Planking

March 30, 2015

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Image and text by Gabrielle.

I came across this article talking about how planks are the latest fad, and it caught my eye, because Ben Blair is a total planking advocate! He gets the whole family planking whenever we have a spare few minutes. That’s Betty, above, doing a little planking before school this morning. Planking is also part of Maude’s workouts for cross-country and track & field — she holds the planking record in the family.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a hard time embracing exercise routines, but planking seems to be a good fit for me. I like it for several reasons. First, because it goes fast. I can only do about a minute and half so far, and it feels brutal for that minute and a half! But, it’s only a minute and a half. So it’s endurable.

Second, I really like that you can feel the effects, even after just a minute or so. If I plank in the morning, my muscles remind me for the rest of the day.

Third, I’m amazed at how many different muscles get a workout from that one simple exercise!

Fourth, I love that the whole family can participate together. It doesn’t take any particular skill level or strength level or lessons, so everyone can get in on the fun, and no one feels left out. It’s one of those activities where the kids can best the adults (which is always a treat for kids!).

And lastly, I think I like it best because I don’t have to change into work out gear — which means I can participate spontaneously, whenever I think of it or have a break in my schedule.

I can’t pretend it’s a full workout, but I’m trying to pat myself on the back for at least attempting to work some strength-training into my day. : )

How about you? What are your latest exercise successes? Do you have a workout that’s working for you these days? Have you ever tried planking? (If not, go for it! Step away from your computer and give it a try. It’ll go fast, I promise!)

P.S. — Here are some tips to help you hold a plank longer.

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A Few Things

March 27, 2015

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By Gabrielle. Photo by Kristen Loken.

Hello, Friends! How are you? Was it a good week? For me, its been really, really fun, because advance copies of my book started to arrive at reviewers’ homes this week, and a whole bunch of really lovely mentions have popped up on Instagram. I’m tagging them #designmombook if you’d like to check them out.

The other big happenings at our house this weekend are that Oscar gets back from a school camp today (can not wait to give him a gigantic hug!), and Ben Blair flew to Colorado this morning for the wedding of our nephew Justin. Of course I’m super jealous that I’m missing out on hanging with the amazing Blair clan, but in happier news, it’s a quick trip and Ben will get home tomorrow (can not wait to give him a gigantic hug, too!). How about you? Anything fun going on?

Before I check out for the weekend, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- Supertide at Mont St. Michel. I wish I was there! I love that place.

- Yes there are f-words, but it’s worth it I promise.

- Tom Hanks reenacts all his films.

- ”Yoga pants are ruining women.” Thoughts on this interview?

Gigantic bubbles! I never tire of these. Giant bubbles was one of the go-to science fair projects for my siblings. I don’t remember what sort of thesis was involved, but who cares, because GIANT BUBBLES.

- There’s a lot to be learned from Tim Gunn.

Sorry Babe, You’re a Feminist. Funny? Or Does it bug you? (Use headphones for this one around the kiddos.) Thanks, Sarah.

- Why the greatest minds take long walks.

- Blind spots and Woody Allen.

- Blog reviews of my book have started coming in! The first is from Cool Mom Picks, and the second is from Boston Mamas. Both are friends and their reviews are so kind. Thank you, Christine & Liz! Oh. And I just saw this one from Esther at Babyccinno Kids. It’s so sweet I teared up. : )

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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By Gabrielle. All photos taken by Kate.

Kate’s first letter to me included three short and sweet sentences, one of which was “I’m a hippie mom in Oregon who’s blind.” And my immediate thought was how in the world does she get through her day with two little ones? To add that she’s hearing impaired seems more than a little unfair, but trust me: you will not feel a smidge of sorry for this upbeat doer of a parent. (You will, however, mist up at her last few sentences. You can trust me on that!) Her positivity is contagious. I admire her so, so much, and I know you will, too.

Friends, it is with such pride that I introduce you to Kate, my new hippie friend who taught me a thing or two today about life.

Q: Good morning! How did your family wake up?

A: Toby has school today; he is five and is in preschool every other weekday. Toby is curious, well-spoken and also a jabbermouth, and wonderfully intelligent; so much, that he seeks out and gathers only the brightest in his class around him. He’s also very decisive; when we offer him a decision, he rarely changes his mind.

I wake to a vibrating alarm clock. The vibrating part weaves under our fitted sheet and on top of the mattress on my side of the body pillow. My name is Kate. I’m a mom, and I’m also blind and hearing impaired. I can’t hear a radio or a buzzing or beeping noise, but I can hear a vibrating thing directly under my head. I also end up in the middle of the bed, right in between the two pillows, so for our entire married lives, we’ve used a body pillow for our heads. Just’In calls me a hippie: I have past-waist length hair, I use the no shampoo method to wash it, I am barefoot or in Vibram Five-Fingers very often, and I swish with coconut oil (inspired by Design Mom, of course!). I use Earthpaste on my teeth, aluminum-free deodorant, and a menstrual cup. If being a hippie is just personal product choice, then I’m perfectly fine with that label.

More from Kate’s day, straight ahead. Don’t miss a minute.

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Design Mom Goes Blonde

March 25, 2015

By Gabrielle. Video by Gusto at Life in DigitalPhotos by Matt Harrington.

If you’ve been following along on my hair saga, you may already know that right before Christmas this past December, I went blonde. Here’s a time lapse video that takes you from before to after. It was filmed on the first day I went lighter — an eight hour process that is condensed in this video to less than 2 minutes.

I had been wanting to try something totally new with my hair for months but had kind of stalled out, and when I found out my friend, the amazing hair stylist Rubi Jones, was coming to San Francisco, I jumped on the opportunity to make the change happen. Rubi knows the owner of the luxe Barrow Salon here in San Francisco, so she connected me with the salon and we set the whole thing up. In the video, you’ll see Barbara, the genius colorist, her lovely assistant Brigid, and hair guru Rubi Jones who cut and styled my hair at the end of the day.

Something else you’ll see in the video: me talking NON-STOP for a full 8 hours. Literally non-stop. They don’t call me Gabby for nothing. : )

I’ve been getting lots of questions about the blonde from neighbors, relatives and readers, so I thought it would be fun to answer some FAQs here.

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WHAT WAS THE PROCESS LIKE? IS YOUR HAIR SUPER DAMAGED?

In the video, you can see the first appointment. As I mentioned, it was long, like 8 hours. The bleach was applied on small sections, and foiled, and then my roots were bleached separately. And there were several toner sessions. My hair was remarkably undamaged at the end of it and Rubi only trimmed an inch or two.

Since this video was made, I’ve had two more color days, each with same colorist. At the second one, I was hoping for an all-over bleach that would take me platinum, but Barb’s expertise is focused on preserving hair quality as much as possible, and she really wanted to go more slowly to prevent damage, so she did highlights instead.

After trying out the highlights for several weeks, I decided they were definitely too subtle for me, so when I talked to Barb about the next appointment, I asked for no highlights, no foils, just all over bleach. And I wanted to let the bleach sit until I was platinum, even if that meant damage, and even if the damage required a big chop of my hair. So the third time I went in we got much closer to my goal. In fact, I would definitely describe my current color as platinum, though it’s still not quite the white-silver-blonde I’m aiming for. I think my roots are at the goal color, but my ends are still yellow gold. Those darn ends. They were filled with years of dark color and they are quite stubbornly holding on to the remains of it.

After the third appointment, my hair was definitely more damaged, (no surprise) and we cut off another few inches. But the hair quality still doesn’t feel bad, and after a blow-out looks much healthier and happier than I expected.

I think for the next appointment, I’ll do one of two things: 1) just get my roots done, add an all-over toner, and continue to enjoy this current color for awhile. Or 2) cut my hair closer to chin length, and do another all over bleaching session that hopefully takes me to the goal color of white-silver-blonde. We’ll see what happens!

Click here for more Q&A, and the answer to the question: Do blondes really have more fun?

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Family Dinner

March 24, 2015

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Kristen Loken for Design Mom. This post is sponsored by Blue Apron — get two meals free on your first order! See details below.

I wrote about Blue Apron a couple of times last year — I’m a total fan. And they’ve had a new development that I thought you’d love to hear about. They’re now offering a family plan! It’s designed to feed a family of four with full size portions, or a family of 5 or 6, with young kids who eat smaller portions. We had been ordering double boxes to get servings for four, and now everything comes in one box, which means less packaging and more simplicity. Thumbs up all around.

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Have you already heard of Blue Apron? If not, let me tell you, 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.

Boxes arrive with three meals per week, and the price is $9.99 per person with always free shipping. Blue Apron is (hopefully!) available in your area, because it ships to over 80% 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. I’ve been eyeing the Greek Sweet & Sour Stew and the Chicken & Drop Biscuit Casserole — I think my kids would love both.

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.

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I also want to note, that I continue to be delighted by all the different ingredients that Blue Apron introduces to me. For the meal in these photos, Moroccan Root Vegetable Tagine, it was a new-to-me spice called Ras El Hanout. It smells sooooo good. Almost like a christmas-spice mix with some cumin. I don’t know how to describe it, but it was yum.

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Though it’s not necessarily the intention of Blue Apron, we always feel like their boxes include cooking lessons for the kids. When they help with Blue Apron dinner prep, they learn to cut different sorts of vegetables, and they learn how to prepare different sorts of grains than we might include in our standard family recipes.

Click here to see the finished meal!

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By Gabrielle.

This is a happy interview; I can tell Susan smiled and laughed the entire time she answered my questions, and I know you’re going to enjoy her earnest candor. This is an around-the-world family that has most recently moved from Florida to South West France, so you know they’ve experienced their share of cultural changes and shocks. But France is where they hope to call home for a very long time, and I’m so pleased Susan invited us in to show us around!

Welcome, Susan!

Q: Please introduce us to your family.

A: Hi! We are a slightly unconventional British family of seven. My husband, Roddy, grew up in several different countries, his one constant being boarding school in England. I, on the other hand, had a terribly normal childhood, growing up on the Isle of Wight, a small island six miles off the south coast of England. I lived in the same house all my life and I went to the same school all my life, I rode ponies, and was the original tomboy!

My husband and I met on the Island of Madeira in the middle of the Atlantic where he ran two charter fishing boats. I was there on a fishing holiday, a break from London life with some friends. To cut a long story short, we met, some years later we married, and then we had five children over the course of ten years.

Our eldest Izzi is now 18, and has just started at University in the UK. She is incredibly academic – where she gets her study ethic from, I have no idea! Our next daughter, Millie, has just had her 15th birthday. She is very artistic and has an insatiable appetite for life, is passionate about her chickens, and a really good tennis player.

Jack is our 12 year old son, the only boy in a house of girls. Roddy always jokes that he may not like it at the moment, but when he is older and they all start bringing friends home he will be delighted! He should also make extremely good boyfriend material, understanding the way girls think! He is already taller than me, loves cycling, and is intent on winning the Tour de France at some stage in the future.

Hetty is ten. She is all or nothing – either extremely loud or very quiet minding her own business – and there is no halfway house with Hetty! She is a thinker, and she would rather be on her own than be friends with someone just for the sake of being friends. However, once she is your friend you will be her friend for life. Georgina is eight; we call her our little Kiwi as she was born in New Zealand. She is the only one in a blue-eyed family to have green eyes and olive skin. Roddy always jokes that he is sure the French pool man was involved somewhere along the way! She is also the only one that is fearless, so thank goodness she is number five! If the first four had had her fearless attitude, we would be a very small family, I am sure!

Q: Where do you live, and how did your house become your home?

A: We live in South West France in the middle of a small village of 600 inhabitants; our nearest reasonably sized town of 25,000 people is about a ten minute drive away. We have lived here since last summer when we returned to France after living in Florida for four years.

Their family picture will make you smile!

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Book Tour Gift Bags

March 23, 2015

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By Gabrielle. Photo and styling by Seth & Kendra Smoot.

Hey, Friends. Do you run a small business and have a product you would love to share with Design Mom Readers? If yes, definitely let me know. I’m working on the gift bags for each book tour stop and I want to fill them with the most beautiful, wonderful goods out there!

Send me an email this week with a photo of what you’d like to add to the gift bag. If there’s any kind of label, or packaging, or note you want to include, make sure it’s in the photo too, so that I know exactly what you have in mind, then I’ll get in touch with details.

And just so you have an idea of what to expect for quantities, I’ll be prepping gift bags at nine different get togethers, and I’m planning on at least 75 bags for each stop. Depending on what sort of product you make, you might send enough for one book tour event, or for several. We can totally discuss options. As for timing, the first book tour stop is on April 7th (that’s coming up fast!), and they’ll go through May, and even into June.

I can’t wait to hear from you, and see what sort of awesome things you’re making these days!

P.S. — If you have a friend that you think would love to know about this opportunity, feel free to share!

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Kid-Friendly Family Room

March 23, 2015

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Matt Harrington for HomeGoods.

Last week I was in New York for a HomeGoods event called #MakeHomeYours, and I’ve been so excited to tell you all about it. It was a really cool challenge! HomeGoods asked three bloggers to each design a room using only items from their stores, rooms that reflected our own personal styles. Claire from Fashion Bomb Daily designed her dream bedroom. Jen from IHeart Organizing designed an ideal home office. And I designed a colorful, kid-friendly family room.

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Designing a family room that is both totally welcoming to kids, but also appealing to adults, and that works, is right up my alley. I think about how to achieve that sort of thing in my own house all the time. So I LOVED this project. And of course, sourcing everything from HomeGoods was also super fun, because their stock changes frequently, and also changes from store to store, so I never know what surprises I’ll find when I stop by.

With the exception of a few small personal touches (which each blogger was asked to add to their room), every single thing in this space is from HomeGoods. Really, truly. The artwork. The chairs. The coffee table. The ceramics. The throw pillows. The geodes. Even the giant stuffed animals! I’m going to point out some of my favorite parts:

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First up, I love the industrial looking console for two reasons. One, because I’m instantly drawn to anything with a vintage industrial feel, and two, because I find pieces like this to be super family-friendly. If this table gets a scratch or dent, who cares? It just adds to the patina! (And hey, do you see my book there? It fit right into the room!)

Click here for the rest of the tour!

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A Few Things

March 20, 2015

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By Gabrielle. Image of little me with my big sisters all dressed up for Easter!

Hello, Friends! How are you? Did you have a good week? Mine sped by like lighting. I flew to New York on Sunday, worked like crazy from early morning till late night on Monday, then flew home last evening. And as I mentioned, one of the most exciting parts was getting to hold an actual, real copy of my book for the first time. I didn’t know it was going to be such an emotional moment, but I completely teared up! I tell you, that new book smell is pretty darn magical.

And speaking about the book, thank you so much for all the enthusiasm about the book tour! I seriously can not wait!! As the details come together, I get more and more and more excited.

But I must say, it feels really good to be back home. This weekend will be a lot of fun — Betty and Oscar are performing in their school’s variety show this evening, and I’ve got a couple of cool photo shoots on the schedule. How about you? Are you doing anything to mark the arrival of Spring? And does it feel like spring at all where you live? I know New York is scheduled for snow today — I flew back home before the storm hit!

I’m off to tackle my to-do list, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- More men named John run big companies than all women.

- Eclipse chasers. If I had a life list, seeing a total eclipse would be on it.

- Warmer weather means it’s time for white Vans! There are 3 I’m favoring this spring — classic canvas, leather perforated, and white-on-white checkerboard.

- Foliage Easter Eggs.

- How good parents miss child sexual abuse and 5 questions to change that.

- 25 Maps that explain the English language.

- This is tragic and sobering but important article by Nick Kristof about Angola, the deadliest country for kids. #povertyissexist

- How reintroducing wolves helped save Yellowstone.

- Wow! New Alzheimer’s treatment fully restores memory function.

- Do you agree? Every woman in every Pixar movie has the exact same face.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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toto knits crochet blanket

By Gabrielle. Crochet trim blanket from Toto Knits.

Kipin is my favorite kind of storyteller: she tells it like it was in a most honest and enjoyable manner, as though we were lifelong friends. I think that type of personality is a true courage giver to those of us who might need a play-by-play and it might be a little painful at times, but it’s going to turn out just fine reassurance. So if you’re a soon-to-be or someday mom, or if you just want a trip down memory lane, this one is for you. I hope you enjoy Kipin’s account as much as I did:

At 2:55 am on February 15th, I woke to a gush. Three days past my due date, my water broke. I was terrified and exhilarated all at once. I hobbled to the bathroom for a gigantic pad and sat wondering if I should wake up Jared? Call the midwife? Or wait for contractions before waking everyone up at this unholy hour.

It took me about two minutes before I decided I had to tell SOMEONE. I called the midwife and she told me to keep her posted, but until my contractions started and were regular I should try and get some sleep. Jared was next. It took a few moments to hit him, and we both lay back down to try and rest. I knew I would never fall asleep so I asked him for a blessing. I felt like I was ten years old the night before a trip to Disney, jittery with nerves and excitement, all while uncontrollably peeing my pants.

The washcloth incident cracked me up! Just ahead…

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Book Tour Dates!

March 17, 2015

the first copy

Image and text by Gabrielle.

As you know, I’m in New York this week, and while I’m here, it just so happens that advance copies of my book have arrived at my publisher. Woo hoo! I can’t even believe it. In fact, an actual finished copy was just delivered to my hotel room. Oh my goodness. It’s quite the feeling to hold real live copy in my hands. Holy cow. I’m trying not to freak out. Hah!

In related news, I get to announce my Book Tour today! There are fourteen stops and counting. I’ve packed in as much travel as I’m able over the next couple of months, and I can’t wait to meet you guys! Pull out your calendars, this is where you can find me:

Tuesday, April 7th – Oakland, CA
Book Launch Party at Diesel, A Bookstore, beginning at 6:00 PM. Book Q&A, food, photos, goody bags! This event happens the day the book comes out and is the official kick off of the book tour. It’s going to be awesome!! I can’t wait.

Saturday, April 11th – Provo, UT
Book Party at Deseret Book, University Mall, from 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM. The amazing Alison Faulkner of The Alison Show will be there to quiz me on all my motherhood secrets! We’re working on a photo booth, yummy treats, the coolest party favors, and a fun Q&A too! I hope to meet you at the event.

Saturday, April 11th – Salt Lake City, UT
Book Party at Deseret Book in Fort Union, 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM. The always lovely Small Fry Ladies will be there to grill me on all things motherhood. Plus gift bags, refreshments, and a fabulous photo backdrop! Will you be there?

Tuesday, April 21st – Boston, MA
Book Party at Trident Booksellers on Newbury Street in the evening. The brilliant Christine Koh of Boston Mamas will be co-hosting, and is all prepped to interview me with some Design Mom Q&A. Expect the prettiest decor, something delicious to eat, and gifts for attendees! Crossing my fingers you can make it.

Wednesday, April 22nd – New York, NY
Book Party at DwellStudio, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM with the always fabulous Christiane Lemieux. Join us for cocktails, parenting discussions, and a book signing at DwellStudio SoHo. Something extra special about this event: A proceed of the book sales will benefit Every Mother Counts, a cause near and dear to my heart! If you can join us, please send an RSVP to kmargolis@dwellstudio.com.

Wednesday, April 29th – Phoenix, AZ
Book Party at Changing Hands in Tempe, 7:00 PM. Another fun gathering with food and Q&A. Plus, the super talented Jenny Komenda of Little Green Notebook will be there to ask me about the book.

I’ll arrive in the Phoenix area that day to attend the Mom 2.0 Summit in Scottsdale. I’ll be speaking at the conference on Friday of that week! Maybe I’ll see you there. But even if you can’t attend the conference, you are definitely invited to the Book Party at Changing Hands.

Saturday, May 2nd to Saturday, May 10th, at Pottery Barn
During the week leading up to Mother’s Day, I’m working with Pottery Barn on some awesome in-store events that I’m crazy excited about. More details to come, but for now, I can tell you to plan on:

- Sunday, May 3rd – Seattle, WA
- Tuesday, May 5th – Chicago, IL
- Thursday, May 7th – Atlanta, GA
- Saturday, May 9th – San Francisco Bay Area, CA

Monday, May 18th – Houston, TX
Book Party at Blue Willow Bookshop, starting at 7:00 PM. I love everyone that I’ve ever met from Texas, so I already know I’m going to love this event. Food, discussion, pretty things, gifts. The beautiful Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks will be there to lead the discussion. You should totally come!

Tuesday, May 19th – Denver, CO
Book party at Tattered Cover Books in their new Aspen Grove store in Littleton, 7:00 PM. Join us for a Q&A about the book, plus food, gifts and so much fun! It will be terrific to be back in Colorado for a bit.

Where else?
We’re also looking to schedule a stop in Austin. As soon as I have a firm date and location, I will let you know. Then, in June, I’ll be at Alt Summit in Salt Lake City. And we may be adding one more June date as well.

The details for several of the events are still being worked out, so I’ll keep updating you as we add more info. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Will my tour be crossing paths with you at some point? I hope so!

P.S. — If you’re craving a signed book, but I’m not coming to your town, the way to get one is to pre-order it through Diesel Books by April 7th. And happily, even if you’re not an Oakland local, you can order a signed book through Diesel! I’ll sign them as soon as they’re in, and Diesel will ship them to you on the publish date (April 7th).

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By Gabrielle.

The more of Emily’s words I read, the more I’m reminded that the best lives are a little messy. And this is certainly true for childhoods, as well! As parents, we make the most of what we have and where we are at the moment to give our children the best we can give them. Yes, family life gets messy. But I think we would all trade pristine floors for ones with busy footprints in the shape of a racetrack from fridge to front door, and swap leisurely alone time with the clamor of a crowded playdate.

Life happens so fast, and it would be a shame to miss much of it worrying about dust and dirt. I can thank Emily for this reminder today, and I hope you will, too!

Q: Please introduce us to your family!

A: Hello, I am Emily. I really try to embrace life and all the crazy things life may throw my way. I love getting involved and trying to make a difference. I am a sucker for a good TV show…and realize that everyone does not share my definition of good! For a real rush, I love treasure hunting from the back woods of Arkansas to the Paris flea market; I just love finding things that tell a story and complement our home. I also believe that a cup of tea or a great glass of wine among friends can fix almost anything.

I have four little wonders. Piper is a horse-loving ten year old. I envy her determination and her connection with animals. She is just so in tune with nature and her surroundings. She is quietly confident in all she does. Polly is nine and has been my right hand helper since she could walk and talk. I don’t know what I would do with out her keeping me on top of everything we have going on. She always looks at the bright side and is full of smiles.

Harrison is seven and pure sweetness, and has always had a love of beautiful things. He is passionate about fashion and creating beautiful things. He has a fantastic eye and I often ask him for advice.

Hudson keeps us all on our toes. Literally! He is not content unless he is outside playing some form of sport. Because he is still home with me, we spend lots of quality time hiking together and searching for lost Indian artifacts. I love a good chat and he shares my passion!

Andrew, my husband, is extremely patient with all of us. He works very hard in commercial real estate, but when he is here there is nothing he loves more than spending time with us – thank the dear Lord – because when he is around things are always much smoother, I always relax when he walks through the door. One of the things I love most about him is his laid back Aussie personality; there is really not much that can stress him out, and he always helps me keep things in perspective.

We also have a host of creatures: our dogs, horse, chickens, canaries, budgies, and an occasional peacock that wanders into our always open door.

You may either love or not love the kids’ free room! Come look!

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Minted Giveaway

March 16, 2015

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By Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness. You will LOVE today’s giveaway. It’s sponsored by fabulous Minted, and they’re offering a super generous $400 store credit!

You probably know Minted best for their holiday cards and stationery — all created and sourced by a community of independent artists. But over the last couple of years, Minted has moved beyond custom cards, and they now offer so gorgeous wares like art printstextiles, and party decor!

Minted Spring 2015

And every new product line that they launch is held up to the same stringent design and production values that Minted has always been known for.

At the moment, I’m in the middle of a room refresh project with Minted, and as I think about transforming the space, I’ve been scouring their wall prints in particular. Pictured here are some of the options I’m considering. In the top collection: Abstract TrianglesGestureAn Ode to AgnesCalculation, and Tangerine. In the lower collection: Golden CountryThe CommuteHexagon With Dot, and Under Water. So many terrific choices. It’s like you can’t go wrong!

Minted Spring Sale 2015

Extra fun: Minted has a big Spring Event going on on that ends today. Get 15% off all art!

To enter the giveaway, check out Minted’s Art Marketplace and leave a comment below letting me know which one you love best. The winner will be announced next Monday. Good luck!

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Sarah is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Lake Tahoe

March 16, 2015

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By Gabrielle. The photos are of the home we stayed at, but they’re not mine. I took lots of photos, but it was overcast, and I like these shots from the rental description better. : )

Waving hello from New York! Gosh, I’ve got a lot of travel on my calendar at the moment. (Which reminds me, I’ll be announcing my book tour dates either shortly!) But this post isn’t about New York. It’s about last week’s last-minute trip to Lake Tahoe!

This was a ski trip, and it was the first ski trip we’ve had in over 4 years. We had visited Tahoe last year in the Spring, but this was our first time seeing it with snow. Really, we’re at the tail end of the ski season, and it feels like spring/summer in the rest of California, but in our minds, this was a winter trip. We built fires, hung out in the hot tub after skiing, and did a whole bunch of baking.

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There were two big things that I’ve been thinking about from this trip. One, is that all of my kids now know how to ski. I feel like I’ve passed some sort parenting stage. Hah! Before this trip, June had never skied before, but we enrolled her in ski school and she really took to it. On the second day, they moved her up a class because she was doing so well. (Those are definitely not my genes!) Obviously, she’s still just a beginner, but she had a fantastic time. It won’t be long until she’s spending the day skiing with her older siblings.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it, I grew up skiing, but I don’t enjoy it. I’m not sure what it is. I’ve spent many winters of my life skiing, and just have no interest. I think the last time I willingly skied was in college. So last week, while the rest of the family hit the slopes, I spent the days in the lodge catching up on work, and being a drop-off location when my kids wanted to shed their layers. I’d meet up with everyone for lunch and then get back to work.

livingroom fireplace

But there was something about seeing June ski that made me think I might enjoy skiing in the future. I can picture the whole family on the slopes together, and I like that picture very much.

Anyway, the second thing I noted about the trip is that we felt like we really scored on the location. The house is a rental that we originally found on Kid & Coe. As it turns out, I ended up getting introduced to the owner, Domonique of The Simple Proof, who lives in the Bay Area. When she had a unscheduled week come up for her Tahoe place, she generously offered it to us, and we dropped everything and made the last-minute trip happen. And we’re so glad we did!

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The house really was perfect (you can see more photos of it here). It was easily roomy enough for our big family. Every one had their own bed, with extra sleeping spaces to spare. There was a big gathering room where we could watch movies and play board games, and an oversize table that could seat everyone. The kitchen had every tool we could possibly need and except for one night of ordering out for pizza, we did all our cooking at the house.

But the best part, is that the stunning lake was just down the path. After skiing, it was still light enough that we would walk down to the lake to skip rocks, or explore, or just hang out on the dock. And it was so easy to picture how amazing this same house would be in the summer.

bedroom masterbath

One of the biggest traveling challenges my family has is finding accommodations that really fit us — not just enough beds, but a place where we can all hang out together. So when we find a location that seems to solve the where-to-stay puzzle for us, it feels like we’ve found a treasure! After a couple of days at Domonique’s house, we were already talking about scheduling rental dates for the summer, and then again for next winter, and making it a regular thing. The idea of planning a vacation and not having to think about where to stay — to just already know! — seems like the most amazing thing ever.

Anyway, I’m curious about several things: Do you ski? Do your kids ski? Is there anyone else out there like me who has skied a bunch but isn’t a big fan? Have you ever been to Lake Tahoe? Do you have a favorite season there? And how do you handle vacation accommodations? Do you return to the same spot over and over? I really like that idea!

P.S. — I mentioned Kid & Coe on Instagram and received a few emails about them. I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you about their services, but we’ve become big fans. They offer airbnb-type rentals, but they focus only on family-friendly spaces, and they only list really good ones. No duds! 

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A Few Things

March 13, 2015

Blairs on the dock at Lake Tahoe

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Did you have a good week? My family had a terrific time at Lake Tahoe! I promise to tell you all about it next week. We arrived home this afternoon, unpacked, and got right back to real life — track practice and scout assignments and errands and babysitting jobs. Real life is good.

This weekend will involve work catchup, plus some packing too. I’m headed to New York next week for a really cool event with HomeGoods. I always love a trip to New York. The weather apps are predicting temperatures in the 50s next week. The 50s are always a bit mysterious to me clothes-wise — I’m wondering if I should pack with Spring in mind, or Winter? How about you? Any weekend plans you’re looking forward to?

I’m off to make a packing list, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Why being unable to stand noisy eaters might make you a genius.

- California has about one year of water left.

- Too early to talk about water-balloon fights? Then bookmark this awesomeness for later.

- The Stitch has my attention. Add an orange zigzag to an item of clothing, and let the stitches help reduce the stigma that surrounds talking about being abused as a child.

- An article from Motherlode – “My friend has a son who is autistic.”

- Ben Blair and I just started watching a new series called The Last Man on Earth. It was created by Will Forte. Have you seen it?

- My friend Cathleen Falsani, world-class author and reporter, is using a GoFundMe campaign to finance a reporting trip to Nepal. The trip is with an NGO which is working with at-risk women there. Check it out.

- The Foodnited States. Via Cool Mom Picks.

- Why are some people called expats and others immigrants? Thanks, Logan.

- Heartbreaking — a Stanford neurosurgeons’ parting words about life and time.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Call It A Day: Erin Allan

March 11, 2015

By Gabrielle.

Do you remember Erin Allan’s home tour? If you need a refresher, she was the one living in the outskirts of Nairobi, running a community-empowering company and…hmm, what else was I going to tell you about her? Oh, yes! Sometimes she chooses not to bike her kids to school because of lion sightings or a wayward bunch of baboons. Now do you remember?

I’m so happy to follow her through a random Thursday. It’s the similar yet so strikingly different things we all do that makes this so interesting to me. How we errand, how we balance work and play, how we stay home or venture out, and how we avoid the dangers in our path like it’s no big deal. It’s all fascinating, isn’t it? (I hope you are nodding your head.) Please enjoy Erin’s day!

Q: Good morning! How did your family wake up?

A: It’s Thursday, so the kids don’t have to be at school till eight, which means we all wake up pretty naturally at seven. As we are on the equator, it gets light the same time every day and the chickens outside are a natural alarm clock.

Tor wakes first. He’s eight and seems to have a large quota of words he has to say every day and starts right away. This morning it’s ‘You are not allowed to fly on the platypus plane!’ There’s no stipulation that the words he says have to make sense! He’s got a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humour, so he is able to get everyone laughing at an early hour.

Nina is next. She’s ten and needs a few more minutes to start her day, like her dad. She might have a few minutes on her tablet or play some piano before breakfast.

Jan is the slowest waker upper, but that’s allowed; many mornings he’s out of the house at 5:30 to go to a site. He designs and fabricates tents for luxury safari camps and lodges, and spends a lot of time in the bush. He’s just got his pilot’s license and can now fly himself to site, which means his days are far more productive. He has a workshop at home so he can get up later and still be in the office by eight today.

It is a good thing they didn’t bike to school today! See why, straight ahead.

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By Gabrielle. Photography by Kirsten Wiemer. This post is brought to you by FilterEasy — the first hundred people who check them out will receive a free order of filters! Oh. And you could win a $300 Gift Card to Amazon!! Find details below.

Making spring cleaning plans? Then this post is just for you. I got a an email a few weeks ago about FilterEasy and when I read it, I had one of those cartoon-esque moments where my jaw dropped and I slapped my forehead — I keep forgetting to change our air filters! To really keep up good air quality in our house, in an ideal world, we would change the filters every other month. But we’ve been in this house for a year and a half and up until last week, we had changed the air filters exactly once. So gross!

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And I’m not even a little embarrassed to admit it, because I’ll bet many of you reading are like, air filters? Do I have them in my house? Where? How do I check? Has my landlord been changing them? Is it my responsibility? What are air filters? Then, once you know what they are, you have to figure out sizes and which allergen level you need or prefer. It can feel intimidating. If you are highly organized, or super sensitive to dirty air, then you’re likely on top of switching out your filters, but for the rest of us, air filter knowledge just doesn’t seem to be one of those things that is automatically acquired with adulthood or homeownership.

In fact, since we married, we’ve lived in 8 homes, and the only one where we changed a filter (besides this house) was the first home we owned, and we only knew to change that filter because we had a new HVAC system installed and the installer showed us how. In every other home we were either clueless, or assumed the landlord was taking care of it. And now that I think back, I don’t think I ever saw our landlords change the filters. Hah!

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Anyway, back to that email about FilterEasy, I signed up immediately, because I think it’s so smart. FilterEasy is a subscription air filter delivery service so that you can get clean air without hassle. Depending on how dirty the air quality in your area is, filters should be changed every 1, 2, or 3 months. And with a FilterEasy subscription, the filters are delivered to your door, right when you need them. It’s this perfect reminder.

You don’t have to go to the hardware store, or try and remember what size you need. You put your info in FilterEasy once — number of filters in your house, sizes, how often you want to change them, and allergen protection — and then your subscription is on autopilot. And if you’re worried about price, don’t be, because FilterEasy offers filters for lower than competitor rates at a home improvement store.

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And we all SHOULD be changing our air filters, because the benefits are significant. First, the air in your house will be cleaner, with less allergens, pet dander, dust and bacteria. Second, because not changing filters is the leading cause of expensive HVAC repairs. Third, you’ll save energy, since HVAC uses more energy than any other appliance, and clean filters make for efficient air flow. Hard to argue with lowering your carbon footprint and saving on energy costs!

My first delivery arrived last week, and thank goodness, because as you can see in the photos, our filters were so dirty! I’m now a devoted FilterEasy fan. Have I convinced you how awesome it is? Good. Now let’s get to the Giveaway for the $300 Amazon Giftcard!

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To enter, click this link and enter your email address. You’ll automatically be entered to win a $300 Amazon gift card! There is no purchase necessary, you just need to input your email address to be entered and eligible. Good luck! I hope you win. The winner will be announced on Monday the 23rd.

Oh. And even if you don’t win, I’ve got a GREAT FilterEasy discount for you: The first hundred people who enter their email address will receive their first order of filters of any size for free!! Click this link and enter your email to automatically redeem the offer. For real! Input the info for the filters in your home, and the entire first month’s order is free. Once you enter your email address, the discount will automatically apply to your order.

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By Gabrielle.

I’m not sure if it’s the sunlight sliding through this tour or the overwhelming vibe that this house wasn’t built yesterday or the sheer uniqueness of this home, but I am hooked on it. I’ve lost many minutes zooming in on Raffaella’s kitchen shelves and dreaming of a nap in one of those beds. It looks like such a good life. You’ll see. Welcome, Raffaella!

Q: Please introduce us to your family!

A: Marco and I met during a night out with friends in Milan, and neither of us had the least idea that we’d be starting a family shortly after. We were both very busy with our jobs; he was working as an architect in Milan, and I was in TV and film production.

On a whim, he invited me to spend a weekend with him in Tuscany. Marco studied architecture in Florence and moved to Rome and Milan afterwards, but his family originates from Montalcino in the south of Siena. In fact, his mom says that their family’s presence in the Val d’Orcia can be traced back all the way into the early 15th century. We must be on the way to continue the family tradition since the prominent wine town in southern Tuscany is where we live now together with our two sons!

So much dreaminess! I can’t wait to show you!

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Lake Tahoe

Image and text by Gabrielle.

I’m so late posting today because we have been on the road all day. We had a last-minute opportunity come up and we’re spending a few days at Lake Tahoe!!! We’re so excited. We are going to ski our hearts out before the (minimal) snow the resorts received this year disappears. : )

With the exception of Olive, who spent a ski week with her school class in the French Alps when we lived in Normandy, we haven’t been skiing since we lived in Colorado! That seems like a really long time ago. It was a really long time ago.

So, I’m late with my posts today, but I won’t be skipping out on work — I’ve got great stuff scheduled for the rest of the week. Plus, I’ll be Instagramming our trip if you’d like to follow along. Lake Tahoe is gorgeous! I snapped the photo at top last spring when we visited for the first time. We all feel super lucky that we get to be here this week.

P.S. — We’re staying at a really cool place that belongs to a Bay Area local friend, Domonique of The Simple Proof. You can see photos of it on Kid & Coe. It’s fantastic! I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

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Four Books You’ll Love

March 9, 2015

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By Gabrielle With photo assistance by Rose Gluck.

Well, it’s been ages since I’ve done a book post, but I think today is the perfect day for some picture book recommendations! Here are four new titles that have been a hit at our house.

First up, Polar Bear’s Underwear. It was written and illustrated by Tupera Tupera, the Tokyo-based art and design firm of artists Tatsuya Kameyama and Atsuko Nakagawa. This book is perfect for the five and under set. Polar Bear can’t find his new underwear, so he starts hunting for them with the help of Mouse. Are they those pretty patterned ones? No. That tiny, colorful pair? I’m afraid not.

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Your little readers will encounter all sorts of creatures on the underwear hunt, and will laugh at the twist at the end!

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Next up, is this beautiful book about a real life con man. It’s called Tricky Vic — The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower. I received this as an early review copy, but the book will be out tomorrow! This is a fun one for older kids — it has lots of history, new vocabulary, and factoids built in. If your family is a fan of heist stories, then this is sure to become a new favorite.

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It was written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli — an author, illustrator and screen printer from Philadelphia. I don’t know Greg, but based on his clever mix-media illustrations in the book, thing he must have a great sense of humor.

Keep reading for two more books!

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