Intersectionality: Boundaries, Bathrooms, and Black Lives.

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

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

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

- Hah! Obituaries my mother wrote for me.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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

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Post by Betty Blair, age 9. Photos and intro by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Miracle-Gro.

Betty is a Garden Ambassador at her elementary school. She LOVES working in the garden. She’s learning how to weed, how to compost and make soil, how to clean and take care of her tools, how to plant seeds, and how to water the garden. She’s very excited about gardening and can’t wait to plant flowers in our yard. She especially likes to teach other kids what she is learning.

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To help encourage her gardening love, I suggested she write a blog post for fellow kids to teach them a gardening skill. She was delighted by the idea and decided to teach “how to pot a flower to keep on the front porch”. She said, “then the kids can water it themselves, and be responsible for it, and watch it grow.” I thought that sounded wonderful. So here is Betty, with a post created for your kids — or for any brand-new gardener!

Betty says:

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Step 1 — You need to choose the right pot. It needs to have a hole in the bottom. This is very important, because if it doesn’t have a hole in the bottom, then the water won’t be able to escape and it will sort-of like drown the roots.

Here’s a pot without a hole (I give it a thumbs down):

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There are lots of kinds of pots. The orangish-brown kinds are usual, but they break. I like these metal ones because they don’t break. Plastic ones don’t break either.

Step 2 — Put the potting mix in.

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This is a fun part. It’s very messy! Use a trowel (that’s a small hand shovel), or a paper cup, and scoop the soil up and put it in the pot.

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Keep doing that until it’s about three-quarters of the way up.

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It’s really good to use gloves for this part, because if you don’t, then your hands can get really dirty, and it’s hard to clean the dirt that gets under your fingernails.

Step 3 — Choose your flower.

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Take the plant info out, and then slowly and very carefully take the plastic pot off. I like to hold the main plant with one hand, and then squeeze the pot at the bottom with my other hand, and the plant will slide out.

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Step 4 — Look at the shape of the rootball. The rootball is the soil and roots of the plant. Then dig a hole in the potting mix that is about the same size as the rootball.

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Put the plant in the hole.

Step 5 — Add more potting mix around the sides of the plant.

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Pat it down so the soil isn’t loose. Add more soil until the pot is almost full. Leave about 1/2 inch at the top.

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Dust off the leaves if they have any soil on them.

Step 6 — Water! This part is the funnest.

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You can use a watering can or a cup of water. But don’t use a hose! Because the hose is too powerful and it could spray away all the soil.

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Water it gently until you see some water come out of the drainage hole.

Step 7 — Read the plant info.

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It will tell you if the plant needs sun or shade. And it will tell you how much water it needs, and how big it will get.

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This plant goes up to like 10 inches!

You can memorize what is on the plant info, or you can put it back in the soil so you don’t lose it.

Step 8 — Now it’s planted, but you still need to take care of it if you want it to grow. Check the plant each day. See if it needs water. Move it to a sunny place (if it needs sun). And you also need to feed it. There are different kinds of plant food — there are crystals you mix with water, liquid plant food, and food that you shake on and mix into the soil.

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Plant food helps flowers get their biggest. I used potting soil that already has plant food in it. Then I don’t need to worry about feeding the plant for about 6 months. After that, you can buy plant food and use it whenever the flowers need it.

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That’s it! I think you’ll love doing this project. My little sister June watched me pot this flower and she couldn’t wait to try it herself. Playing with dirt is just really fun! Another one of my favorite parts about gardening is seeing the plants grow, and I really like watering and feeding the plants and making sure they’re being cared for.

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I hope you get to put a pot of flowers on your porch and watch them grow!

——

Wow, Betty! That was awesome. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned so far. I hope there are lots of kids who get to try it out themselves.

I’m over the moon that Betty is learning and caring for plants at an early age. This is knowledge and these are habits that will serve her for her whole life!

Okay you expert gardeners, your turn. Anything else you would you add to Betty’s info? I’d also love to know if gardening is a part of your life. Do you have a yard that you work in? Or maybe a balcony garden or windowsill garden? And did you garden as a kid? I have lots of gardening memories as a child. Weeding the grapevines and picking fresh mint to garnish Sunday dinner are the first two that come to mind! How about you?

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By Gabrielle.

Every so often when I’m browsing Instagram, a painting pops up that makes my heart dance. It is usually one of Kirsten Jackson’s.

Please settle in for a colorful, inspiring, melt-your-insides account of a day-in-the-life of an artist, runner, wife, and mom. I really think you’re going to fall in love with this one. Welcome, Kirsten! We can’t wait to follow along your day!

The minute I woke up today, I put the running clothes on. I’m out the door by 6:00 am for my morning run. I do this at least five times a week. Running is something that keeps me sane.

My husband Ian is also always up early. He wakes me so I’m extremely lucky because I don’t ever need an alarm clock!

My 15-year-old son Alexander came for a run with me this morning. He comes with me at least twice a week. It’s quality time that I really value. We ran the bayside trail in Melbourne and saw the most beautiful pink sunrise as we ran this morning.

My 18-year-old daughter Taylor was still at home fast asleep as she usually is at that time of the morning! She’s just finished high school, so she’s allowed a bit of sleep in time.

My mornings are always rushed. I made it back from my run by 7.10 am to get my children’s breakfast and lunch ready. I sometimes can’t believe I’m still getting their breakfast for them! It’s a Mum thing, but I feel better when I know they have had a healthy start to the day. 

I’m a creature of habit, so after I dropped my son Alexander at the train station to catch the train to school, I had breakfast at the same café I do every morning. I always take our dog Canny, a West Highland Terrier, with me and I have my usual: scrambled eggs on gluten-free toast and a coffee. After breakfast, I took Canny for a half-an-hour walk along the beach.

I live in a bayside suburb of Melbourne called Hampton. It’s a fantastic area to live, with lots of fabulous clothes shops, cafes, and galleries. It’s a short walk for me to get to the beach.

So much color and love, straight ahead!

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Birthday Bummer

May 4, 2016

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Photo and text by Gabrielle. Super cute cake flags here.

On Friday, when I was at the conference, I joined an art session taught by the fabulous A’Driane Nieves. I settled myself at one of the tables and as I got to know my table mates, it turned out that most of us had June birthdays (which means we are Geminis, if you follow that sort of thing). In fact, one of the women even had my exact same birthday! It’s always fun to find a birthday mate, right?

Except when it isn’t.

After realizing we had the same birthday, June 14th, she said, “You know, it’s also Donald Trump’s birthday. June 14th. Flag Day.”

My mouth fell open. I have rarely been caught that off guard. I said, “Are you joking? Is that for real?” I could not believe it. But apparently it’s true. I share a birthday with Donald Trump.

If you had told me this 2 years ago, it would not have even registered in my brain. I would have heard it and forgotten it within milliseconds. But when I heard the same thing a few days ago, I was so bummed! So super bummed! I know it doesn’t actually mean anything, and by the end of the day I was giggling about it, but still, I don’t want to share a birthday with Donald Trump.

Oh well.

Tell me, Friends. Who are the famous people you share a birthday with? Anyone you adore? I hope so! Not sure who shares your birthday? A quick web search will tell you — try “famous people born on [date]“. Go search, because I want to hear!

P.S. — I just heard the news that Ted Cruz dropped out of the Republican nominee race, and that Donald Trump is officially the leader of the Republican party. 

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cut-letters 8.1

By Gabrielle. Photos by Amy Christie.

Here it is. The best idea for last-minute celebrations and forgotten holidays! You’ll want to bookmark or pin this one and keep it handy. It’s awesome because it looks special but only requires kindergarten-level crafting. Can you cut basic shapes out of paper with scissors? Then you’re good.

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Let’s take Mother’s Day for example. It’s coming up on Sunday. Have you thought about what you are doing for the moms in your life? Even if you’re out of time, you can manage store bought cupcakes topped with a cut letter message. A simple project that happens to look cool. Extra points if you spell out something sassy!

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Just about anyone (including little hands) can cut out letters, so this can be a family effort, or a surprise the kids make for Mom or Dad or a friend’s birthday. And, I promise, the recipient will love it.

Pick up some baked goods at the grocery store. Cupcakes are cute, but donuts or muffins or brownies (or cake or pie) work too. Grab your sweets and let’s get to work!

Click here for the simple tutorial, plus free alphabet download!

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Chegg - 1

Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Chegg — get a 30-minute FREE trial to try out Chegg Tutors. Sign up HERE to receive your free trial — just in time for finals!

Okay you guys. This is a two-post part. In the second part, I want to give you a school report on the kids. And in part one, I want to remind you about the awesomeness of Chegg — the online tutoring service we fell in love with last fall. We’ve used it a bunch over the school year, and have ramped our use up a bit now that May has arrived. It’s officially test month at our house! AP tests and the SAT test to be exact. Which has Maude making faces at the camera. : )

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If Chegg is new to you, here’s the rundown: it’s an online service that gives students instant, on-demand access to real live tutors. Tutors on any subject you can think of. And not just any tutors, total pros! Tutors are vetted carefully, and many are either current students or recent graduates of top-tier colleges and universities around the world. In fact, 98% of lessons on Chegg Tutors have a positive review!

Maude has used the service the most of all my kids and she loves that she can pick a female tutor (she told me she prefers learning math from women), and that she can see where they went to school. Sometimes she picks a tutor that went to a university she’s interested in attending — and then she can ask them about it! Maude chose a tutoring session with Anastasia — she’s majoring in Economics and Public Policy (honors) at University of Chicago. Maude has become very interested in the University of Chicago (via their mailings), but wants to know more about it, so that was a fantastic connection!

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Chegg is really easy to use. You have total control — from your account, you can browse and message tutors, schedule lessons, and manage billing for your student. If you want to jump in and find a tutor, here’s the 4-steps process:

1) Start by entering a subject like “Geometry” on the Chegg Tutors homepage. (Chrome, Firefox and IE are the best browsers
to use).

2) Tell the site a little bit about what your teen is studying and needs help with. For example, “Taking AP US History and
confused on topics around the Vietnam war for an essay” or “Need help with a problem set in pre-calculus — confused about how to find the roots of a polynomial function”

3) From there, available tutors who can help will send you messages about their availability. You can chat for free to make
sure the tutor you set your child up with is a good fit. You can start a lesson immediately, or schedule one a later time.

4) Lesson time! Just click ‘Enter the Lesson” and meet your tutor there. Once the lesson is over, you can give your tutor a positive or negative review, depending on how the lesson went.

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The Chegg platform is really cool because you can interact in different ways — you can text chat, or video chat, or even draw mathematical diagrams. This is important because as we all remember, different subjects require different interactions. Sometimes you need graph paper or a white board, and other time you just need someone who can verbally explain things to you in a way that’s easy to understand.

But what I like most about Chegg is the convenience. No traveling necessary. No advanced scheduling required. And it’s available 24/7! Which means if your teen is having a frustrating homework night — even a very late night — Chegg can come to the rescue. Oh. And it’s affordable too. You only pay for time your student spends in a lesson with their tutor. If your teen only needs help for 20 minutes, that’s all you pay for.

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Chegg is aimed at high school and college students, and it’s perfect for getting students ready for finals — helping them prep for AP exams, brush up on confusing topics, or just getting back on track before the end of the school year.

It gets two thumbs up from me and my kids. Highly recommend!

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Okay. Now here’s a little report on the kids and school…

Click through for a kid-by-kid report!

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By Gabrielle.

I’m just going to say it: I wish Katie would be more active on social media. Her Instagram stream is gorgeous, her paintings are ethereal, and, judging from this interview, I could use a dose of her on the daily. But when she explains her absence so sweetly and eloquently, I have to understand.

Still, I’m pleased as punch she’s here with us today! I hope you are, too. Welcome, Katie!

Hi everyone! My name is Katie Stratton. I’m a native Ohioan and painter living in Dayton with my partner Matt and our two kids. Max is 11, and Phoebe, who we call Bee, is three. We’ve also got a pit bull puppy named Wilbur.

Matt and I have been together almost seven years now. We originally met through business. At the time I was painting murals and he was a muralist turned tattoo artist who had old clients he was looking to pass on to another painter. We met for coffee, I was so nervous that forgot to bring my portfolio, and we ended up closing down the coffee shop talking about art and business and life. Instant friends!

Beauty galore, straight ahead!

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donnaandgab

By Gabrielle. The photo is me and my mother.

My mom sent me a sweet note the other day. She was in a reflective mood and was missing the days when she had a house full of 8 kids. I asked her if I could share some of her email, and she said yes. I should warn you, I think some people will feel a wave a guilt as you read this, and if you do, please try and discard that guilt and come discuss with me at the end.

Here’s a section of what my mom wrote:

“I believe, when the day comes and you are forced to lead a simpler life, that you will be pleased that you spent time with your children when you had the chance.  I MISS my children SO MUCH.

One afternoon in Morningside [our neighborhood] I wanted to get outside and called out, “I’m going for a walk. Anyone want to come?” To my surprise, everyone did. No one got to be with me enough, I guess. Maybe it was too much of a good thing for me. The kids were always there and the responsibility morning-noon-and-night, so it was easy to take our time for granted.

I wasn’t an absent mother. I noticed things. Kept track. I tried to listen when someone needed to talk, but the polite ones didn’t want to intrude on my time. Although nothing mattered to me more than my family, I had other things on my mind, too.  Sometimes intruding things. I took on the PTA Presidency at the High School one year — so I could contribute or whatever.  Ironically, a waste of precious time.

Why wasn’t my role as mother-of-eight enough for me to enjoy, to savor? I couldn’t have smiled in their faces enough. Touched them. Sat too close. Rubbed backs enough. Listened to and admired the [music] practicing. I don’t mean I have enormous regret, but “wonderful hindsight” is revealing.

As far as the future, I’m AMAZED at how much more healthy, productive, interesting time is ahead for a woman, after children. It’s been a major surprise to me.”

—-

As I read my mom’s note, it’s no surprise my first instinct was to gather my kids around me, hug them, compliment them, listen to them. But my second instinct was to sort of sigh and resign myself to the idea that maybe there’s no avoiding what my mother is feeling right now.

It got me thinking of advice we’ve all received that sounds wonderful but is kind of impossible to follow. Things like “sleep when the baby sleeps”. I mean, I bet I managed to follow that advice maybe 5 times total in the course of my baby-parenting years. Though I could see how helpful it was in theory, it simply wasn’t advice that worked for me.

Similar to my mom’s note, another piece of general advice that’s often handed out is to “cherish every little moment when your kids are young because they grow up so fast”. I’ve said this myself. To myself. I know it’s true. But again, it’s kind of impossible to follow when you’re actually parenting the little ones. It seems like the only way to make it happen would be to become a person who has endless energy and never tires of small humans and never needs time for herself. (And of course, that person doesn’t exist.)

My mom didn’t send the note to give me guilt, she was just missing her kids and telling me about it. We chatted about it and laughed because I said, “I don’t think a person can ever get to a point where they say, yep, I’ve hugged my children enough. Check that off the list.” Hah!

So my question to you is: Can it be done? Are there people out there who have raised their kids and look back and don’t miss those days? Or don’t wonder about how they spent their time? Should they have trained for that marathon? Should they have taken on that extra assignment at church? Should they have skipped that weekend reunion with their college friends? Are you that person? No regrets? Not even little ones?

What’s your take? When you hear advice about appreciating every moment with your kids, how do you react? As for me, I don’t mind the advice. I hear it and I think about my awesome kids, and my awesome life, and feel loads of gratitude. And then I say to myself that if I’m going to miss my kids in the future (and I’m sure I am), so be it, but I can’t see a way to prevent that, so I’m not going to worry about it now.

How about you?

Also, any thoughts on the last sentences I shared from my mom’s note? About the productive, interesting time after the children’s are raised? Sounds delightful to me!

P.S. — I know Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday, and I know there are lots of people (including myself) with either mixed feelings or negative feelings about the holiday. So my apologies if this conversation is stressing you out. Not my intention, I swear! Sending you all love. I think you’re amazing!

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A Few Things

April 29, 2016

Laguna

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I’m working from a swanky hotel in Southern California today. And I’m very happy to be here — the shot above? I snapped it from my hotel room. Not too shabby. I’m at the Mom 2.0 Conference, and it’s been a really wonderful gathering of peers and colleagues. Lots of late night talks about the work we do online and how to do it better. Since I don’t really have co-workers, I truly treasure these work conferences, and the chance to talk shop with pioneering, entrepreneurial women. (I’m sharing images from the conference on Instagram if you’d like to see.)

Oh. And yesterday, I interviewed Rita Wilson!! It was the closing keynote of the day, and she was simply delightful. Gracious. friendly, talented, smart. And such an inspiration! While she continues to act, a few years ago she launched a second career as a singer-songwriter, and she’s put out two albums. In fact, she’ll be touring with Chicago this summer if you’d like to see her! I love witnessing the kind of bravery it takes to try something totally new, and I felt incredibly lucky to interview her.

I was also super impressed at how hard she worked to remember names and make personal connections with each person she met. When she heard I was from Oakland, she mentioned that her husband (Tom Hanks) had grown up in Oakland too, and I said, “I know! My kids go to the same high school and middle school where he attended!” She lit up like that was the greatest thing ever. Made me feel so good. I love people like that.

I’ve got more conferencing to do today, so I’m going to put down my laptop, but here are a few things I’ve wanted to share before I say goodbye for the weekend:

- Did you see the #MoreThanMean video? Made me weep. “We wouldn’t say it to their faces, so let’s not type it.”

- And now I’m obsessed with these new floating sustainable homes.

- Perks of signing up for the woman card. Hah!

- The mother of Sandra Bland gives a powerful speech.

- The Whopper sign language commercial is very smile inducing — and made me want to learn sign language! (And no, I’m not working with BK, I just like the commercial.)

- Child, Bride, Mother. (NYT)

- Two monks.

- Just because it’s beautiful to watch.

- The Children of Syria. I want to watch this as a family when I get home.

- A little dose of inspiration: Everybody dies, but not everybody lives.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — While I’ve been here, I had the chance to have my aura read and photographed. Have you ever done it? I think I might need to write a post about it.

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Futurists

April 27, 2016

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By Gabrielle. Image from NASA’s Astronomy Pic of the Day.

The other night Ben Blair and I had dinner with two professional Futurists.

Did you know that was a thing you could be for a job? For a career? A futurist? A professional futurist? I was not aware of this until very recently and I find it super fascinating.

Our dinner mates were Mike Courtney and Jason Swanson. As Ben has been presenting on Teachur and the Blockchain, he’s met lots of interesting people, including these two. We got together with them when they were in town for a conference.

No one can predict the future, and futurists don’t claim to. But they do look at research and create models that help people and companies consider future possibilities, and plan for those possibilities.

At the end of the evening, after I’d asked a million questions about what they do, and how they do it, and how it coincides with other strains of future thinking (like The Singularity), I asked one last question: With all the future work you’ve done, and all the developments and inventions and research you can see coming down the line, what’s the thing that you’re most excited about future-wise?

Jason talked about things that are happening with DNA, that will allow people to “turn off” their cancer genes, and manipulate different physical qualities (like eye color). Mike talked about new technologies that would allow us to control the way we think — technologies that will make us want to exercise, and want to skip the donuts, and more profound, allow us to “turn off” our depression or other mental illness.

So crazy to think about! I know this is a bit of a random post, but our dinner conversation has been on my mind and I thought you might find it interesting too. Do you happen to know any futurists? Is it a career your kids might like?

I think about that sometimes — what sort of jobs-I’ve-never-heard-of that will be available to our kids. I mean, I have one of those jobs. Blogging didn’t exist when I was choosing my career! I wonder what job titles are coming down the line, or exist already, and I just haven’t heard of them.

P.S. — Have you ever taken Gretchen Rubin’s quiz about what kind of habit personality you have? Well fun fact: Mike was one of the people who developed it. 

P.P.S. — Speaking of future predictions, did you see this post about terra-forming Mars?

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Gorgeous Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. Cute 3-D elements.

Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Hallmark Signature — click here to shop now for #NoOrdinaryCard or find a store near you.

Yes, it’s still April, but May is coming up quicker than we realize. It’s sneaking up on us this year, and I know why: it’s because April ends on a Saturday.

Gorgeous Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. Cute 3-D elements.

I realize that sounds too simple and ordinary to be causing problems, and I suppose it depends on what sort of calendar you use, but for me, any time a month ends on a Saturday, it wreaks total havoc, because I can’t “see” the next month until the current month is complete.

In contrast, if a month ends on a Tuesday or Wednesday, then I can see the first few days of the new month the whole time. It never surprises me. I know it’s coming, I can see it there, the days already filling in with to-do items and deadlines.

Beautiful Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. Love the watercolor and glitter combo.

Anyway, all that to say: May 1st is happening this coming Sunday whether we realize it or not. Which means Mother’s day is the following Sunday, May 8th. That’s essentially a week and a half away. So soon! Consider this a public service announcement: it’s time to send off your Mother’s Day cards.

Beautiful Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. Love the watercolor and glitter combo.

And speaking of cards, let’s talk about the pleasures of picking out a particular card, something really special, for someone you love (like your Mom! Or your Grandmother!). You can easily picture it: walking up and down the card aisle, picking up the card with the colorful baked goods on the front — because one of your favorite memories over the last year was learning how to make pretty frosted cupcakes with your mom as you prepped for your sister’s baby shower.

Adorable Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. You can pop this one right into the scrapbook.

But then, another card catches your eye — the one with the watercolor flowers. My mom is a genius with her paints and watercolor images always remind me of her. This card is definitely gorgeous.

And then you see the card with the cut paper flowers — it has lazer-cut wood, beads, jewels, glitter — it’s perfect for popping right into a scrapbook (and you know how much your mother-in-law loves scrapbooking).

Adorable Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. You can pop this one right into the scrapbook.

Or maybe you’ll choose the card with black and white stripes. It looks so Parisian! Which would be awesome, since you’re saving up right this minute for a grandma-mother-granddaughter trip to France. A Paris-inspired card would be such an inspiration.

Charming Parisian-inspired Mother's Day Card from Hallmark.

That might be the one! You’ll know for sure as soon as you look as the 30 other cards that are equally tempting. (Perhaps the one with the stitching — because Mom taught you how to sew!)

Honestly, they’ve really knocked it out of the ballpark this year, design wise, with their Hallmark Signature Cards. They are simply stunning. Each one is elevated and embellished in thoughtful ways. They start with thick, quality paper, then feature gorgeous 3-D elements, and pretty non-paper textures — like a bit of ribbon or cloth or wood or real stitching.

As Hallmark says: Because there are no ordinary moms, these are no ordinary cards.

Charming Parisian-inspired Mother's Day Card from Hallmark.

When you’re ready to pick out a card that is beautiful, unique and as as full of dimension and sparkle as your mom, let me do you a kindness, and direct you straight to the Hallmark Signature cards. You can find them in the card aisle, wherever Hallmark cards are sold.

These are the substantial kind of cards, the ones that feel like a gift.

Lovely Mother's Day Card from Hallmark. Super cool real-life stitching!

Oh my. I really do love the card aisle! Pretty paper products are a weakness of mine. I like studying the designs and materials, and I like seeing a card and realizing it reminds me of someone in particular. There’s so much inspiration to be found there!

How about you? Will you be sending a card to your mother or grandmother or mother-in-law or aunt this year? Anyone else enjoy searching the card aisles for the perfect one? Something beautiful, something with a sweet and simple sentiment. Do you like to add a personal note/letter? Or do you let the card do the talking and simply sign your name? And lastly, is May speaking up on anyone else, or am I just weird that way?

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By Gabrielle.

Jan Scarpino has the most pinnable kitchen! I’d catch sight of it here and there on Instagram, always stop and sigh, and so I reached out to see if she’d show us the rest of her home. It’s all completely pristine and very pretty, which is something rather important to Jan — but maybe not in the way you may think!

Come see what she has to say, won’t you?

My name is Jan, I am 33, gluten-free and mother of three. I was working full time as a hairstylist in a local Aveda salon when I met my husband Danny. I fell for him hard. He is a man of many talents. He has worked in architecture, film and animation, health and wellness, product development, and marketing. He is currently the CMO for Rain International. I have always been smitten with his creative mind and his strong work ethic, but the thing that drew me in to him the most was his generous heart and seeing how involved and present he was as a father to his little girl Gabrielle.

I learned quickly that whether it was my best day or my worst, he was the man that I wanted next to me. He has given me the blessing of experiencing motherhood in two beautiful ways, both as a stepmother and birth mother. Both wonderful and challenging in different ways! I can’t imagine a better fit for myself than having our family exactly the way it is.

It was meant to be. Our oldest Gabby is 12, Rohme is six, and Nixon is three.

I will say that the hardest part about having a blended family is sharing time. It’s difficult to see my boys sad on those days we don’t have Gabby in our home. We aren’t complete.

Just pure loveliness, straight ahead!

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Come Say Hello!

April 25, 2016

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By Gabrielle. Photo by Marla Trevino.

Two things I’m excited about (especially because I might get to see you!):

1) It was just announced this afternoon, so this news is super fresh, and I’m totally goosebumps about it — I get to interview Rita Wilson at Mom 2.0 on Thursday!!! I seriously can’t wait. Our conversation will be the closing keynote, and it’s going to begin with a musical performance from Rita’s self-titled new album. So fantastic!

I’m working on the questions for her right this minute, and I can already tell the interview is going to go too dang fast. There are so many topics I want to discuss with her. Honestly, I’m confident we could talk for a good 4 or 5 hours (maybe days?) and not run out of interesting things to cover, but I’ll take whatever time I can get!

Are you coming to M0m 2.0? It’s taking place at the resort featured above. Not too shabby.

2) This coming Sunday, May 1st, I’ll be speaking in Oakland — and you can come if you like! The event is totally free and you don’t need to reserve a spot. All are welcome. Bring your friends!

Our congregation has recently hosted an 8-week class on the History of Women in the Mormon Church, and to finish it off, I’ve been asked to join a panel of four women, to discuss the topic of Mormon Women Online.

Writer Kathryn Pritchett will moderate the discussion, and my three fellow panelists are Heather Farley, Meg Conley and Hannah Pritchett. You can find more info here. Should be really fun!

So, I guess the main point of this short little post is: if you’re going to be in Orange County this Thursday, or the Bay Area on Sunday, I hope I’ll get to see you! I’d really love to meet you and say hello. Woo hoo!

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4-picture-books-april-201607

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I’ve got some gorgeous, interesting, entertaining book recommendations for you today. And even though the title says 4 Picture Books, my last pick isn’t a picture book at all — it’s about kids + money. But we’ll get to that at the end.

First up, I want to introduce you to Strange Trees: And the Stories Behind Them by Bernadette Pourquié, with dreamy illustrations by Cécile Gambini — both based in France.

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This one is for your little future botanist. This book features very real trees, with nicknames that sound completely made up — Ghost Tree, Rainbow Tree, Chocolate Tree, Upside Down Tree, Sausage Tree, and many, many more. Each tree gets a two-page spread, with fascinating facts and tidbits about the tree on the left, and an imaginative, beautiful illustration on the right.

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Next up is Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color, by well-known illustrator Julia Denos. This book introduces a vibrant new character, a wonderfully wild girl named Swatch, to your children’s world.

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This book is perfect for little artists. Swatch is a color tamer — she can train colors to do anything! The illustrations are amazing. The text is brief, but smart — lots of good vocabulary. Every page will make your kids (and you) want to pull out a paint brush and put some of your own colors on paper.

Two more books when you click through — including one on Kids & Investing!

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A Few Things

April 22, 2016

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Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. Happy Friday! How are you? What’s your weekend looking like? I feel like ours will be sort-of usual. Lots of stuff — a birthday party, a track meet, Betty is speaking at church — but nothing too major or out of the ordinary. The main thing on my mind is prepping for the Mom 2.0 conference next week. Will I see any of you there?

Some Fridays are laid-back for me work-wise, but not today. Turns out I’ve got back to back meetings and phone calls all day long, so I’m going to keep this note short. But before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- So cool! Remember the Mormon Transhumanist Association conference that Ben Blair just spoke at? Well, the New Yorker just published a really terrific article about the group.

- In an experiment, inclusion of a person with ADHD greatly improved the problem-solving ability of groups, even though it led to more off-task behavior. Thanks, Ann.

- 50+ picture books featuring mixed race families.

- Inflatable bag monsters.

- Accidentally raising a bully.

- A new beehive that harvests honey without disturbing the bees. I love inventions like this! So innovative.

- “This is the white supremacist fantasy. This is the stereotype about black people and our endless forgiveness of the transgressions of white supremacists and anti-black racism that many white people secretly hope holds true.”

- The funniest thing I read all week — a conversation with The Internet.

- Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill! (NYT)

- A reader sent in a link to Sophi nail polish. Apparently, it has no smell! And if you follow the directions correctly, she says it lasts her as long as OPI or Essie brands. And supposedly, it doesn’t discolor or weaken the nails. Anyone tried it? Thanks, Ann.

- A message from your exhausted token brown friend.

- On public shaming.

- Ski treadmill!

- What does sex ed look like if you have a disability?

I hope you have an excellent weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Like so many people, I’m feeling the shock of Prince’s death. I got the news from Ben Blair yesterday morning, and then I wasn’t willing to get online to read about it until late in the day, as if that would make it not true. 

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Recipe: Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars

By Gabrielle. Photos by Lindsey JohnsonSponsored by Blue Diamond.

Friends, we’ve officially reached the time of year when having on-the-go snacks at the ready becomes essential. Anyone else feeling it? At our house, from mid-April till school’s out, it feels like everything is building up to an end-of-the-year finale. I’m talking fieldtrips, nature camp, science fair, track meets, and recitals. And of course, the gorgeous weather is also tempting us out of the house as often as possible. It’s all good things! No complaints, I’ve been a parent long enough to know it’s just the nature of the school year.

To help keep the kids satiated (fed kids are happy kids!) over these next few weeks, I was thinking I would whip up a batch of homemade granola bars — made with ingredients I know my kids love — to have on hand.

Recipe: Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars Recipe: Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars

Once again, I’ve teamed up with Blue Diamond, to bring you another great snack option — one that’s specifically made to be easy to grab and go. Homemade Almond Berry Granola Bars anyone? They’re sweet and a little salty, crunchy, and chewy. And they’ll hit the spot when you’re looking for something to nosh on. This one is good for anyone with a sweet tooth, especially if you’re a fan of dried fruit.

Blue Diamond’s Oven Roasted Sea Salt Almonds are perfectly crunchy and salty, so they are a great addition to homemade granola bars. The best part is that these come together quickly and the hardest part is waiting for them to be ready to cut into bars.

Recipe: Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars - with 3 kinds of berries! Granola Bar Ingredients. Click through for the recipe. Recipe: Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars

Ready to make something yummy?

Click here for the recipe and notes!

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By Gabrielle.

Sarah and her partner learned they were expecting a baby together just after moving to separate cities to work on their university degrees. From that moment until Samuel arrived, Sarah’s story is a wonder of unexpected happenings and fresh observations. I enjoyed her recounting of it all so much.

Welcome, Sarah!

Samuel’s story, straight ahead!

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The Year of the Period

April 20, 2016

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By Gabrielle. Image from poet Rupi Kaur’s Instagram series about period stigma.

Did you see today’s Newsweek article about periods? It covers a range of ideas, but one of the big themes is how people are actively trying to change the long-standing historical stigma around periods. I was going to include the article on this week’s link list, but then decided it really deserves its own post.

There’s so much to discuss in it! A few quotes:

“For something that has over 5,000 slang terms (shark week, Bloody Mary, red wedding), the period is one of the most ignored human rights issues around the globe—affecting everything from education and economics to the environment and public health—but that’s finally starting to change. In the past year, there have been so many pop culture moments around menstruation that NPR called 2015 “the year of the period,” and Cosmopolitan said it was “the year the period went public.””

“Across the U.S., you can buy food, doodads and necessities without being taxed: Pop-Tarts in California, BBQ sunflower seeds in Indiana, Mardi Gras beads in Louisiana, Bibles in Maine and coffins in Mississippi. But in these and 35 other states, menstrual products are taxed anywhere from 4 to 10 percent.”

“In rural India, one in five girls drops out of school after they start menstruating , according to research by Nielsen and Plan India, and of the 355 million menstruating girls and women in the country, just 12 percent use sanitary napkins.”

While reading it, I teared up several times thinking about girls around the world not having access to basic period hygiene options, and having to quit school because of that.

And I was also super inspired reading about all the innovation happening around periods at the moment. Long overdue in my opinion! I know we discussed period innovation last month, but there were so many companies featured in the article that I had never heard of, doing work all across the globe. I wanted to cheer!

Most of all, it made me realize that I’m holding on to some of the stigma around periods myself. I’ve caught myself hesitating to speak openly if the topic of periods comes up. I’ve gotten better in the last few years — for example, I would never have posted about tampons 5 years ago — as if it was inappropriate or something. But I know I still have a long-way to go. I suppose the “shame” of periods has been ingrained in me for too many years.

This fact really struck home the other day, when the whole family was in the car and someone mentioned tampons, which led to a conversation among all 8 of us, about menstruation. I noticed two things: 1) I had to carefully fight my first instinct — which was to change the subject, and 2) 14-year-old Olive could talk about it super easily, with zero shame or hesitation, which made me happy. It also made me want to commit to letting go of any remaining stigma I’m holding on to.

I hope you’ll read the article, because I’d love your thoughts on it, and I’d also love to know how open you feel about your period. Are you able to talk about menstruation without shame? Maybe only in certain company? If you needed one while out and about, would you ever ask a stranger for a tampon? Do you feel that talking about periods is gross? If yes, what’s the gross factor for you? Do you associate it with “potty talk”? Or are you grossed out by blood (I know it makes some people faint)?

Do you speak openly about periods with your kids? Both boys and girls? If your daughters need supplies, do they whisper it to you discreetly, or shout it out when you’re making a shopping list after dinner? If you have a husband or boyfriend, do they ever buy your period supplies? Would that freak them out? Do you like the more open, practical attitude about periods lately? Or do you wish everyone would stop talking about it already? Do you consider your period a curse or a blessing? A strength or a weakness? Does this whole conversation stress you out, or do you find it empowering?

I look forward to reading your thoughts.

P.S. — Did you see hear about Chance Ward? He keeps tampons in his fanny pack and backpack in case any his menstruating friends might need one. His Facebook post is pure gold. Seriously, go read it. 

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tree-branch-planter 1.1

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.

Hooray! I’ve got another gorgeous DIY to share with you. And it coincides so nicely with the gorgeous spring weather we’ve been having. This project is the perfect excuse to get outside and interact with nature.

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I’m so delighted with how these turned out. Completely over the moon! They would be gorgeous inside or out. I can picture them in our living room, and also on the balcony. I really want to make like 35 of these and line my front walk with them! I think they’re so cool.

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I’m going to tell you right now, that this project takes a few bona fide tools and some muscle, too. But it’s actually pretty easy and straight forward. If you can handle a drill, than you can handle this project.

Before we jump in to the instructions, I have one question: Do succulents do well outdoors in your neck of the wood? Or do you consider them houseplants? They flourish like crazy here in our Oakland landscaping, but I don’t remember seeing them as outdoor plants in France (although it’s very possible I wasn’t paying attention). How about you? Do you have any succulents at your house? Indoors or out? And do you find them to be as carefree as their reputation? I’d love to hear!

Click here for the simple tutorial!

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By Gabrielle.

When Sarah asked if I’d be interested in sharing her island life with my readers, I jumped at the chance. I thought it would be great fun to learn how a family is living with kids in a 1924 cottage on Martha’s Vineyard, and after interviewing Sarah, my thought was correct! It’s really lovely and interesting. You’ll see.

Hi, Sarah!

Hi, and welcome! I’m Sarah and I live year-round on Martha’s Vineyard with my husband Nick and our two young boys: Dylan is five, and Gray is two. Nick and I met in college but we were just friends then. A year after graduation, he moved back East after surfing in Hawaii for the winter, and came with me to a concert in Boston. He never left after that concert.

As a couple, we first lived in Boston in the dark basement of a beautiful Beacon Hill brick building, then moved to Providence, Rhode Island for Nick to attend RISD, where we lived on the first floor of a classic three-family home. We moved to the Island four years ago.

Our first son, Dylan, was born in Providence. He is obsessed with chocolate, wild animals, and building things. Our second son, Gray, was born on Martha’s Vineyard and is obsessed with farm animals, pears, and swings.

Nick is an architectural designer who works with a local architectural group and makes a lot of stuff on the side — furniture, objects, surfboards, art — and surfs a lot. Even when the water is only 34 degrees! I am a stay at home mom who blogs healthy family recipes and writes cookbooks while my kids are at pre-K or asleep upstairs. My first book Little Bites:100 Healthy, Kid-Friendly Snacks came out last year and my second book Feeding a Family: A Year of Simple and Healthy Family Dinners comes out next year.

Our house is in Vineyard Haven, on a dead-end street a short walk from the center of town and the main ferry dock. We can hear the ferry horn from inside! Our neighborhood has many year-round families which is really nice. Often, island houses are deserted after Labor Day and you find yourself surrounded by empty buildings without any life to them, which is kinda depressing.

More island life, straight ahead!

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