Gabrielle Blair strawberry

By Gabrielle. Photo by Kristen Loken.

When I was in Salt Lake City in January, I was getting my hair done at the hotel spa, and the stylist and I started chatting about facials. She’s a huge fan of facials and tries to schedule one every month. It’s her big luxury/splurge. I was nodding along and thinking Yes! Facials! Amazing! The Best!, when I suddenly laughed at myself because I’ve never had a facial and don’t even have a clear idea of what actually happens during a facial.

From what I understand they can involve massage, steaming, exfoliating, masks, clearing of pores, and I’m not sure what else. I’ve also heard sometimes they take a long time, like an hour or more. I’m quite fascinated by the time factor, because that seems like a lot of minutes to spend on one not-that-big area of the body. Though I’m sure it makes sense while it’s happening,

Now, I’m not opposed to facials in anyway, nor am I opposed to whatever beauty routines or rituals that help you feel fantastic. And I’ve tried quite a few over the years. Hair stuff like color, cuts, and blowouts — even perms! And stuff like mani-pedis, waxing, and tinted brows. I’ve even tried laser hair removal, and as a teenager, I totally tried tanning beds. So I was surprised to realize I’d never booked a facial. I’m surprised again as I type this!

Then I remembered when I first met my sister-in-law, Lisa. Manicures came up and she told me she’d never had paint on her fingernails. I don’t know if that’s still true, but I remember being almost shocked. Never had your nails painted?!!! (Of course, someone reading this post is probably thinking, “Never had a facial?!!!”)

That made me wonder, what grooming/beauty appointments have you never scheduled? Maybe from simple disinterest, or maybe because you feel moral opposition to a certain beauty task? Is there anything you assumed you would do, and have been surprised you haven’t tried? Maybe you thought you’d color your greys, but never have?Also, on facials, what’s your take? Do you see a big difference in your skin when you get one? Or is it one of those more subtle things where you just feel better for doing it. I’d love to hear!

P.S. — Speaking of grooming, I had another hair appointment on Saturday and I’m platinum! You can see a peek on Instagram. I’m trying to put a fun photoshoot together that will show off the new do, and then I’ll write up a post about the whole process.

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A Few Things

February 27, 2015

Treehouse Dining Area

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? How was your week? It was a good one at our house. Nothing too exciting, just the daily satisfying kind of stuff. (I love that stuff!) Next week will be busier — we have two birthdays coming up, plus a baptism. And it’s time to think about Easter plans as well, because it happens really early in April this year, and I know it’s going to catch me off guard if I wait till the end of the month. (Been there, done that.) If you need some inspiration, I put a whole bunch of Spring & Easter projects in the sidebar.

I’m have some appointments today, so I’m heading out of the office soon, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Adopted as a Child, Now a Mother, Finally ‘Lucky’.

- This Onion article made me laugh.

- Oh no! Women are leaving the tech industry. Thanks, Allysha.

- Start Again. You are bound to be successful.

- Alt Keynotes! The videos from the Alt Winter Keynotes are ready to view. You can see Lisa Congdon‘s inspiring story, my entrepreneurial Q&A with Jess Lee & Susan Petersen, and Dallas Clayton‘s closing presentation that had everyone in tears. Really good stuff!

- My Aunt Robin shared this ad about PTSD guide dogs and I found it so impactful.

- A movie theater with a mission.

- Do you use Pinterest? Here’s a really good article about their new changes.

- Buying diapers on a budget.

- I’m not even sure how to comprehend this story.

- Have you ever tried to peel an egg like this?

- My sister-in-law, Margaret Blair Young’s Kickstarter is going so well! You can get in on the action here.

- I introduced a hashtag on Instagram this week and it has created the most delightful feed! Look up #DMlivingwithkids and see what I mean. Oh. And tag your own photos too — I’ll be sharing one or two each day.

I hope you have a fabulous weekend. We greet March on Sunday — that means Spring is on its way! For those of you who are up to your ears in snow and ice, I hope you the thaw begins asap. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Which Box Do You Mark?

February 26, 2015

National Geographic Changing Faces of America

By Gabrielle. Portraits by Martin Schoeller for National Geographic.

Last year, I was at the Mom 2.0 conference, and Karen Walrond (you might know her as Chookooloonks), and I had a discussion about how she felt about the term “black”. She said she prefers it, because she’s not from Africa and doesn’t identify as an African-American. She would be fine being called Caribbean-American because she grew up in Trinidad, but Caribbean-American doesn’t seem to be a common usage term.

I was thinking of that conversation as I filled out a survey from our school district this week. The survey asked what race or ethnicity my children identified as. And since we live in Oakland, and since Oakland is unusually diverse, there were like 20 options to choose from, or you could fill in your own. I checked the “white” box.

Checking that box reminded me of a conversation my high schoolers had with me not long after we moved here. When we registered, we learned the high school was 10% white, and wondered if our kids would stand out for their whiteness. After a few weeks, our kids said their classmates were curious, but it wasn’t about our kids’ whiteness, it was because they aren’t some sort of combo. Apparently, much of the student body at the high school identifies as multi-cultural or dual-race. Their friends and classmates are Chinese+German, or Filipino+Mexican, or Vietnamese+Arabic, or African-American+Balinese. Our kids felt boring being white+white.

My kids asked if we were really just white and I felt apologetic. Hah! I told them my dad’s side is Jewish, and reminded them my older brother is a Navajo. I asked them if that helped, but no, that didn’t really change things. So I went back further. I told them their ancestors came from Scotland and Sweden, from England and Germany. But no, that didn’t help either. At the end of the day, they still felt like white+white.

Something about it feels like progress to me — I mean them feeling out of the ordinary being white+white. It hints at a future where everyone is so mixed together that we get to choose what culture we want to identify with, which culture we want to celebrate, instead of having it, and all of its baggage, assigned to us at birth. It also aligns with what my kids have been taught in their high school biology classes: there is no such thing as race at a biological level. It doesn’t exist except in our heads. It reminds me of the National Geographic article about the changing faces of America.

Thinking about this also reminds me of how much America really is a melting pot. When I lived in Normandy, my local friends simply identified as French. But here, almost anyone I talk to identifies as an American, plus also as some additional ancestry.

And now I’m curious. Do you identify with a particular culture or race or ethnicity? What box do you mark when you’re surveyed? Or, if you don’t live in America, are you ever asked to mark a race/ethnicity box? Do you ever get mistaken for being a race or nationality that you are not? How about your kids? Do they identify differently than you do? And if you’re black and live here in the U.S., but grew up in a non-African country, how often are you called African-American by mistake? Or do you not read it as a mistake and think of the term African-American in another way?

P.S. — I’m unclear on how to make it happen, but I would LOVE to have more diversity among the Call It A Day and Growing A Family and Living With Kids series here on Design Mom. Whatever your race or ethnicity or nationality, I hope you will feel welcome to share your stories here! We want to hear your voices! It would be amazing if this blog reflected the very diverse community I see around me every day. 

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Design Mom Book: Cover Design

February 25, 2015

GBlair-HandBatches

By Gabrielle. Photos by me and Sarah Hebenstreit.

As promised, here’s a post about how the cover design came to be for the Design Mom Book. (Did I mention you can pre-order it now?) It started with an email. My editor, Lia Ronnen, sent me a photo — black hands in a pattern — and wondered what I thought about it for a cover idea. It was so striking! I loved it immediately. I had known I wanted a cover photo that did not show an interior space, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to use instead. The hand pattern idea was perfect! It was graphically interesting, made sense with kids, and felt timeless to me. So I started experimenting with handprints and hand outlines to see what might work.

Design Mom Book June Printing

Eventually, I decided to use actual handprints from each of my kids — I loved the idea of each print being imperfectly made with real paint. I bought a giant roll of white paper, the kind you use as a backdrop in photo shoots, and a few tubes of black paint. Then we cleared space between the sofas and the kitchen table, rolled out the paper and got to work. By the way, this all happened last summer — it was July.

Keep reading to learn about the whole process, and for lots of behind-the-scenes photos!

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By Gabrielle.

Choosing to downsize from a large home in the suburbs to a much tinier space is probably not as difficult to handle when the much tinier space is in huge by anyone’s standards New York City! I think it would be the best kind of challenge, right? Keeping only what you love, organizing vertically by use, and ruthlessly overthinking every purchase. And the minute you feel a bit claustrophobic, Central Park is one block away. Marvelous.

I love this peek into Caryn’s small space and big thoughts. I’ve read it three times, and I find something new with each read. I hope you do, too. Welcome, Caryn!

Q: Please introduce us to your family!

A: Hello! We are a family of four. Mark is the solitary male of our home, who is actually quite fond of hot pink. He is a designer for a tech company, and has a passion for beautifully designed things ranging from type and furniture to letter openers, and salt and pepper shakers.

Our older daughter is almost three. She has a zest for life and would dance through it if opportunity allowed. Her height and vocabulary often fool people into thinking she is older, and she lives for social activities, working her charms on every person she can get near.

Our younger daughter is nearly one and is still quite a mystery to us. She has the biggest blue eyes anyone has ever seen and is already incredibly active, risky, and vocal. She is a snuggler and has a smile always at the ready. She is just beginning to walk, determined to figure everything out and taste it along the way too.

Finally there is me, Caryn. I am the wife, the mom, the cook, the book addict, the blogger, and the illustrator. I firmly believe bookstores are my Kryptonite, and I have an unhealthy obsession with stripes, polka dots, picture books, and French food philosophy.

Such smart small space solutions, straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle. Video by Ralph Blair.

Last month, you may remember that Ben Blair and Ralph went to Haiti to help with the launch of Haiti Partners’ Language Hangouts, and to capture footage for an announcement video. Well, I’m delighted to share the video with you today! The program is officially launched, and Haiti Partners is ready to sign up anyone who’d like to volunteer a half hour of their time to video-chat in English.

The basic program is that you sign up to speak with someone for 1/2 hour per week for eight weeks. You’ll chat with the same person each time, so you’ll both have a chance to really get to know each other. You can watch the video to learn how it works.

This program is so fantastic!  If you’ve been looking for a way to volunteer or do some good in the world, this is such an accessible option. There is no cost to volunteer. There’s no special training necessary — if you can speak English, you can volunteer. You can choose a time that’s convenient for you. You’re only committing to a 30-minute spot each week, so it’s not a big time consumer. And you can do it from your own home, so you don’t even need to drive somewhere and find directions and figure out parking. Super easy!

Haiti Partners

Thirty minutes a week is such a small contribution of time, but what a big difference it will make in a young Haitian’s life. I think this would be an amazing thing for families to get involved in. I know my kids would love this, and it’s such an effective way to help children learn how to think about others, and to understand that the statistics they hear about represent actual real people. Beyond families, if you work with teenagers — perhaps in a school group or church group — this sort of volunteer work would be ideal. It would be an opportunity to for them to talk to their peers Haiti. Really, it would be great for anyone.

If you’ve been craving more good stuff in your life, I highly encourage you to sign up. I’m sure you already know how transformative it can be to use your time to do good. If you’d like to volunteer, you can find all the information you need here (click over, then scroll down to see the sign up bar).

P.S. — I’m going to brag about Ralph for a minute. This is a total Ralph project. He filmed, edited, incorporated feedback from Haiti Partners, met deadlines, etc.. He was responsible for the whole project from beginning to end. He did a fantastic job! I’m so delighted with the quality of the video, and couldn’t be happier that he’s using his skills for such a good cause. Gosh it’s fun to be his mom. If you’d like to see more of Ralph’s work, I highly recommend this short French film he made (there are subtitles). It’s super charming!

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Call It A Day: Christine Navin

February 23, 2015

By Gabrielle. Photographs by Heidi Selch.

I know firsthand how hard and yet how rewarding it is to find your groove as an expat. There are different languages to master – at least enough to procure what you need at the markets, to say “Thank you” for when it all goes well, and “I’m sorry” for when it doesn’t! – and cultures to respect. There are also the things you’ve left behind and the things you’ve learned to love, and all the frustrating moments in between.

Today, we’re following Christine through her Hong Kong day. She’s learned enough Cantonese and Mandarin to survive, but also leans heavily on drawings and hand gestures and genius apps! She stands firm even when school is pressuring her kids to do more, and is currently plotting a way to kidnap her helper when she returns to the US in a few years. I can’t wait to spend the day with her. Welcome, Christine!

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

A: Our eldest, Joseph, true to his premature start in life, is never late to any party. He is our human alarm, and greets every day with enthusiastic whistling and humming until met with his little sister Stella’s loud disapproval. We do not speak to Stella until our engraved invitations have arrived.

Joseph is our old soul. I know that’s tossed around a lot, but he is. He is intense and detailed. He loves conversations, and will hang on every word you say. He can tell you all the details about the Titanic forwards and backwards. And he can build anything with Legos.

Stella is nine and no longer likes pink because it is too girly. She searches for sticks and rocks while dragging her American Girl, Jessica. We all love Hong Kong, except Stella secretly wishes we could go home to Virginia sooner rather than later as we promised a puppy upon our return. And she already has a name picked out.

We are lucky enough to have a live-in helper, which makes the mornings run very smoothly – although there’s no longer any of that showing up to the espresso machine in a state of undress! Don’t ask how we learned that unspoken rule. Her name is Merly, and she is the master of being there and being invisible all at the same time. She knows what the kids like for breakfast and also helps pack lunches on days when I’ve lost the plot. I was one of those expats who showed up and scoffed at the very idea of a helper, but I appreciate her so much. Real life will be here again soon enough, so I might as well enjoy the life I’m living now!

Q: Can you share a typical breakfast? What are you all discussing this morning?

A: Stella would prefer a daily midmorning brunch at the most leisurely ladies-who-lunch pace versus her quick bowl of Panda Puffs. Meanwhile, Joseph inhales a stack of gluten free waffles. Todd and I sip coffee while alternately begging Joseph to turn down American news on his iPod before Stella starts a revolution.

It’s a funny thing to be expatriated; so many things happen while we’re sleeping, so the morning blast is often too much for any of us to handle. I usually scour the news beforehand so I can preempt any panic.

You’ve got to see Christine’s markets!

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A Few Things

February 20, 2015

Blairs at Point Reyes

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Was it a good week for you? I hope so. We have a few things going on at the moment that I’m really happy about. Yesterday, we hired a crew to clear out several dead/ailing trees from our yard. We have wanted to do that since we moved in! We’ve done some fun yard projects so far — like the family swing installation, and the hideaway — but having the trees cleared means we can finally start landscaping in earnest. Yay!

Then, tomorrow, Ben Blair and I are speaking on a panel at the Dad 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. We’ve never spoken together before, but Ben makes everything fun so I already know I’ll love it. And lastly, I have a phone call with my book publicity team today and I think we’re close to announcing the book tour dates and locations. Which is awesome! If you missed the announcement, the book comes out April 7th and is available for pre-order now. A huge thanks to everyone who has already ordered!

My inbox is calling my name, so I better his publish on this, but before I do, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- Loved this article, especially this quote: “And, to be clear, there’s no moral component to exercise, no matter what the magazines might try to tell you. You’re not a better person for doing it or a worse person for not.”

Black History in Its Own Words.

- “Trying on” Lent. Are you giving up anything for Lent this year?

- Why doctors die differently.

Hungry hungry hippos in real life.

School is about more than training kids to be adults.

- Have you heard about Every Kid In A Park? Starting this fall, every 4th grader in America will get a one-year pass for free admission to all of our public lands for them and their families.

What ISIS Really Wants. This is looong, but good. It’s the best article I’ve found to help me understand what’s happening with ISIS.

- My teens told me it was time to move on to high-waisted jeans. I’ve been wearing these and I love them!

Getting grief right.

- Lisa Congdon on getting older.

- Want to win a sofa? Don’t miss this giveaway I’m hosting.

- I call wedges “mom heels” — they feel put-together, give me that lengthened-leg look, but they’re easy to run around in. I’ve worn a black pair similar to these for years and I’ve practically worn them out. I need a new pair! (Also, Nordstrom is having a 40% off sale — lots of good stuff.)

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — We spent part of last weekend at Point Reyes, where I snapped the photo above. Such a beautiful beach! Looking at the photo reminds me I’m still not used to California weather. It’s an odd thing to spend the day playing in the ocean while my Facebook feed is filled with images of friends shoveling their sidewalks. What a world!

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Olive & June 2014-1541

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Here’s the next post in this school year’s What To Wear series, featuring 4 year old June and 13 year old Olive. It’s been an odd week — I intended to post this on Monday or Tuesday and here it is Friday and I’m just finding time. Hah!

Olive & June 2014-1530 Olive & June 2014-1526

My afternoon is filled with meetings and phone calls, but I’m going to publish this now with just the photos, then I’ll come back in later today and add sources and other details.

Olive & June 2014-1511 Olive & June 2014-1521

So be sure to check back in if you’re craving more info.

Five full outfits ahead!

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Growing A Family: Gifting Help

February 19, 2015

By Gabrielle. Never Ending Bracelet from The Giving Keys. Such a beautiful company.

Hillary Barton is like most of us, I’d say. Largely independent with a sometimes fierce aversion to being on the receiving end of help. But, as it always seems to happen, on the day that turned into many days of needing it, help found her. Her birth story reminds us that we’re so much more than ourselves in this big old world, and I quite like feeling that reminder today. I hope you do, as well.

Welcome, Hillary!

[click to continue…]

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Interior Define9

Photos and text by Gabrielle.  //  This post is brought to you by Interior Define — find the epic giveaway, plus a discount code below.

Okay you guys. If you are couch shopping these days, you definitely need to check out Interior Define. Seriously. Interior Define offers a collection of custom sofas and sectionals at exceptional (actually attainable) prices. They can do this because of their online focus, and the fact that they make every piece to order.

Basically, shoppers can customize the size, configuration, material (most pieces are available in 40-60 fabric options!), cushion fill, and legs on almost every piece of furniture, so they can get exactly what they want. And because buying furniture online can be intimidating, Interior Define offers complimentary fabric swatches, too.

Interior Define8 Interior Define3 Interior Define5

I ordered a whole bunch of fabric swatches, furniture info cards, and even two throw pillows, so that I could see what the ordering experience is like, and it’s easy as pie. The order came quickly, the swatches are high quality, and the furniture cards really helped — they keep all the pertinent info front and center so it’s easy to compare options. I also love that on the website, you can see many of the sofas in real settings to get a better idea of their style and proportions.

Interior Define7

When you’re on the site, you’ll see a whole bunch of custom options available, but if you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for, no stress, because additional options are available by phone through the company’s customer concierges, or in person at their flagship Chicago showroom.

Design Mom Favorites Interior Define

If you’d like to see my favorite Interior Define picks, I curated a page just for you right here. Bonus: through March 4th, you can get $100 off any order over $1500! Simply use the code: DM100 at checkout.

Interior Define Sofa    Interior Define Sloan Profile Interior Define Sloan 1

Now to the giveaway! Interior Define is offering 3 Sloan Sofas as the mega prize. That’s right. Three winners will each get a gorgeous Sloan Sofa! And the winners get to choose customization options too. They can choose: 3 sizes — 63″, 67″, or 71″, nearly 60 fabric options, soft or firm cushions, and metal or wood legs.

Interior Define Sloan Blue

To enter:

1) Visit Interior Define and join their email list.

2) Then, pick your favorite Interior Define product, and comment back on this post with the link!

Oh my goodness. Wouldn’t it be awesome to get a beautiful new sofa? And you’ve got three chances! I really hope you win. Good luck!

P.S. — Here’s the giveaway fine print: Giveaway open to continental US readers only. Entrants must register their email address. Giveaway ends 1 week from post date. Giveaway winner will be randomly selected from the comment section, emailed by Design Mom, and announced on Design Mom’s site. Giveaway winners must place their Sloan sofa order by Dec. 31, 2015. Winners’ orders are non-refundable, and not eligible for exchange or store credit.

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The winners have been contacted by email. I’ll announced them here as soon as it’s official.

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DIY: Color Coded Towels

February 18, 2015

DIY: Color Coded Towels. Say goodbye to towel confusion in shared bathrooms!

By Gabrielle. Photos & styling by Amy Christie.

When more than one person shares a bathroom, towels become an issue. No doubt you have noticed this as well. You step out of the shower, grab a towel, and realize it’s soggy. Yuck. I do not like sharing my towel, but I get that it’s hard to keep things straight, especially if the towels are all the same color. Happily, there’s a simple solution: add a loop of ribbon — a different color for each person!

Assign a color to each family member (and another color for guests!) and proceed with confidence that next time you grab a towel, you won’t be accidentally sharing it with someone else. Plus, there’s a bonus feature. Instead of towel racks, use wall hooks in your bathroom and use the loops to hang the towels on the hooks. No more towels slipping to the floor! And hooks are space saving too.

DIY: Color Coded Towels. Say goodbye to towel confusion in shared bathrooms!

I generally gravitate toward white towels in the bathroom, but for this tutorial I chose a neutral grey that I thought would both look good in photos and contrast nicely with colorful ribbon loops. Different colors of grosgrain ribbon or cotton twill tape work wonderfully for this project, or you could go with colorful or patterned towels, and then use a neutral colored loop. The choice is up to you!

DIY: Color Coded Towels. Assign a color to each family member and say goodbye to towel confusion in shared bathrooms!

Let’s get started. The towel confusion is over!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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Living With Kids: Sara Davis

February 17, 2015

By Gabrielle. Photos by Melody Carpenter.

Meet Sara. If you’ve got a chalkboard in your house and you’ve scoured Pinterest for cute ideas on how to get it looking like…well…the cute ones on Pinterest, chances are you’ve already met her! I asked her a few questions and she answered them all perfectly, but I sensed that there was more content in her than charming chalkboards and fabulous DIYs. The only problem was that Sara didn’t really know it! It took some convincing and more begging for a few more words and honesty, which resulted in a lot of hard work on Sara’s part to open up. I am thrilled to say that one of my last emails to her read, “THERE YOU ARE!”

And so, here she is: the brave Sara who took a leap outside her comfort zone to share herself with us. I really hope you enjoy her.

Q: Please introduce us to your family!

A: Hi there! I’m Sara, and I live in “the middle” with my amazing husband Steve and our three children: Bryant is nine, Benson is seven, and Lena is three. I’m originally from Illinois, but I came to Indiana for college where I studied marketing and art & design. It was in college that I met and fell in love with Steve, and I have been here ever since!

Steve and I have completely different interests, but we work well together. Well, most of the time! He is an attorney and thinks carefully and thoughtfully through everything that comes out of his mouth. I, on the other hand, just tend to blurt things out. Steve is extremely social, loves spreadsheets and sports, and hates being hot. I prefer small groups of people, I love creating anything and shopping, and could sit in the sun all day.

Meet the rest of the family…and more chalkboards! Just click.

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A Few Things

February 13, 2015

Oh Happy Day & Design Mom as kids

By Gabrielle. Photo is me holding my sister Jordan of Oh Happy Day — such a festive shot!

Hello, Friends! How are you? Oh my goodness I am surely excited to greet the weekend. I pretty much love that Valentine’s Day is on Saturday — it means we can sleep in and enjoy a lazy brunch. And then no school on Monday! I swear, three day weekends feel like gold at the end of a rainbow.

What are your plans this weekend? I know in some parts of the country they call the next 7 days “ski week”. Any of you headed to the slopes? Or maybe a romantic date for Saturday night? We haven’t made plans for Valentine’s night at all. Our older three are all babysitting for other families, so I’m guessing we’ll stay in. Takeout + a movie sounds about right. Any favorite romantic comedies you’d recommend? I’d love to watch something we haven’t seen before! But maybe a re-watch of You’ve Got Mail or While You Were Sleeping is in order. (I would add Notting Hill as an option, but we just watched it on Sunday. Also, Sunday was the first time I realized Lord Grantham is in Notting Hill! He’s so young!!!)

I’ve got appointments for much of today and need to head out, but before I do, there are few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Oh man. I can’t stop thinking about this article on public shaming. I feel like this could happen to anyone. It’s so easy to assume the worst of people.

- And the opposite, a feel good story!

- My sister-in-law, Margaret Blair Young, launched a kickstarter for a really cool movie she’s working on based in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Take a look!

- Are you a shoes off house? (Our house is so indoor/outdoor, I find it almost impossible.)

- If Stanley Tucci were your boyfriend.

- Every major Snape scene in chronological order.

- “Christianity did not “cause” slavery, anymore than Christianity “caused” the civil-rights movement.”

- She de-vamps dolls and gives them a new life. Thanks, Kirsty.

- A cute little video + Valentine printable from my friends at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

- They’ve been dating for 8 years but have never said, “I love you”. Thanks, Mary Karen.

- I’ve never been into tumblr much, but my teens are big fans — Maude keeps two tumblrs, one for funny stuff, and one for photos she loves. Do you have an opinion on tumblr?

- Need Valentine breakfast ideas? I pinned some of my favoritess. (Are you following me on Pinterest? It’s lots of fun.)

I hope you have a truly fantastic (long) weekend. Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy President’s Day! I hope you get a welcome break from your routine. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Oscar & Betty B2S 2014-1544

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Well here is a post I don’t think any of you are expecting. Hah!

Last fall, I never got the chance to shoot our annual What To Wear To School Posts. There was Sweden, and a move to France and England for two of the kids, and it simply didn’t happen. The kids were bummed, but understanding. Then, throughout September and October I kept getting requests from readers for those annual posts, and I decided that maybe I didn’t have to abandon the posts after all. I mentally filed away the idea that we might shoot them in January, when everybody was home again.

Oscar & Betty B2S 2014-1511 Oscar & Betty B2S 2014-1522

So we did. There was a Saturday in January between my trips to DC and Alt Summit where we happened to have a laid-back schedule, and we made it happen!

Oscar & Betty B2S 2014-1529 Oscar & Betty B2S 2014-1513

This week, I finally started processing the photos and I have to say, I’m so glad we did the shoots! Partly, it’s the satisfaction of keeping the tradition, but it was also a reminder of how often we end up using the photos throughout the year — for ID photos, for social media profiles, for school projects. We used one for June’s preschool valentines this week!

All that, plus the kids LOVE having an overall snapshot of how they looked on any given year — their clothes, how they stood, the way they wore their hair. They like to see which pieces get handed down and then make an appearance in a future shoot. We end up referencing our What to Wear To School posts frequently.

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I realize it’s February and “back to school” is far from anyone’s mind, but I hope you’ll indulge me as I share the images. I’m going to publish the photos in 3 groups — today is Oscar & Betty. Then, next week, I’ll share a second post with Olive & June, and a third post with Maude & Ralph. I hope you enjoy them!

Click for more outfit pics plus sources!

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Dragon Kites

February 11, 2015

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Charlotte Smith Beck, from my Mother’s 70th Birthday Party in Mendon, Utah.

Have you ever been given an especially thoughtful gift? It’s the sort of pleasure that keeps on giving. My sister Rachel gave me one of these kites (the kites in the photos on this post) last August, and I just grin every time I see it. She actually gave one to each of my siblings as well. And as you might guess, there’s a story behind them.

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Growing up, my parents had a kite like these pictured, with a dragon face, and colored panels making a rainbow of the tail. We called it the Dragon Kite, and it was well-loved. My father grew up in the Bay Area and my parents had picked up the dragon kite at a San Francisco kite shop (there’s so much good kite-flying weather here, that there are whole shops dedicated just to kites).

The thing about this kite is that as a kid, it was even fun on a non-windy day. Just running with it made the loooong tail fly behind. One kid would run with the kite and the other kids would chase it and try to catch the tail. When I was older, it was great to entertain younger kids on babysitting jobs. And it was good for actual kite-flying too. We’d take it to Lake Powell every summer and fly it off the top of the house boat.

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And then one summer, it caught on something, or got caught by a gust of wind, or I don’t even quite remember. But the kite was lost somewhere over the lake. This was a sad day. We loved that kite.

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Then, on the day Ben Blair and I married, we received our own dragon kite! A gift from my Aunt Robin & Uncle Mark. They knew about my parent’s dragon kite, and they lived in Northern California and could get to the kite shop. (Remember, this was pre-internet when it was hard to find things.) What a great wedding gift. My eyes absolutely lit up when we opened it.

Ben and I loved that kite! Though we called it the dragon kite, ours didn’t have a dragon face. It had an arched rainbow and clouds, with the same rainbow tale as the dragon kite I grew up with. And my kids loved the kite too. During our New York years, we kept in the car so it was at the ready anytime we stopped at a park.

But one fall day we were flying it over the Hudson River at a park called Rockwood Hall, and all of sudden, it was gone in a gust of wind. Another sad day.

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When we moved to Oakland, we thought: Let’s buy a dragon kite! But we looked and looked and did some research and they’re no longer in production. Turns out, my sister Rachel was doing the same kind of hunting. She wanted a dragon kite for her family as well. And she found out the same thing we did. They’re no longer available. Sad face.

So you know what she did? She made her own! A dragon kite for her own family, and a dragon kits for each of her brothers and sisters. Every one with a different design. Then, when we were all gathered last August to celebrate my mother’s 70th birthday, she surprised us with them.

Isn’t that the coolest?! Such an amazing gift. I treasure our new kite. (Thank you again, Rachel!)

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The other day, I finally downloaded images from the party, and the kite pictures made me so happy! I couldn’t wait to share with you. For those of you who are in the middle of winter snow drifts, I hope these sunny photos warm you.

Now back to the question of thoughtful gifts. Have you ever been given something super thoughtful like that? Or maybe you gave something that was particularly awesome? Have you ever lost an object you loved — even one that wasn’t considered expensive or lavish? I’d love to hear!

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MM.LaFleur

February 10, 2015

Dress by MM.LaFleur

By Gabrielle. Photos by Ben Blair.  //  This post is brought to you by MM.LaFleur.

We’ve talked before how challenging making time for clothes shopping can be. Often, many of us keep a schedule that’s so full of tasks and errands that we don’t have time to shop for ourselves. Then a party or meeting or job interview or event or even conference comes up in our life and we have absolutely nothing appropriate to wear. So we panic and buy the first thing that sort-of fits at the closest clothes store, and it’s not quite right, and we’ll probably never wear it again, but oh well because we’re out of time. Anyone else relate? : )

MM.LaFleur Clothes Shopping Service. Luxury delivered to your door.

So when I hear of services that help with this sort of thing, I’m all ears. Today, I’m delighted to introduce you to MM.LaFleur. They aim to “take the work out of dressing for work”. If you’re someone who gets up every morning and ponders how to look professional and polished, pay attention. This company was made for you!

Sweater by MM.LaFleur

Their wares are all about really well made pieces that go easily from office to dinner. And they focus on easy care too — creating items that are machine washable, travel-friendly, and totally comfortable. Pieces that will look good for a long time.

To start, you fill out a style profile, then MM.LaFleur will send out a Bento Box — at no cost to you! — filled with 5-8 luxurious wardrobe staples based on your profile. You try things on, keep only what you love, and send the rest back. Oh. And a return shipping label comes with your package, so it’s simple as can be to make returns immediately. Nothing fits? No stress and no shipping or processing costs to you. MM.LaFleur only charges for the pieces you decide to keep.

Luck Favors the Brave notebook by MM.LaFleur

These are higher end pieces, meant to feel at home in even the most chic of New York offices. You can read the story behind the company here. Their goal: To make the purposeful woman look and feel beautiful, without having to work too hard at it.

They currently carry size 0-16, and they offer dressesskirtstops and sweaterscoats, plus accessories like beltsscarves and jewelry. Oh. And MM.LaFleur also offers a few luxurious objects — I want to give this Luck Favors the Brave notebook to every woman I meet! Not interested in a Bento Box? You can also shop the store directly.

Dress by MM.LaFleur

The quality of this service really stood out to me — from the packaging materials to the website to the clothes themselves — every detail feels special. And the ease of ordering and returning can’t be emphasized enough. I know shopping for clothes online can be tricky, but MM.LaFleur has made it as easy as possible. As I mentioned, the return label comes with the box of clothes, you don’t even need to print it out. You simply try on the clothes, box up anything that doesn’t fit, and send it back.

MM.LaFleur sent a box of clothes that I could try on and photograph for this post, plus a return shipping label so I could send everything back after the shoot and experience for myself how easy their return process is. I’m in the market for a new black dress, so they sent 3 different options to try on — plus a gorgeous sweater that I wouldn’t have chosen for myself, but that I fell in love with. Here’s a little photo tour of what they sent.

Click through for my thoughts on each piece, plus more pics!

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Photo Oct 11, 3 34 59 PM

By Gabrielle.

If you needed a dose of unbridled happiness today, here it is. Between her rainbow decor and kids really do live here style and her vigor for life, Christy’s joy is easy to spot from a mile away. There’s so much in her interview, too, that will inspire all of us to stop overthinking it all and not be so hard on ourselves and get off the couch. She is so persuasive about loving life right this very minute and doing things that you can’t imagine you could ever accomplish that I found myself considering joining a triathlon club.

What?!

Friends, please welcome Christy. You’re going to adore her.

Q: Tell us all about the family who lives here!

A: Hi! I’m Christy Casimiro. I’m a wife, mother, and triathlete. I also have recently launched my own side business selling Younique cosmetics and have been hired by some friends to assist them in their interior design dilemmas. After six and a half years of not making any money, it’s an absolute thrill to contribute to the household a tiny bit doing two things I love!

My husband, Matt, is a fabulous Welshman and my best friend. He’s a breast cancer researcher at a university in Philadelphia, and a completely devoted and active father. We met on an online dating service 12 years ago. He contacted me on a Friday, our first date was a Monday, and within a week we’d taken down our profiles and were a couple. One year later we got married in a castle near his hometown in Wales, and the rest, as they say, is history!

We have three wonderfully wild little kids: Fiona is almost seven and the best big sister you could dream of, Callum is almost five and has a wonderful imagination whilst being a silent mischief maker, and then there’s Beckett, a real love bug whirling dervish.

A color explosion, just ahead!

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Call It A Day: Sara Jensen

February 9, 2015

By Gabrielle. Photos by Sara Jensen.

I was speaking with a friend who had recently spoken with her friend whose everyday activities seem so – for lack of a better word – difficult! It isn’t that she’s building rocket ships or cooking dinner for a queen or even saving the world; it’s more that her daily to do list takes her places that are literally and figuratively completely foreign to most of us. And yet, she manages to accomplish everything she needs to accomplish. (More on her later!)

It got me thinking that we are all on this same path of doing what needs to be done, and that our daily to do lists are probably equal parts similar and so very different. My intrigue led to this new column, Call It A Day, where we follow friends through an average 24 hours and hopefully learn a little something along the way. You know, the whole walk-a-mile-in-their-shoes thing! I’m hoping it will become a real day-changer, philosophy shifter, and all around happy-maker.

I’m starting the series with the super talented Sara Jensen. Sara and her husband Thor live on a little island in the Pacific Northwest, and are parents to Henry and Rose, who are both seven and just two months apart. And I have to mention that as huge as her talent is, it’s got nothing on her heart. I like her so much, and her last line made me crumple. I hope her day makes yours even better.

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

A: Typically Thor and I wake up about an hour before the kids. Food is an important part of our day, not only because we love to eat well, but because our son’s life depends on it. He has Type 1 Diabetes, and every single carb counts in our house. We have to measure everything we make to make sure that we are giving our son the proper amount of insulin to handle his food. Too little insulin creates high blood sugar that in the short term can make him really grumpy and sad, and too much insulin can cause his sugar to drop rapidly and cause him to pass out, fall into a coma or, best case scenario, make him act like a crazy drunk fratboy. Your brain operates at about 50% capacity when you are low. Long term high blood sugar can also lead to death, coma, DKA, loss of limbs, organ failure, and blindness. 

Q: From your Instagram peeks into your meals, you are a fantastic cook! Can you share a typical breakfast? 

A: We rotate meals a lot. We find that if you serve kids the same thing all of the time they don’t like change. Our kids LOVE change. A lot of people comment that it is too late to change the way that their kids eat. We met our daughter Rose when she was just three. Her diet largely consisted of fast food or no food, and she thought that weird Kool-Aid juice that comes in barrels was actual juice. The first full day we had her at our house we made her a kale salad and she asked what it was, observed Henry eating it, and just went with it. 

We feel so passionate about good food. We feel lucky to be educated enough about it and always want to learn more. We try and teach others, too. Our kids have thick skin and sometimes other kids with four Twinkies and a piece of meat with two dry slices of white bread make fun of their salad, but they shrug and keep eating. Henry even told another kid that was making fun of him that he would “probably not live his full life span if he didn’t eat vegetables.”

More from Sara, just ahead!

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A Few Things

February 6, 2015

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Kristen Loken for Design Mom.

Hello, Friends. How are you doing? Was it a good week? I was flying high this week from the response to my Book Pre-Order announcement. The next day I found out the book was listed in the #1 spot on the best seller list in Amazon’s Home Decor category. Woo hoo! I know it may only last a day, but I’ll take it. : ) Also, I know that it’s the direct result of your support and enthusiasm and I can’t thank you enough. Seriously. Thank you!

Now, let’s discuss the weekend. Any fun plans? We’ve got a pancake breakfast for the Scouts tomorrow morning, but other than that, I think we’ll just enjoy the rainy weather that has come our way. Rain sometimes feels like such a novelty here. But I’m happy for any excuse to wear my awesome rain boots. I get compliments on them all day long anytime I wear them!

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

- An excellent essay on copying and copyright.

- My son Ralph sent me this short movie called Paint. It’s really good. You should totally show it to your kids.

- Periodic Table of Texting. I feel like I only know a handful of these.

- “What had we been expecting — a monster? ”

- Family detention camps. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t even know these existed.

- Feeling crummy? Try Skittles in water. Hah!

- I LOVE this behind the scenes look at the artwork in the Kid President book. So much attention to detail and so much creativity.

- She confronted her cruelest troll.

- Have you ever tried a no jeans challenge?

- A student’s life-changing trip to Tanzania (that’s my niece!).

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — We had family photos snapped at our house last Sunday and the two photos above are a sneak peek of the results. I love both shots!

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