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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Few Things

April 22, 2016

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Photo and text by Gabrielle.

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

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

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

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

- 50+ picture books featuring mixed race families.

- Inflatable bag monsters.

- Accidentally raising a bully.

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

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

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

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

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

- A message from your exhausted token brown friend.

- On public shaming.

- Ski treadmill!

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

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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

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Recipe: Homemade Berry Almond Granola Bars

By Gabrielle. Photos by Lindsey JohnsonSponsored by Blue Diamond.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready to make something yummy?

Click here for the recipe and notes!

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By Gabrielle.

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

Welcome, Sarah!

Samuel’s story, straight ahead!

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The Year of the Period

April 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I look forward to reading your thoughts.

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

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By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.

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

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

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

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

Click here for the simple tutorial!

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By Gabrielle.

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

Hi, Sarah!

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

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

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

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

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

More island life, straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Liz Berget for Design Mom.

I’m thinking we’re way overdue for a new Dessert for Two recipe, right? And I’m also thinking that a dessert involving fresh berries sounds like absolute perfection at the moment.

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No bake? Fresh berries? Cheesecake? This sort of dessert is right up my alley! I was in Salt Lake City for meetings all day yesterday. I flew out very early in the morning, and flew back late at night. When I arrived home, all I wanted to do was catch up with Ben Blair over a treat. Dessert for two for the win!

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Speaking of fruity desserts being right up my alley, now I’m curious: When presented with a dessert menu, are you more likely to favor chocolate based desserts, or fruit-based desserts? I definitely favor fruit-based. My second choice would be anything carmel. Ben Blair typically orders chocolate — it’s not my very favorite, but I’m always happy to steal a bite or two. : ) How about you?

Click here for the recipe and notes!

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A Few Things

April 15, 2016

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Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? Anything fun happening for you this weekend? On our schedule: Ben Blair is in Houston, Texas till Sunday. Ralph is going to a concert in Santa Cruz. Maude Blair has a track meet. Olive Blair has a field trip in San Francisco. Oscar & Betty are going to an Oakland A’s baseball game. And little June? I guess she’ll just be hanging out with me. : )

My goal is to get that outdoor furniture I mentioned repainted. Last weekend it was too rainy, but this weekend looks like it will be gorgeous. How about you?

I’m off to get my hair trimmed, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share with you:

- For anyone who has lost a complicated parent.

- I have an irrational fear of spiders. Wondering if I could handle this spider catcher.

- “Before we could even talk about the crime, we had to make sure Lyne wasn’t culpable somehow.”

Storage bed.

- The permanent temporary solution.

- 7 spray-painting tips.

- A racist stereotype is shattered.

- I’m obsessed with these Strandbeest Wind Sculptures that seem like living creatures.

- European food according to Italians.

- Why is America pulling down the projects?

Inky the Octopus escaped.

I hope you have the loveliest weekend! Wishing you strawberry-rhubarb pie a la mode. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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18 Tips for Traveling with Kids — From a Mother of Six!

Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Alamo. Have you signed up for the Alamo Insiders program? Details below!

I’m working with Alamo on a family travel series (first post here). And today, I want to tackle traveling with a big family (related Pin board here). But that’s a really broad topic! So I’m going to focus in a bit. This post isn’t about time on the plane or how to pack or where to go or where to stay. Instead, I’m going to share everything I’ve learned about what the days are like (and how to make them awesome!) once you are at your destination. Sound good?

I have lots of tips, so I put them in list form. And I hope as you read them, they’ll remind you of your own tips — which you should totally share in the comments, because I would LOVE to learn from you! Also, as the title declares, yes this is about travel with a big family, because that’s what I know best. But the reality is, most (if not all) of these tips would work for small families, too. So really, this is about travel with kids.

Traveling with Kids — 18 Solid Tips from a Mother of Six

Here it is! All my travel knowledge, in no particular order:

1) When thinking about your day, plan based on the lowest common denominator, meaning the youngest in the group. If you’ve got a little one, they can’t walk all day and they don’t suddenly have new or different schedule needs because they are in a new place. So keep the schedule really simple and be ready for lots of stops. In Rome, we’d take gelato breaks like 5+ times a day.

2) Only put ONE big destination/activity on the schedule each day. That’s it. Only one. “Visit the Van Gogh Museum.” “Go horseback riding.” “Take a city bus tour”.

Yes, if it was just grownups, you could pack the day and see a million things. But with kids, it pays to be less ambitious. Keep it simple. If things go wrong, and they often do — maybe you get on the wrong bus, or have a hard time finding a lunch spot, or the weather turns crummy — it won’t wreck your schedule. You’ll feel great that you accomplished your one big thing, and when you’re done, if the family still has lots of energy, you can always add on a bonus activity.

3) On the way to your big event or tourist spot of the day, stop at every park you encounter along the way. Why? Partly because it’s fun and part of seeing what this new place is like. There are so many different kinds of parks, big green spaces, urban asphalt parks, tiny neighborhood play spaces. Your littlest kids probably won’t remember the trip, but spending time at parks will make sure they have a wonderful day, and that helps the whole group.

It’s also a way of losing time, or of filling the day in a positive way, without stressing anyone with a packed schedule.

Traveling for Big Families. 18 Tried-and-True Tips!

4) Bring water. It should be the only heavy thing in your pack. If you don’t want to carry it, know where your water sources are quickly and easily. Having clean water on hand is essential. First, for thirst, but also for rinsing scrapes and cleaning off sticky hands.

5) Instead of packing them ahead of time, buy snacks in local grocery stores. It’s a small adventure in the larger day. Use it as an opportunity to explore a non-touristy piece of the place you’re visiting. There’s nothing like going to a grocery store — especially in another country — to give you a glimpse of what it would be like to live there. What do their milk bottles look like? Do they refrigerate the eggs? How are the fruit and vegetables packaged and sold? Any new veggies you’ve never seen? What does the toothpaste look like? Is it a huge supermarket or a tiny corner grocery? Any familiar brands? Maybe with different flavors/products than you have at home? How about the candy aisle?

6) Even if you’re past the diaper stage, always carry a package of wet wipes. They come in so handy! They can wipe down a table at a restaurant, and they can wipe down a bottom when the public restroom is out of TP. You already know how awesome they are.

Twelve more tips! Keep reading.

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By Gabrielle.

Today we’re peeking in on a lovely and talented friend of mine, Samantha Hahn, a Brooklyn-based illustrator and author (her newest book just came out!) and all-around interesting person. I get really inspired poring over her current work, and I hope you’ll feel the same; a little creativity is a good way to start the day, right?

Samantha mentions below that her daughter “never hesitates to ask for what she wants and needs in life.” I love that, and it happens to be one of the characteristics of Sam herself that I admire most! Asking for what you need, or in a business sense, asking for what you’re worth, is hard for so many women. And Sam is a great personal model for me in that regard.

Also, the way she describes the street on which she lives gave me a visual I can’t quite get out of my head! It’s been making me smile ever since. Welcome, Sam! I’m so glad to spend your day with you!

Samantha’s day, straight ahead!

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Custom Photo Charms for your charm bracelet.

Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Shutterfly. Celebrate mom this Mother’s Day with the perfect customizable photo gift made with Shutterfly.

Okay, Friends. Let’s talk Mother’s Day gifts. Gifts for your mom, your mother-in-law, your step-mom, your grandmother, your godmother — and maybe a little something for you, too! When coming up with gift ideas, my hope is always to find something equal parts pretty and practical. I love good-looking objects, and I love them even more if they are totally useable! For this post, I’ve partnered with Shutterfly, because they have lots of ideas that fit my criteria, plus they go one step further. These ideas are pretty, practical, and personal.

Custom Photo Charms and Initial Charms for your bracelet. Custom Photo Charms in squares and circles for your bracelet.

Idea number one: Photo Charms!
How about sending gorgeous charms with photos of your kids? You can get them as squares or circles, in silver or gold, or even surrounded with crystals. They are adorable! You can hang them from necklaces, or add them to a charm bracelet or bangle.

Personal Photo Charms in squares and circles for your bracelet.

And speaking of charm bracelets, you can create one from scratch! Pick the bracelet then customize it to your heart’s content. You could start simple, gifting the bracelet with one or two charms. And then, you could send new charms for each birthday and holiday. I find that so appealing, because it means you don’t have to keep thinking up new gifts. You simply send a new charm!

Custom Photo Charms in squares and circles. Would be fun to add photos of places we've traveled. Personal Photo Charm, surrounded by crystals. Personalized Photo Charm Bracelet, with birth stones and a Monogram Charm.

Or you could even create a full bracelet like I did here. I’ve got photo charms for each of the kids, an initial B for Blair, two birthstone jewels representing important dates to me, and a special one of Ben Blair, surrounded with crystals. Wouldn’t it be fun to team up with your siblings and create a special charm collection for your mother? You could have photo charms of all the grandkids, maybe birth stones or initials too.

Monogrammed Mason Jars - you choose the font

Idea number two: Monogrammed Mason Jars!
Talk about some super charming drinkware. I love these! I want to fill them with lemonade and add a striped paper straw immediately. They’re available in all sorts of designs — my favorites are the simple, crisp, two letter and three letter monograms, and you can choose different fonts too.

Monogrammed Mason Jars - you choose the font Custom Monogrammed Mason Jars - you choose the font

I went with the two letter option and had a set of 8 made — one for each member of the family. Since we have some repeat initials (Betty Blair and Ben Blair, Olive Blair and Oscar Blair), I used two different fonts, one serif and one slab-serif to differentiate.

Monogrammed Mason Jars - make one for each family member Monogrammed Mason Jars - cute personalized gift! Custom Monogrammed Mason Jars - cute personalized gift!

My thinking is that if we all have an assigned cup, we can use it throughout the day and lighten up our dishwashing. I’ll tell you how it goes. : )

If you’re into useable monograms, you can also try the stemless wine glasses.

Scented Candle with a Personal Photo added

Idea number three: Photo Candles!
This might be my favorite of the three ideas. Actually, I like them all, but this one is very, very cute! You can have any photo added to a candle and there are tons of designs to choose from. Again, I was drawn to the simplest one, the Photo Gallery Candle. I used a black and white image, but you can use color too.

Scented Candles with Personal Photos added. Great gift idea. Custom Candles. You pick the scents and the photos. B&W or color.

As an added bit of fun, you get choose a scent for the candle! And depending on the scent you choose, the candle will have a different color. For example, Grapefruit Blossom scent is white and Fireside Spice is red. The candles are high quality, made with an all-natural soy blend and essential oils, and they burn for 50 hours.

Add type to your custom photo candles.

I ordered two of these candles and added an Eagle Scout photo of Ralph to each one. As you can see, I included a type overlay (Ralph Blair 2016) on one of the photos, and left the other blank. There are tons of options and fonts!

Since Ralph’s grandparents couldn’t make it to his Court of Honor, I thought it would be fun to send them one of these candles to commemorate the occasion. And the scent I picked is Evergreen Forest. Perfect right? I think the green looks very scout-y.

Custom Candles. You pick the scents and the photos. B&W or color.

These make such a terrific gift! I like them because the recipient can use them up and then say goodbye. No pressure or guilt to have them out on display forever. And sending a new photo candle a few times a year, featuring a recent picture of your darling baby, to a favorite aunt or godmother, could be such a fun tradition!

Alrighty. That’s 3 ideas to get the conversation started. Now I’m curious, how do you approach Mother’s Day gifts? Do you have lots of people to buy for? Is it hard to come up with thoughtful ideas, or do you have some angst-free traditions in place (like the charms)? And if you’re a mother, what about gifts for you? Do you make a wishlist so your spouse has something to start from? Does your heart go pitty pat for homemade gifts from the kids? Or maybe all you want for Mother’s Day is a long luxurious nap?

—–

This post is sponsored by Shutterfly.

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polymer-clay-earrings 18

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.

Homemade earrings that don’t look homemade at all! And so easy that your kids can get involved too. How does that sound?

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Amy Christie, who is the established queen of polymer clay, sent me this idea for 3 different earrings and I loved it immediately. I’m perpetually on the hunt for sweet, pretty, usable, handcrafted projects. Ideas that are perfect for a rainy afternoon, or for a Ladies Crafting Night, or for a birthday party activity, or to make as a gift. And this project definitely fits the bill!

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Before we jump into the instructions, I’d love to hear: have you ever made your own jewelry? In my experience it takes a particular patient frame of mind from me, because the elements are so small and can escape my fingers easily. Maybe that’s why kids take to this kind of project so well — they have smaller hands!

Instructions for all 3 earrings straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Shannon Quinn.

Emily wrote to me after a friend introduced her to Design Mom. In her words, “I loved seeing real people living their creative lives with their kids. Seeing the lives people have put together throughout your Home Tours section — one beautiful map, accessible shelf, and cool color at a time, but all clearly real, worked for, and functional — has kept me up into the wee hours. And your invitation to participate has inspired me to write. I feel like your blog is filled with friends I haven’t met. I’d love to share my own home and story and join the party.”

There was a big yes from me, and crossed fingers that she’d send beautiful photos and more gorgeous words — and she sure didn’t let me down on either front! You’re going to find such love in this one.

Emily, welcome to the party!

Hello, everyone! I’m Emily. I live with my 11 year old son Jasper, and he lives with me, his 52 year old mama. He is passionate about soccer, has just listened to the Harry Potter series without pause, draws animals, is learning to put the salsa away after using it, and to take a shower more than once a week. He is also deeply perceptive, smart, and has won almost every hand of Rummy 500 he has ever played. We are both good listeners and are always in the mood for a good story.

Every night we read together at bedtime. It always feels like just the moment we have waited for, snuggling under the heavy covers talking about the day, asking questions. Was China an ally during WW2? If you have written a book about yourself is it a biography? We just finished Birds, Beasts and Relatives, the second in the series by Gerald Durrell about his family’s time on Corfu, just before the war. I loved loving this funny, articulate portrait with Jasper, laughing at the same passages, absorbing the same beautiful descriptions of the sea breaking into a galaxy of stars as the moon’s light shone onto its surface.

On my last birthday, a friend welcomed me to my full deck year, and that has felt both auspicious and right; Life feels very comfortable and sweet these days. I am passionate about my kid, my deep and many friendships, and my work. I have been supporting myself as a designer and maker of jewelry and of Judaica for 25 years. I am also a reckless but avid gardener who believes in moving things around, a lot.

Cooking for me is both reflexive and joyful. Standing at the stove feels like my rightful place, and when friends come over for dinner, it’s the spot from which I visit. At an early age, I was trained by my mom and my grandma to thrift shop and antique. So my house is filled with finds that tell not only a story of my aesthetic, but also of the day I found them, usually with my mom in some little shop or from the acres of Brimfield booths we visit twice a year. I find objects intriguing as well as pleasing. How they reflect their time or how their maker turns them into storytellers. Who made that sampler? Who originally — and perhaps without irony — owned that Native American couple statuette?

Though my mom, Joyce, does not live in my house, she lives near it and we drift in and out of each other’s homes on an almost daily basis. I could not have gotten luckier in the mom department. She is the most truly accepting person I know and throws the best dinner parties, with votives glowing in old crystal glasses and great conversation sparkling around the table. She has been a dancer, a teacher, a therapist, an artist, a saleswoman, and most recently an Airbnb host. And, of course, a fabulous grandmother with treasure troves of art supplies, a great sense of humor, and powerful love to give and give.

A million treasures, just ahead!

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Ralph Blair. This post is brought to you by Schoola. You can shop the Design Mom Schoola collection — 10 items from our family’s closets.

Last month, I introduced you to Schoola, and this month I’ve partnered with them on their Versatile Style campaign. They asked 3 bloggers to style a wardrobe essential for night and day. One styled denim, one styled an oxford shirt, and one styled a little black dress (that would be me). There’s an interview with me, too!

As part of the campaign, I donated 10 items from our family wardrobe, and you can shop the collection! I’ve been told by Schoola that they may sell out fast — apologies in advance if you click over and everything is gone. Though I’m keeping the school name private, the proceeds will go directly from Schoola to the awesome-but-under-funded Oakland Public Elementary School where Oscar, Betty and June attend.

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As you may already know, Schoola is part online thrift store and part fundraising platform. It’s well known that school programs like art and music and PE have had huge budget cuts, or been dropped altogether, and Schoola is focused on saving and supporting those types of programs.

This is how Schoola works: 1) Request a free donation bag. Or if you’re feeling ambitious, organize a school-wide clothing drive — any school in the contiguous US can participate! 2) Clean out your closet and fill the bag with gently used kids’ and women’s clothing. 3) Send the bag to Schoola and tell them which school you want to benefit. Oh. And the donation bag comes with a pre-paid shipping label, so there’s no shipping cost for you! 4) 40% of the proceeds from the sale of your clothing goes directly to your school to help fund programs like art, music, field trips and physical education.

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But back to the Versatile Style campaign — it’s all about everyday essentials! Pieces you can wear any season, over several years, for all sorts of outings. These are the real workhorses of your wardrobe, and I definitely consider a little black dress to be one of them.

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I confess, I have more than one little black dress in my closet (this comes as a surprise to no one). They truly are so versatile and wearable — and on days where I’m feeling a bit rumpled, they add instant polish. I pair them with tights and boots in the winter. I love them with sandals and bare legs in the summer. Here in Oakland, the weather pretty much always calls for a flexible layer on top, so I often pair a little black dress with a cardigan, or a denim jacket, or a wrap, or a blazer.

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And after wearing the dress around all day — at the grocery store, at the bank, at the school — I can throw on some heels and switch up the accessories, and I’m ready to meet friends for dinner or go to a show with Ben Blair.

When you think of your closet, what pieces come to mind that fit in the versatile style category? I have a pair of modern, stylish sweats that have joined my essentials, my black penny loafers definitely qualify, a simple light blue button down, my denim jacket too. What about you?

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Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Well, Hello! Welcome to April’s installment of my random thoughts. Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments.

- With two new nieces on the way, I’m thinking of the sweet moment when siblings meet for the first time. One day they’ve never met, the next day, they encounter a person that will know them the longest of anyone in their life. So amazing.

- Ben Blair has two trips this month. As I mentioned, he’s been in Salt Lake City over the weekend, presenting at the Mormon Transhumanist Association conference. He’ll get home today. And then later this week, he’s heading to Houston. He and my brother, Josh, were asked to speak about Teachur at an education + technology conference.

And speaking of Teachur, a little update: it’s so awesome to see the company growing and forming. They are in true start-up mode. Lots of inquires from (like this article), getting asked to present at conferences (the Houston conference will be their 3rd so far), and more and more curriculum is getting built every day. Maybe the most fun, is that they are reaching out to professors and teachers to beta test the curriculum building software. Very exciting!

- While Ben has been in Utah this weekend, he had lunch Christopher and Lisa Clark. Topher is one of Ben’s life-long friends and was recently diagnosed with ALS. Which is mind-blowing. It’s impossible to picture him sick — this strong, happy man, in-demand director, father of 5, husband of Lisa Clark (one of my favorite people on the planet).

Understandably, everyone that knows him is heartsick about it. I had never even heard of ALS until the ice-bucket challenge came to be, and I still know very little, but apparently it’s the same disease that Stephen Hawking has. In Topher’s case, he’s been told it will be terminal. This is a hard thing.

- We’re having erratic spring weather, and I’m super into it. I know lots of places in the country are having unusual weather this month, but the Oakland version is pretty lovely. Last week, we had a hot day that felt just like summer. The next day, it was chilly and rainy, but not too chilly. Today is low 60s. Later this week we have some perfect high 70′s days on the schedule. The earth smells good! And if you drive toward Walnut Creek, the hills are green and misty and it looks like Ireland. It’s definitely the greenest I’ve ever seen it. I’m in love.

Oh. And the California strawberries are amazing at the moment! Go eat all of them before I do.

- I’m feeling a huge tension in my mind at the moment. I don’t think it will be a surprise to you if I say I have this non-stop drive to build and create. New ideas, new projects, whole new companies. But bringing them to fruition requires a high level of intensity and often stress. And when I’m in the middle of that stress, I react to it by wanting to shut everything down and just read all day for the rest of my life.

One part of my wants to build, build, build! To take on more, to fit in as much as I possibly can. I can feel the days and months rushing past, and I ask myself in a panic, am I doing everything I want to do? Are there ideas and projects that I will regret not exploring?

Another part of me has a vision of a simpler life. Where I’m doing less and less, and the days are filled with the calmness of a set schedule that requires very little decision making.

The building part of me is definitely stronger, but is it possible to build something big and amazing and worthwhile without the overwhelm? I long for models to study, to find people who are super engaged with their work, but somehow have a life of ease. I don’t really think they exist, but I long for them anyway.

- Our refinance closed last week. It ups our monthly payments, but lowers our interest rate, and switches us from a 30 year loan to a 15 year loan. I think it will feel like a burden at first, but am hoping it’s the smart financial decision. Who knows. I always feel like such a novice when it comes to decisions like this. Either way, it was a quite a process, and it feels like a big relief to have it marked off our to-do list.

- I’m craving some deep spring cleaning. And mostly de-cluttering. I walked into our living room the other day and just thought: What is all this stuff? Anyone else?

- I’m also craving some fresh media. I need a new show to watch or a stack of great books to tackle. But I’m not in the mood for anything too heavy. What are you reading and watching these days?

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.

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A Few Things

April 8, 2016

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Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Was it a good week? Will it be a good weekend? For me, it’s been a good week. Lots of projects marked off the list, and some solid time connecting with friends and family — I even got to meet the amazing designer and author, India Hicks, at the gorgeous home pictured above. There’s actually a ton on my mind at the moment that I’d love to discuss with you, so I’m working on a Random Thoughts post and will share it next week.

As for the weekend, Ben Blair is out of town — he’s presenting at the Mormon Transhumanist Association Conference on Saturday. So I’m thinking I’ll stick around the Treehouse, and concentrate on making myself an ambitious list of at-home projects. I want to tackle the windows (we have a ton, and we’re overdue for a cleaning), and work on some Craig’s List outdoor furniture (scrubbing off the rust, priming and painting), and a dozen other things. I won’t do everything on the list, but I like making it all the same.

How about you? Anything you’re looking forward to this weekend? I’d love to hear! In the meantime, here are a few things I’ve been wanting to share:

- A conversation with Asian-Americans on race.

College essay topic? Costco!

- Animal courtships performed by humans.

Charts on film dialogue from 2000 screenplays, broken down by gender and age.

- My lovely friend, Asha Dornfest, creator of Parenthacks, had a new book come out this week. It’s full of smart, simple parenting tricks. Super helpful and it’s under ten bucks. I’ve already bought 3 copies!

- So good. A post written in the middle of chemo treatments.

- It’s the weekend! Here’s a happy Bollywood dance version of Justin Bieber’s Sorry.

- Last month, I bought these white leather hightops with metal mesh detailing and I’m obsessed with them.

- Jonathon Adler is the new creative director of Mattel (awesome!).

- New York’s new family leave policy.

- 75% of tampon patents are held by men.

http://nytimes.com/2016/04/03/opinion/sunday/the-tampon-of-the-future.html

- On the art of self-censorship.

- Hah! Leaving baby with the grandparents — 1st child vs. 3rd child.

- Liz & Jared’s new baby comes on Monday. I’m going to be an Aunt (again!). I can’t wait to meet her.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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College Tour Report

April 6, 2016

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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

While it’s still fresh in my mind, I wanted to report on our College Tour Spring Break Trip. I should tell you that as we drove to our first campus, I read every single comment on this post aloud to the whole family, and we put much of the awesome advice to use. So if you’re planning a campus visit, I highly recommend that comment gold mine. And I whole-heartedly thank you for the advice!

Here are my notes about our trip:

- We started by plotting out a schedule of which schools we would visit on which days. This was all based on geography and driving, and we booked hotels accordingly. But we built in lots of flexibility too, because having never done a trip like this, we knew we might want change our minds as we went. And we also know that traffic in California, especially in Southern California, can upset even the best laid schedule.

Our plan was to visit Stanford, UC Santa Cruz, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, UC Irvine, USC, and UCLA. In that order. One to two campuses per day. But we didn’t end up sticking to that schedule. Here’s what we did instead:

Day 1: We skipped Stanford (they felt like they were already familiar with it) and went straight to UC Santa Cruz. This campus surprised me the most of any campus we visited. As you approach, the first thing you see is vast fields and grand old barns. Then you continue on into the redwoods where the campus buildings are practically hidden among the trees. At one point, the trees opened up and there was an amazing view of the ocean down the hill. The campus was gorgeous and relatively quiet. It felt like a place that would be easy to get alone time if you needed it. We spent about 3 hours on campus.

Day 2: We went to UC Santa Barbara. The kids were in love instantly. The campus is literally on the beach and the dorms have surfboard racks. Hah! Of all the campuses we visited, we spent the most time here — 4 or 5 hours, and that included a visit to Isla Vista which is the little college-town-neighborhood next to campus. After the beach, the thing I remember the most about our visit is the bikes. UC Santa Barbara is a flat campus, so it’s really easy to bike, and bikes are everywhere! It reminded me of Amsterdam. We also learned there are 9 Nobel Laureates on campus.

Day 3: We started with a visit to UC Irvine. I lived down the street from UC Irvine the summer after my freshman year. I would go running there and fell in love with the campus, so I was excited for my kids to see it. But neither Ralph nor Maude have any interest in attending, so we kept it short. We checked out the campus quickly, and then headed down to UC San Diego. Another gorgeous campus! Not quite on the beach, but close — we were told it’s a 5 minute walk. The most distinctive thing to me about UC San Diego’s campus was the architecture. I took so many pictures of buildings!

Day 4 and beyond. Click here!

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Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Blue Apron — get 2 free meals on your first order! Details below.

If you’ve been reading here for awhile, you know I’m a regular Blue Apron customer — and a big fan. Last month, one of the meals we ordered was Alsatian Spiced Chicken with Smashed Potatoes and Glazed Red Cabbage. It sounds pretty fancy, but it might actually be the simplest meal that Blue Apron has ever sent to our house. And in this case, simple equals perfection. We cooked it on a cold, rainy night and I’m telling you, it felt like it must be the comfort food of the gods.

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We kept saying things like, “Why don’t we cook cabbage more often?” And, “Let’s start saying Smashed Potatoes instead of Mashed Potatoes. It sounds so much more exciting!” The meal was a hit with everyone. Satisfying and delicious. Familiar and foreign (Alsatian Spice?) at the same time. I give it two thumbs up and highly recommend you give the recipe a try.

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If you haven’t had the chance to order Blue Apron yet, here is the rundown: Once you subscribe, Blue Apron sends a box right to your doorstep, and inside that box, you’ll find everything you need to create 3 chef-designed meals. We’re talking farm-fresh ingredients, in exactly the right proportions (which means zero waste from un-used ingredients), and they offer two types of plans — the 2-Person Plan and the Family Plan.

What if you’re not home when they deliver? Will the food spoil? No worries, the box is refrigerated! And after you’ve unpacked, you can use Blue Apron’s recycling locator to find local recycling options, or return your packaging for free to Blue Apron via USPS.

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Blue Apron has a BIG selection of recipes (anyone can access their recipes, even non-customers!), and they add new dishes to their menu every week. Don’t like what’s on the menu for the upcoming week? No problem. There’s no commitment with Blue Apron — you can skip a week (or two, or three), or cancel the service at any time.

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I know Blue Apron isn’t a fit for every family, but it’s been a major positive addition to ours. It’s a huge time saver for me, and big stress-reliever too. A delivery arrives and instantly I feel this weight slip from my shoulders because I know what we’re having for dinner — for the next 3 nights! I don’t have to plan a menu, or go to the grocery store, or figure out if I have enough ingredients, or think about what sounds good. Having the decisions made for me can be such a relief!

But beyond that relief, I also love knowing the ingredients are high quality, the meals are delicious, and that I learn new techniques, and try new-to-me food, with every single order. Sometimes I feel like Blue Apron is a cooking class in disguise!

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One other thing I love about Blue Apron is that they consistently work to improve their product and their company. Their goal is to develop a sustainable food system, while using high quality ingredients. You can see their mission page here.

Want to give Blue Apron a try? The first 50 Design Mom Readers will get two free meals on their first Blue Apron order. Just click here. 

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Now back to the recipe. I’m curious: how often do you cook cabbage? I confess, I rarely buy it. But then I try a recipe like this, and wonder why it’s not a staple in my fridge. I think it’s because I didn’t grow up eating it very often. Pretty much my only interaction with it was as coleslaw at neighborhood barbeques. How about you? Are you a cabbage fan? If yes, were you always a fan, or did you discover the wonder of cabbage as an adult?

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Bentley Waters.

Some of you might remember Melisa from her days writing on The Lil Bee, a blog that was equal parts Sex and The City/New York style, as well as the diary of your best friend you’ve known for, like, ever. It was lovely, and so is she.

I asked if she would share her journey of living with her two daughters after a divorce, and she said yes. Please help me welcome Melisa, won’t you?

I’m Melisa and this is the home I share with my two daughters, Devon and Blake. Back in the day I wrote a blog called The Lil Bee, which was mostly about my two babies and other various interests. Those babies are now five and six (how?!) and are the girliest girls you’ve ever seen; everything is rainbows and pink all day and night and nobody leaves the house without at least six pieces of jewelry on at all times. I marvel at their big personalities and huge hearts, and feel lucky that I get to come along for the ride.

Sometimes I miss blogging, so I was excited when Gabby asked me to share a peek inside our world and, in particular, what life looks like post-divorce.

It’s been four years since we moved here and I can honestly say that it now feels like home. That took a while.

When we first moved in, all I was hoping for was a sense of calm and continuity. That this space has evolved into a place we look forward to spending time in is something I’m really proud of. Here’s a glimpse of what life looks like around here.

We live in a townhouse in the suburbs of New York City. I grew up in this area and moved to Manhattan after college. It never occurred to me that I would move back to the ‘burbs as an adult. Never! So when living in the city became unrealistic for several reasons — cost, outgrowing our space, planning a family — my ex and I moved with our dogs to a house up north.

More goodness, straight ahead!

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