A Few Things

July 3, 2015

Betty and Flags

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. Happy Independence Day Weekend! Any fun plans? We’re heading to an Oakland A’s game tonight. After the game they invite everyone down on the field to watch fireworks. It’s pretty magical! It always happens on July 3rd and it’s an Oakland tradition.

On Saturday, we’ve got a hike in the redwoods and a family picnic back at our house. Then on Sunday, I hope we get to sing a bunch of the patriotic hymns. They’re some of my favorites! Don’t you feel like America the Beautiful has some truly epic lyrics? I mean verse 2 and verse 3? So good!

I’m signing off early this morning, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- I met the author of this essay, Clementine Wamariya, at the AYA summit last year. She is young and remarkable. The article is long form, so set aside a little time, because it will blow you away.

- The trailer for the cyber-seniors documentary looks super sweet.

- Feeling like you want to give up? I found this self-care printable really calming.

- My friend, Jane, sent me these Soludos slip-ons in gold and I’m in love! I’ve been wearing them like crazy.

- If you’re still feeling troubled by last week’s ruling on marriage, you may find these two links helpful. 1) A talk from an orthodox Rabbi on moving forward. And 2) this sincere offer from my friend Laurie. (I think it’s a public post, but if you can’t see it, let me know.)

- A world of languages (embarrassingly, I hadn’t even heard of several in the Top 23).

- The keynote presentation videos from Alt Summer are live!

- I keep thinking about this essay — ”Something I Wrote Once About Dating When You’re Plus-Sized.”

- A new contract made for writers/bloggers/designers/illustrators or anyone else who gets asked to work for free.

- Summer reading recommendations from an author.

- A conversation with white people on race (part of a series of mini-docs made by the NYT). If you’re feeling like it’s awkward to talk about race you might relate to this. Thanks, Jessie.

Father daughter beatbox battle. (I love how happy the dad is when she clearly outdoes him.)

- Will you be grilling tomorrow? Here are some awesome tips!

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



Personality Tests

July 2, 2015


By Gabrielle.

Yesterday, a friend shared this link to a free 10-minute Meyers-Briggs personality test. Do you know your Meyers-Briggs classification? Apparently there are 16 options. And until I took the test yesterday, I didn’t know mine. I remember taking a similar test years ago — it must have been when we lived in New York — though I wasn’t paying much attention to the results and don’t recall what they were. But I come across Meyers-Briggs references frequently, and sometimes wish I had a better understanding of the whole thing, so when I saw the 10 minute test link, I thought, why not?

Well, I took the test and the image above is a screengrab of the results. Turns out I’m an ENFJ. Immediately upon reading the results, I had about a million questions. Here are a few:

1) How accurate do these tests tend to be? Meaning, if people take a test like this once a year, do they always get the same result? Does it tend to be a permanent designation, or do personalities change over time?

2) Of course, it’s a total vanity feeder to find yourself sharing a personality with Bono, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Sheryl Sandburg. But obviously, admirable people are included with every personality designation. If you’ve taken the test, did you like the people listed who shared your personality? (I can’t imagine they ever list someone that is historically hated — like, hey, you share a personality with Stalin!)

3) If you’re someone who has taken the test, have you studied the description of your personality type? Do you know the personality types of your spouse or kids?

4) Do you consider yourself an advocate or fan of Meyers-Briggs tests? Do you take your results seriously? If yes, have you ever figured out how to improve a relationship based on what you learned from Meyers-Briggs descriptions? Has it ever helped you as a spouse or parent?

5) If you do counseling professionally, what’s your take on Meyers-Briggs? Do you find the tests accurate or valuable?

6) According to the test website, ENFJs “are a rare personality type and make up only 2% of the population”. But I was discussing my results on Facebook and there were a whole bunch of commenters that were also ENFJs. Certainly more than 2%! Does that mean I’m drawn to fellow ENFJs and have a higher percentage among my Facebook Friends?

So many questions! I would love to hear your Meyers-Briggs stories. I’m super curious. If you already know your personality type, I hope you’ll jump right in to the discussion. And if you don’t know your personality type, feel free to take the test, it’s super fast, I promise.


The (FREE) trick to stopping poison oak and poison ivy rash before it starts!

By Gabrielle. Poison Ivy botanical print found here.

Oh my goodness. At the moment, there is a major portion of my brain fixated on poison oak and poison ivy. Turns out I’m highly allergic! And I’ve been battling some intense poison oak rashes for months. I’ve had shots, used up dozens of tubes of prescription cream, and taken one million showers to ease the itch. (Oh the drama! Hah!) Remember the red dress I wore to the Iris Awards? It was chosen because it covered my poison oak rash all over my arms and legs.

Happily I think I’ve finally got it under control. So three cheers for that! But while it’s still on my mind, I thought I’d jot down the most helpful things I’ve learned about it in case anyone else out there is dealing with it too. Here are 10 things I’ve learned about poison oak and poison ivy since we moved to California:

1) Poison Ivy is found in the East. Poison Oak is found in the West. There’s Poison Sumac too, but I don’t know where it’s found.

2) Not everyone is allergic to these plants, but most people are — 85% of people have some sort of reaction. I seem to be on the highly allergic end. I swear, even if I don’t touch any plants at all, if it’s nearby I seem to break out in a poison oak rash. Luckily, no one else in the family (Ben Blair or the kids) seems to be quite as affected as I am.

3) The rash is intense. It goes deep and gets these nasty weeping blisters. So gross! For me, it doesn’t seem to improve at all on it’s own. I have to get medical help before I see improvement.

4) To ease the pain, someone recommended taking a super hot shower and putting the rash under the shower stream. She said to hold it there until it’s like a “good” pain. I followed the advice and found it totally works for me. Doing this can relieve my pain and itching for up to an hour. Though I should also note, no doctor has ever mentioned this to me, so I don’t claim it’s an official treatment. : )

5) Once it clears, you can see the scars of the rash for months and months — I had some on my leg that lasted a full year.

6) The thing that causes the rash (and that both poison oak and poison ivy have in common) is urushiol oil. It’s invisible, but it can rub off from the plant onto clothes or shoes or skin, or onto gardening tools or pretty much any surface.

7) Apparently, the urushiol oil stays toxic indefinitely. So if your garden rake comes in contact with poison oak, and then you put the rake away for the winter and don’t touch it again for 6 months, the oil would still give you a rash when you pick up the rake again.

8) Washing with soap and water doesn’t necessarily remove the oil. It’s intense stuff!

9) The rash doesn’t show up instantly. It can take 8 hours or more. So again, you may not even know you’ve come into contact with any of the plants or oil until the next day — at which point it’s too late to wash the oil off before it does damage.

10) Because you can’t see the oil, it can come into your life without you knowing it. Perhaps on your kids’ shoes, or on something like bike tires. Which means, it’s possible to get the rash even if you haven’t left the house!

Turns out number 10 is real the nightmare part for me. Our yard is like a bit of forest, and in the wild parts, poison oak thrives. We’ve removed as much of it as we can — and hired professionals to help too — but sometimes it grows back faster then we can keep up with it. So when the kids go exploring (which we want to encourage), they might run into some by accident, and then bring it home on their clothes or shoes. Or maybe the soccer ball gets kicked through a patch, and then picked up so the oil transfers to hands, and then the hands pick up the mail as they come inside, and then I open the mail, and then I end up covered in a rash.

But yesterday, I feel like I had a breakthrough in my poison oak battle. My friend Laurie shared this video on Facebook and I found it so helpful! Apparently the trick to getting the oil off is using a washcloth instead of plain soap and water. Take a peek:

Pretty awesome, right? I feel so much more confident about keeping the rash at bay now. Hopefully, some of you find it helpful too!

Tell me, friends: Have you ever had a poison ivy/oak rash? How about your kids? Do you have any tips that worked for you? Or any other pieces of info you’d add to my list? I’d love to hear.

P.S. — I hear there is a scientist working on a specific light bulb that will make urushiol oil visible. That would be amazing!



Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Minted. Don’t miss the $700 Minted Giveaway at the bottom of this post!

I’m super excited to show you today what we’ve done in the entry! Let’s start with some background: When we first moved in, the area right inside the front door was floored with tile, which transitioned to rug. (You can see a peek of the tile in this post.)

Entryway Styled 3 Different Ways (plus "before" pics too!)

The entry is an open area, with no front closet or storage, and it’s separated from the living room by the brick fireplace. To the left, as you enter the home, there is a hallway — and you may remember, that we transformed that hallway with cubbies and hooks to help with the non-storage in the entry. We also replaced/refinished the floors in the whole area, and whitewashed the brick fireplace with milk paint.

At that point the entry was bright and clean and simple and we’ve kept it that way pretty much ever since. But it’s a big enough space that I knew I wanted to do something more with it. So from time to time I’ve experimented. At one point, I tried a little love seat in front of the bricks, and when I wanted a holiday display in the entry, I would roll the hallway cubbies in and cover them with a tablecloth to act as a temporary console table. Though, really, it’s mostly been empty and waiting patiently for some attention.

Entryway Styled 3 Different Ways (plus "before" pics too!)

So over the last couple of weeks, I tackled the space and I’m delighted with how it turned out. Here’s a description of my design process:

First, I added a rug. It’s a rug that my sister Jordan picked up on a trip to Morocco and used in her apartment in Paris. I’ve tried the rug in the girls room too. I don’t know if it’s quite the right thing for this space, but I’m testing it out. I like the look here, but may need something more durable with all the foot traffic — I’m thinking I might want to go with a Dash & Albert indoor/outdoor rope rug — they can be scrubbed and hosed down!

Entryway Styled 3 Different Ways (plus "before" pics too!)

For a table, I wanted something versatile that could display holiday or seasonal decor sometimes, but also function as a desk when needed. I chose this one from West Elm. It has a marble top, but you can also get it with a wood top or a glass top. I though the marble would be a nice mirror of the marble coffee table that resides on the other side of the fireplace.

Entryway Styled 3 Different Ways (plus "before" pics too!)

Once the table and rug were in place, I turned my attention to artwork. I wanted something neutral that would fit well with the other pale surfaces we have going on in this space, and that I could put other colors nearby or in front of without causing problems.

I love using Minted for artwork, because they source all their prints from independent artists! (In fact, if you’re an artist, you can totally try one of their design challenges.) Many of the prints they offer are limited edition, and everything is available in lots of sizes — so you can go BIG or small. You can also choose a frame right when you’re ordering, which means your artwork will arrive ready to hang in about a week.

Entryway Styled 3 Different Ways (plus "before" pics too!)

The Minted artwork collection is quite big. There are so many good options, it can be hard to choose! So this is how I did it. I first started favoriting everything I liked that was in a neutral palette. If it spoke to me at all, I favorited it. After awhile, I took a look at my collection of favorites and realized I had saved several circles. That gave me an idea — I thought it would be fun to do six prints, two rows of three. And I decided to use circles as a theme. I measured the space and determined what size artwork would work best (I chose the 11″ option).

At that point, I started using search filters (Minted has tons of filters — you can search by editors’ picks, by color, by shape, by artist, etc.) and found all the possible neutral-colored artwork that featured a circle shape in a square. There were 15!

Next, I narrowed down those to my favorite 6 — I had the kids voice their opinions too so that everyone felt invested. We ended up choosing Natural, Mineral 03, Surround Me, Moon Rock, Fox Shadow, and Under The Microscope (in gold foil!). To finish things off, I chose a natural wood frame to mesh with our “treehouse” vibe.

Keep reading to see this space styled in two other ways. Oh! And you’ll find the Minted Giveaway at the bottom of the post.


By Gabrielle. Photos by Becky Kimball.

When Jane Rhodes invited us to take a fresh peek into her family’s Utah home, I recalled how much we all enjoyed the 2012 tour of their Boston home. Remember? The kids’ bedroom decor reflected their unique personalities and interests at the time, there was enough space carved out for everyone even if it meant a reading nook took residence under the staircase or a craft table was stuffed perfectly in a tight window space, and there were those cute extra beds in the master bedroom waiting patiently for nighttime visitors of the small kind!

It was all so thoughtful and refreshing.

Fast forward a few years to a new residence in Utah. It’s a treat to see how the family’s needs have changed as the kids have grown, and how their decor style has simplified. There’s now a fresh emphasis on how they’re using their spaces – not just how they’re decorating them. I love when that happens, don’t you?

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a home quite like this one, and I thought you’d be interested in seeing it, too! (Oh! And for those of you with teens, Jane needs your advice on curfews!) Welcome, Rhodes family!

Our introduction might take a while – there are six of us plus a puppy!

I am a lifestyle blogger, artist, graphic designer, and mom of four. After completing my art degree this December, I plan to attend grad school. I love creating movies, photography, planning events, traveling, reading, gardening, running with our puppy, spending lazy days at home with our family, getting involved in humanitarian projects, and riding out a pretty big Wayne Dyer kick.

My husband, Dusty, and I live in the beautiful mountains of Orem, Utah. Neither of us thought to claim Utah as our home state, but we’ve now been here longer than our own native states, so we’re claiming it! And our children really like it here, so we’re staying put for now.

My husband is my dreamy college love who planned on going to med school after playing football and in the process founded a sports wear company. Dusty Rhodes (I like to call him by his full name – I like the ring to it!) decided to ditch med school and spend his days submersed in sports-related projects. Yet, he still claims to know more than anyone else in our home about medical issues. I feel it necessary to tell you he’s a Red Sox fan. That detail alone occupies a big part of our life. We claim it a miracle that we’ve stayed together for 20 years this year and haven’t killed each other.

What is it like to have four children? In Jim Gaffigan’s words: “Imagine you’re drowning. And someone hands you a baby.” We constantly function in survival mode.

Meet the rest of the family and see more of this amazing home! Just ahead.


Do You Paint Your Nails?

June 29, 2015

By Gabrielle. Adorable manicure found on The Glitter Guide.

So many heavy topics lately! I don’t really mind — I like a good, serious conversation. But today I woke up needing something a little lighter. So how’s this for light: Have you ever taken your kids for mani-pedis?

On Friday, I took Betty and June for their first professional manicure and pedicure. They’ve both had their nails painted by their older sisters many times over the years, but they’ve never been to a nail salon. We went on Friday when June was finished with her last day of school. June has been asking to have her nails painted for months, but her current school doesn’t allow nail polish, so I promised her that we could get a mani-pedi when summer vacation arrived.

It was really adorable. Both Betty and June took a loooong time deciding on a color. I don’t blame them, it feels like a very important decision once you’re there. Betty chose royal blue for her fingers and a slightly lighter blue for her toes. June chose glittery purple for her fingers and glittery orange for her toes — she had a particular dress in mind, which she was planning to wear to a party that evening, and she wanted to match the nail polish colors to the dress. : )

Every time a new step in the process would happen, they would look to me in wonder, like is this really happening? You could practically see the exclamation points on their faces:  The water has lights that change color! There is tissue between my toes! There are funny sandals to wear while your nails dry!

I told them they could say no thank you if there was a part they didn’t like — if their foot felt too ticklish when the heels were scrubbed, or if they weren’t in the mood for a hand massage. But they seemed to enjoy every single second. In fact, as soon as we’d finished and were back in the car, June said, “I want to go again!”

When Maude and Olive got back from Girls Camp on Saturday, I asked them how many times I’d taken them for mani-pedis and they both said only once! Apparently, I have been really stingy with the nail appointments. : )

And it made me wonder: Not counting a basic trim with nail clippers, how often do you do mani-pedis with your kids? Do you do them at home? Or go to a nail salon? And how about for your own nails? Do you paint them or keep them natural? Do you do it yourself or hire it out? And is there anyone reading that has never had painted nails?

I’ve had natural nails most of my adult life, because my hands are so busy that I can’t keep my painted nails from chipping in less than 24 hours. Ugh! But when we got home from France I tried shellac/gel nails (the kind you put under the blue light) and on me, they remain chip-free for a week. Sometimes even a bit longer! The downside is both gel and shellac totally weaken my nails. I’ve also tried a polish called Vinylux that is my current favorite. It doesn’t weaken my nails, but it lasts much longer for me than regular polish. I can usually go 4 or 5 days without a chip. With the new-to-me polish discoveries, these days, my hands almost always have polish. Quite a shift for me!

How about you?

P.S. — Don’t waste your old nail polish. Use it to marble everything in sight!


A Few Things

June 26, 2015


Photos and text by Gabrielle.

WHAT A WEEK! This is a pretty dang exciting time to be alive. So much change and discussion is happening that the air feels electric! I hope everyone, no matter what their personal opinions are on current events, can take joy from the excitement of seeing history happen before our eyes.

balloon banner DIY

I’m feeling nothing but LOVE today! There are rainbows in my social media feeds, we’ve got cousins and friends in town, and the weather is gorgeous.

Oh. And we’re all going to a fun party tonight — if you’re in the Bay Area, you can come too! It’s a BrightLab Lights Pop-up Party at the darling shop, Mapamundi Kids in San Francisco. 5:00 this evening (Friday), details here. I’ll see you there!

balloon banner DIY

And now, a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

- From the NYT: Why I defaulted on my students loans.

- John Oliver’s piece about online harassment.

- Why airplane tickets never get cheaper.

- “Stop asking me how I afford to travel.”

- What’s killing the babies in Vernal, Utah? (So alarming. Fracking!!! It’s been on my mind since I read the novel Bone Hollow — I was on a panel at Mom 2.0 with the author, Bill Braine.)

- What if we treated all consent like society treats sexual consent?

- “The Confederate flag should not come down because it is offensive to African Americans. The Confederate flag should come down because it is embarrassing to all Americans.” — What this cruel war was over.

- Hah! Every state flag is wrong and here is why.

- I support the Humane Cosmetics Act.

- A tribute to a father.

- Love this.  Touch the pickle!

- A black man and white woman switch places.

- Make a rainbow balloon banner to celebrate.

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



One EASY trick for a magical SUMMER!

Photos and text by Gabrielle. Sponsored by Blue Diamond.

This week, I’ve only had half the family at home. Maude and Olive are at Girls Camp — Ben Blair is there too, helping with river rafting and hikes. And June is still in school! (Can you believe that? Her last day is tomorrow.) So at the start of the week, I had Oscar and Betty make a “summer list”. I feel like we haven’t made one for years! But it was one of our favorite things to do when we lived in New York. The concept is simple: you take an oversize sheet of paper, or a poster board, or piece of recycled cardboard, or whatever you’ve got on hand. Then have your kids help you make a list of everything they want to do during the summer vacation.

Do this one EASY thing and your kids are practically guaranteed to have a magical summer.

It can be anything. Big things like an already scheduled camping trip to Yosemite that everyone is looking forward to. Or little things like visiting the library, trying a new recipe, climbing a tree, making a movie, or building a blanket fort. Really, the more “small things” on the list, the better it is. Once the list is made, we put the stuff that needs planning — like any overnight trips, or a day at the beach — on the calendar. But the rest of it, the small stuff, makes for daily spontaneous adventures.

Do this one EASY thing and your kids are practically guaranteed to have a magical summer.

When the kids get bored, they can look at the list and easily come up with something to do. In New York, we only had little kids, so all the activities were little kid activities. But these days, some of the activities appeal more to the older kids, some to the younger kids, and some are for the whole family.

We make our list long. We know we probably won’t be able to fit in everything. But that’s okay, because having a long list, full of so many ideas, helps us do more than we would if we didn’t have the list at all. And whether we make it through most of the list, or barely half, the result is the same: by the end of the summer, everyone can look at the list and see the proof that summer vacation was absolutely magical.

This bucket bag is perfect for summer outings. Throw everything in and go!

One of the first things we did after we made the list? We went on a Secret Stairs hike. What’s that you ask? Well, it’s from this book, called Secret Stairs — it’s full of self-guided hikes that take you all over the hills of Oakland and Berkeley. With the rest of the kids gone this week, those of us at home were needing an adventure, so we thought this would be perfect. And it was. We quickly packed up snacks — our favorite Blue Diamond almonds — and off we went.

Have you ever taken a "Secret Stairs" hike? Click through for the how to.

The hike we picked was the first in the book, because it’s not too far away and we hadn’t tried it yet. It took us through a neighborhood called The Uplands.

Keep reading for our Secret Stairs hike photos, plus our favorite things to put on the Summer List.


Call It A Day: Anonymous

June 25, 2015

By Gabrielle. Glowing log lamps (next summer project?!) by Duncan Meerding, shot by Jan Dallas, via This is Colossal.

I wonder how many of you spend your days unable to tell anyone how it’s really going? Whether due to privacy, a fear for job security, or even shame, it must be one of the loneliest feelings in the world to keep all the struggles inside.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read through this day. At least four or five. Every time, it hits me a different way, my emotional responses fluctuating between heartbreak and pride and sympathy pangs of loneliness and a strong urge to hug this mom holding it all together. It’s different from the others in a few ways, but one you’ll notice immediately is its anonymity. Due to a need to protect the privacy this family, we’ll call the narrator of this day JG. I’ll let her tell you their story.

It is Wednesday. My day begins around 6:45 when I hear my five year old son open the door to his bedroom and dash up the stairs to his older sister’s room. I know she’ll go turn on the television for him, and the two of them will watch maybe an hour’s worth of TV. We’ve got the kids hooked on one our old favorites, Gilligan’s Island.

My middle child who is ten is now awake. I know this even though she doesn’t make a sound. I say a quick prayer for strength and patience to help me through this day. Then I check Facebook, Instagram, and my email because I enjoy being lost in the moment of make believe, if even for just 20 minutes. My son pops into my room to say that he’s hungry and asks permission to eat a chocolate-covered granola bar. That’s my cue. I leave my bed and start my work in the kitchen.

Wednesday, continued…


Let’s Talk

June 24, 2015

by Sarah James

By Gabrielle. Illustration by Sarah James.

Last Friday, on my weekend link list post, I mentioned that I wanted to talk about the horrific Charleston shooting with you this week. As I stated then, I don’t know what to do. And I don’t know what to say either. There are deeply smart, endlessly eloquent people that have written, and continue to write, thousands of good, moving words on the subject of race in America, and specifically the brutal killings in Charleston. What can I add to the conversation? Well, probably nothing.

But that’s not the point.

The point is to have the conversation. To talk about this. To not just read and click “like” and move on. But to actually talk about this, to discuss it, to communicate about it. To share an opinion, and to be open to having that opinion change if necessary.

I can read something or follow a hashtag and shake my head in disbelief and shame, but if I don’t speak up and talk about this with everyone that falls within the sound of my voice (or the reach of my blog), then I’m adding to the problem, not helping.

If you have a platform, small or large — a website, a Facebook account, a Twitter account, an Instagram account, an email list, a group of friends at church or on the playground, a family — do you use your platform to help improve things? To discuss our world? To learn? To teach?

If not, why not?

Are you worried that you won’t say the right things? That you won’t be eloquent? Or worse, that you’ll say something offensive without even realizing it? Or maybe you fear you will be attacked? That people will argue with you, or tell you you’re wrong, or call you names?

Lots more discussion ahead.


Design Mom Book Report

June 23, 2015

Pottery Barn Corte Madera Design Mom_3

By Gabrielle. Photos from the Corte Madera Book Event courtesy of Pottery Barn.

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written about my book, but I have several fun things to report. First of all, last week, I got a text from my publisher telling me that Design Mom: How to Live With Kids made the New York Times Bestseller list for May and June.

Whaaaat??? That’s such fantastic and unexpected news. I can’t even believe it!

I know that the book literally could not have made any list without the support that you, the Design Mom community, have so freely given. THANK YOU! Thank you for coming to the book tour events. Thank you for buying the book. Thank you for the Amazon reviews. (You are so awesome to keep them coming! I sincerely appreciate the feedback.) Thank you for the Instagrams, the Tweets, and the Facebook updates about the book — I know I’ve missed some of them, but if you tag your posts with #designmombook, I’ll do my best to find them : ) And thank you for telling your friends about the book. You guys are the best!

Pottery Barn Corte Madera Design Mom_5 Pottery Barn Corte Madera Design Mom_10

Other fun book coverage:

An article with my tips in the Washington Post.

A great review in Book Page.

Another one in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette.

And I think I already mentioned it, but the SF Chronicle dedicated two full pages to my book!

Keep reading for more book tour reports!


By Gabrielle. Photographs by Robyn Wishna and also Emily Rothenbucher.

Rebecca Barry is the sweetheart storyteller behind the can’t-put-it-down book Recipes for a Beautiful Life. It’s a memoir that almost didn’t happen — more on that, just ahead! — overflowing with a hilarious, often touching, and always authentic recounting of living a creative life while raising a family and translating the pressure-filled reality that most of us face on the daily. An even shorter review? It’s a joy.

Her home and interview are unsurprisingly inviting — unsurprising to me because I was hooked from our very first correspondence, when she sent me this: “We live in a  brick Italianate house built in 1865 that we bought and have been working on since our first child was born. The house is beautiful and unruly, with original hardwood floors and pocket doors, old sun porches, and hand hewn moldings. We live in half of it, and the rest is filled with wonderful tenants: artists, musicians, beekeepers and barristas. It is on Main Street in a tiny rural town. I’ve attached some pictures of little moments in our house.” Yes, I was hooked. It sounded to me like a haven of sorts. A messy and creative refuge where creativity holidays and beautiful moments simply exist.

I’m inspired every time I re-read Rebecca’s words. And I really hope you are, as well! Welcome, Rebecca!

I live with my husband Tommy and our two sons, Liam and Dawson, who are 11 and nine. Tommy and I met in 1999 when we were both working in NYC for CosmoGirl! Magazine. On our first date in October, Tommy asked me if I wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in Bermuda with him and his friend – a trip he’d been saving up for for five years. I said yes, and by New Year’s Eve I knew I would marry him. Neither of us proposed until months later – eventually we both did – but that night we were all asked to write down New Year’s resolutions that we would all read at the next reunion. The resolutions were written in private and sealed, and five years later when we opened them, Tommy had written, “I will marry Rebecca Barry” and I had written, “I will marry Tommy Dunne.” So the feeling was mutual.

Both Tommy and I work at home. I’m a writer — I write for magazines and I write books; my most recent one, Recipes for a Beautiful Life, just came out from Simon and Schuster in April. Tommy does copyediting for Glamour magazine, and a few years ago we started our own magazine, a local publication called Fresh Dirt Ithaca. It’s a profile-driven magazine about green living. This is a perfect place to write about that lifestyle, as we’re surrounded by organic farms and farm-to-table restaurants and people who keep coming up with innovative and delicious ways to live in harmony with the planet.

More loveliness ahead!


First Film Festival

June 22, 2015

First Film Festival

By Gabrielle.

I’m super excited to announce FIRST FILM FESTIVAL today!

It’s a brand new film festival for kids 18 years or younger, brought to you by Olive Us. Entries are accepted from now through the end of the summer — August 22nd. The festival will be online, so no need for participants to travel, and the prizes are fantastic:

Grand Prize: (valued at $2000+)
Canon Rebel T5i DSLR camera
Canon 50mm 1.4 lens
Professional tripod
Professional audio recorder and lapel microphone
Adobe Premiere
A year’s worth of movie tickets

1st Prize (valued at $1000+)
Professional audio recorder and lapel microphone
Adobe Premiere
A year’s worth of movie tickets

2nd Prize
A year’s worth of movie tickets

All participants receive a movie theater ticket, a festival t-shirt, and a certificate of participation.

Do your kids want to join in? They can enter here. The entry fee is $25 per film (and requires parental permission), and as I mentioned, entries are due by August 22, 2015.

So. That’s most of the pertinent info. But I’m betting some of you are curious: What is this all about? Why are we launching this new film festival? Good questions! And I can tell you that it all started with our Olive Us video series.

As you probably already know, we LOVE making short videos with our family. And our kids love making movies on their own as well! Because of this, we get emails from parents weekly, asking for tips on how they can help their kids make movies. What equipment do they need? What editing program do we recommend? What props do we keep around?

We love these emails and try to offer answers and tips in the Olive Us newsletter. And hopefully our answers are helping. We think they might be, because over the last couple of years, we’ve received additional emails from parents — but these don’t have questions. Instead, they have links to the awesome videos their kids have made!

As we were discussing how we could best celebrate those kid-made videos, it occurred to us that a film festival just for kids could be the perfect solution. So we explored ideas, came up with a name, bought a url, and now we’re launching First Film Festival!

Of course, as with everything we’ve tried with Olive Us (and really, with Design Mom too), this is an experiment. And we can assume we’ll adapt and change it over the years, or drop it if there’s no interest. But happily, we announced it in the Olive Us Newsletter last week, and sent the announcement to film camps across the country, and there has already been a TON of interest! We’re amazed and delighted at the response.

We envision this as a summer project for kids — a way for kids to focus their energy on a particular project and fight summer boredom, while creating something they can be proud of. And even if they don’t win, every participant will receive a t-shirt, a movie ticket and certificate of participation! For more information, you can check out the First Film Festival about page, or email Ben Blair.

So what do you think? Do you know any kids that would enjoy something like this? I’d love to hear! Oh. And feel free to tell your friends!


A Few Things

June 19, 2015

Chinatown Olive Blair

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are holding up? It was an awfully emotional week, right? Like you, I have felt like my head is on pause since I heard the terrible news from South Carolina. I keep searching out essays and blog posts to read about it because it’s like my brain somehow can’t comprehend it. It’s just awful. And it keeps happening. And it’s not getting better. And I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. I want to discuss this in its own blog post — the shooting in Charleston, and the deeply embedded racism in our country, because we need to keep talking about this. So watch for a post next week. And for those of you catching up, here are some of the links I’ve been thinking about:

Jon Stewart

Soula Scriptura

Brené Brown


Latoya Peterson

Ah. And then there’s that conflicted feeling of moving on with life as I run errands and chauffeur the kids. Especially today, because it’s a super celebration day in Oakland. Today was the big Warriors parade and Oakland pride was at an all-time high! Of course, we went down to the parade, and LOVED seeing our city so happy.

Even with my brain on pause, I have high hopes that it’s going to be a good weekend. We have family in town and can’t wait to take them to our favorite spots in the area — and explore some new ones too. In fact, I think we’re going to try and visit Muir Woods this afternoon. We’ve never been there before — I hope it’s not too busy!

How about you? How are you holding up? In case you’d like some more links this weekend, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

- It’s not just about bad choices.

- Did you see this teen’s anonymous Instagram account?

- Food as art installation. Thanks, Johanna.

- Aleah Chapin’s Naked Old Women (NSFW).

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Happy Father’s Day to all the dad’s out there! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.


P.S. — Busy summer is here! Maude has been interning this week at the amazing Floracultural Society. Olive is on a school campout. Ralph is on a scout campout. And the younger ones have swim lessons. How’s your summer schedule shaping up? 


Solly Baby Wrap

By Gabrielle. Photo by Solly Baby — have you seen their beautiful baby wraps?

Emily Lundie was expecting Seamus’ birth to follow the same sweet path as the one on which her firstborn arrived. That would sure be perfect, wouldn’t it? But as we all know, life has a way of messing up our perfect plans in such a dizzying way that all we can do is ride along the best way we know how. Yes, we lose our balance. Yes, things don’t look the exact way we imagined. But perfect doesn’t ever mean the same thing for every baby. And that’s the greatest lesson Emily has to share with us today.

She is honest. So honest that your heart may fall when you read the first thought in her final paragraph. But it’s this shared truthfulness that helps another parent out there who may be experiencing the same emotion. It will get better. Please join me in welcoming Emily. I hope her words are just the thing you need to hear today. Hello, Emily!

This wasn’t our first rodeo. We already had a two and a half year old daughter, Madeleine, and were pretty sure we were awesome parents. She nursed like a champ, started sleeping through the night at seven weeks, still napped, and loved her vegetables. We were doing everything right, and it was working really well. I didn’t have a lot of worry about adding another one to the mix. Sure, I knew it was going to present some challenges, but I had every reason to be confident. Little did I know we were about to be knocked down a few pegs by one tiny little boy.

Seamus’ story, straight ahead!


June 4 Books10

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Yay! It’s time for another roundup of fabulous picture books that I think you’ll love. All four picks are really, really beautiful and I’m delighted to add them in our family collection.

First up, let’s talk about Locomotive by Brian Floca. Ben Blair gave me this book for Mother’s Day (did I tell you I collect Caldecott books?) and I love it.

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Readers get to follow along with a family heading west, and on the way, we get to learn all about the history of trains in the U.S., and how they’ve affected our country. Plus it’s big and it has big impact!

, June 4 Books04

Next up, A Lion in Paris by Beatrice Alamagna. This is another BIG book — it fills up your whole lap in a sideways format, as if the illustrations want to be studied.

June 4 Books05 June 4 Books06

In this book, we meet a bored lion, who leaves his grasslands for an adventure in the city of lights. If you’ve ever been to Paris, or are planning a trip there, this book is especially delightful because it hits many of the major tourist highlights — and the illustrations are fantastic! But even if Paris isn’t on your travel list, this book is also universally appealing because the story is about what it’s like to be a stranger in a new place and figuring out how you fit in.

Two more books when you click through!


Brick-Press Cooking

June 16, 2015

Blue Apron Brick Pressed Chicken02

Text and photos by Gabrielle (a few by Ben Blair too!). This post is sponsored by Blue Apron — get two meals free on your first order! See details below.

More Blue Apron love! I’m working with Blue Apron through 2015, and I’ll be posting about them once each quarter. This is my second post this year (and I wrote about them twice last year as well). I know that’s a lot of Blue Apron, but I’m a BIG fan. Their particular offerings might not be a good fit for every family, but they have been a total godsend for mine! Especially these last few months when I’ve had an unusually packed travel schedule.

Blue Apron Brick Pressed Chicken03 Blue Apron Brick Pressed Chicken06

It’s a comfort knowing that ingredients for a healthy, nutrient-packed dinner will be arriving on my family’s doorstep, even when I’m not there to do the grocery shopping.

Blue Apron Brick Pressed Chicken07 Blue Apron Brick Pressed Chicken11

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you probably already know this, but if not, let me tell you about Blue Apron. It is awesome! Essentially, it’s farm-fresh ingredients for chef-designed recipes, delivered to your door. No trips to the grocery store, and no extra ingredients, just the exact portions you need for each recipe. And speaking of recipes, an easy-t0-follow, photographic recipe card is included with each box.

Blue Apron Brick Pressed Chicken04 Blue Apron Brick Pressed Chicken10

Boxes arrive with three meals per week, and the price is $9.99 per person with always free shipping. Blue Apron has just launched in Texas and now delivers to most of the country. They offer a large selection of recipes and they add new dishes to their menu every week — and you can access all the recipes online, even if you’re not a customer.

If you’d like to give it a try, I’ve got an deal for you: The first 100 readers will get two meals off their first Blue Apron order FREE! Just click here.

Click here to see how the brick press method works!


By Gabrielle.

Rachael Bailey has the cutest kitchen table that would match my piano perfectly, and her canning jars remind me of my childhood, canning fruit in the kitchen with mom. Also, we all need a striped wall or two. And maybe a closet bed for a tiny one.

The mental list I made as I slotted photos in this tour and read Rachael’s words made me hopeful and more than a little grateful about these tours. I wonder if they’ve pushed you to make changes, big and little, in your own homes? I sure hope you can think of at least two things our homeowners have shared that are now on your own lists!

As for my ever-growing list, it may now include a cute chicken coop, too. And maybe five Gertrudes. Or at the very least, one small dragon reading on my couch! Welcome, Rachael!

There are a lot of us! My husband Neil is a talented whizzbang of a mechanical engineer finishing up the last year of his doctoral degree. I describe myself as a career mother, but I teach tech and business writing classes part-time at the university and run my own editorial consulting business on the side. I work when the children are asleep and spend my days building Lego rocket ships, snuggling up to read picture books, running through the woods, and experimenting in the kitchen.

We have two sweet girls: Abigail is nine and Juliet is seven. Then we have three adorable boys right in a row: Isaac is five, Luke is three, and Nathan is a keeps-us-all-on-our-toes two. Last but not least, we share our space with Hermes, our orange tabby cat, and ten friendly backyard hens (Yoda, Speckle, Apple, Gloria, Bok-Bok, and five Gertrudes!) As you may or may not have guessed, my children have named all of our animal friends.

We moved here just when the housing market was bottoming out and our area was absolutely flooded with foreclosures. We were lucky enough to both have parents and grandparents who had turned over to us sizable funds for our college educations that we’d never ended up using, thanks to scholarships, so we decided to put that money towards a down payment.

The home that we live in now is actually the very first one we looked at. Our realtor told us that it was way out of our price range, but was certainly the nicest one on the market, and she wanted to give us an idea of what a really lovely foreclosure could look like before she took us to look at all of the ones we could actually afford – and oh, they were awful! I remember crying as we left one listing that smelled like animal urine and had a random wall built through the living room so that if you turned on the ceiling fan it would collide with the wall, and I couldn’t help comparing it with the first dreamy listing we’d seen! Of course, that home had sold within days, but then our realtor called a week later to let us know that it was back on the market with a substantially lower asking price; apparently the bank was desperate to unload it. We finally made an offer that was far below the already-lowered asking price, and we got it! The whole process was so fast, and we moved in just three weeks after we’d begun looking at homes.

We live in north-central Indiana. Our proximity to Chicago allows us to spend weekends in amazing museums, but our community is the perfect mix of hip college town and down-to-earth farming community. I can hit an organic farmers’ market nearly any day of the week on my way home from taking my kids to the free ceramics classes funded by our local arts federation, and my kids are always going on field trips to the age-appropriate plays at the university. Our landscape was molded by glaciers, so there are beautiful wooded ravines in between the miles of rustling cornfields.

The kitchen table styled a little differently! Just ahead.


The Cottage Spring15

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness. The Cottage! If you’re new here, you may not even know this, but right before we left France, we bought a little cottage. It’s essentially the shell of a very old farmhouse. No electricity. No bathrooms. But we have BIG plans for it. I haven’t written a ton about the cottage, but there are a few posts. If you’re curious, you can find them all here.

The Cottage Spring14

About a year ago, I realized I hadn’t given you a tour of the property yet, and it’s been on my list ever since. In fact, I mentioned it again on my New Year’s post. Well, it’s JUNE! And I’m finally getting around to the tour. Related, I’m still quite baffled at how quickly these last two years have disappeared. I suppose the first year was mostly taken up with my mental health issues (dang, that was rough), and I realize the second year back in the States has been all about my book. And of course throughout both of those years there were a million other projects going on — including improvements to The Cottage! But still, I feel like I haven’t had brain space for this project in ages. And suddenly, I do.

The Cottage Spring02

Two years! Has it really been two years since I’ve been back to France? I think it feels shorter because Ben Blair has been back, and because Ralph & Olive both spent last fall there. But all the same, I’m aching for a return trip. Plane ticket prices look decent in the fall, so I’m thinking about how to make something work — but that’s a topic for another post.

The Cottage Snow03 The Cottage Snow02

Anyway, I have dozens of cottage photos to share with you. And I can already tell you that some of you will see these images and feel overwhelmed at all the work that is required. While others will see the photos and feel itchy to tackle a similar project!

The Cottage Spring44

When I look at these photos, I feel nothing but excitement! Especially when I see the work we did last year — we replaced the roof and repaired the walls so that they are structurally sound (and by we, I mean we hired it out, under the supervision of our amazing architect).

The difference is so striking! And now, I can’t wait to transform the rest of the house!

Here’s a room by room tour, starting with the door on the far left:

Loads of photos, just ahead!


A Few Things

June 12, 2015

Design Mom Pink Wig

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello there, Friends! How are you? What a fun week this has been! I traveled to Salt Lake City on Sunday and have been here for Alt Summer all week. It was a really, really good conference! I can’t wait to tell you more about it, but if you’d like a sneak peek, I’ve been posting on Instagram — you can see that I went lighter with my hair (a big thanks to Aubrey Nelson, the master or platinum), and I also tried a pink wig for last night’s party!

I should tell you that I totally had plans to post daily on Design Mom this week — I typically do during Alt Summit. In fact, this is the 11th Alt Summit conference I’ve put on, and I’ve always continued to post while I’m at the conference. But this time, my schedule was simply more packed than usual and I just couldn’t make it happen. Thanks for your patience with my radio silence! I’m heading home today, and I’ll be back to regular posting on Monday.

Of course, I can’t wait to get home! I miss Ben Blair and the kids like crazy. Before I go pack up, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share:

- Did you see the #distractinglysexy hashtag? The responses are making me laugh like crazy! Here’s the back story.

- Missed Connections for jerks.

- A single dad discovers maxi pads. Thoughts on this one? Thanks, Tracy.

- Liquid 3D printer. Wow!

- Whoa. Scientists just found out how to cut-and-paste DNA for less than the price of a pair of sneakers.

- Overloaded vehicles from around the world.

- A good read on gratitude: My father has Alzheimer’s, but it’s far from the nightmare you probably think it is.

- Kevin Spacey impersonating Christopher Walken auditioning for Han Solo.

- Our we tuning our instruments wrong, and can we blame the Nazis?

- Hah! Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig are making a Lifetime movie?

- Hair printing sounds fascinating.

- Thinking of summer. Let’s all make tricycle car washes.

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


P.S. — My birthday is on Sunday, but so far, I have zero plans to celebrate. I need to think of something fun to do!

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