Visit Sweden: Gothenburg

August 20, 2014

Gothenburg24

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Friends, Gothenburg is easy to love! It’s the capital of West Sweden, and home to half a million people. The center of the city, where most of the tourist attractions are found is condensed and totally walkable, and there are plenty of public transportation ferries and buses and trams if you’ll be going outside the city center.

The oldest part of town was originally surrounded by a wide moat. And most of the moat is still there. In fact, tour boats cruise the moat and offer guides in several languages. Just outside the moat is a ring of green — a lovely park the surrounds the whole town!

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On our first morning in town, we took a walking tour, with a guide named Erika Svenske. (You can find her through the Gothenburg tourist bureau.) She was friendly and knowledgable and really fun to hang out with. We had a two hour tour and it wasn’t enough!

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Knowing we were parents, she made sure to take us to two excellent toy stores so we could pick up souvenirs for the kids. One of the store owners pointed out the products of Swedish based OMM Design, and our guide mentioned that the bright little velour toys (pictured above) — made to hang on a stroller or carseat — are part of every Swedish babies lives.

Erika joked that if someone in Sweden fancied themselves a really good parent and intended to provide a wholesome childhood for their kids, it would translate to buying toys from Krabat and buying clothes from Polarn O. Pyret. : )

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In addition to the toy stores, she pointed out all sorts of great shops. There was Saluhallen, The grand Market Hall — located right across the street from our hotel, and full of excellent local food vendors. A butcher. A baker. A chocolate treat maker. She said it was a good place to pick up an affordable lunch.

More on Gothenburg, and the Swedish philosophy of Good Design For Everyone – keep reading!

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Stockholm Day Two05

Images and text by Gabrielle.

We packed a ton into our Day Two Stockholm itinerary (see Day One here). And we loved it! There’s just so much to see. We started by meeting a tour guide, found via Visit Stockholm, at the hotel first thing in the morning. Her name is Elisabeth Daude and she’s a total Stockholm expert.

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The first stop on our tour was a visit to the lake front to see the old palaces, and the building where the noble families historically met. We had a fun discussion about the roles royalty and nobility play in current Swedish political and social life.

Which reminds me, my favorite thing about tour guides is getting to ask a local all the million questions I have about the country’s culture and customs. With Elisabeth, we discussed two aspects of Swedish culture that I’ve been thinking about like crazy since our conversation — I’ll mention them at the bottom of the post so that I don’t get too distracted before I write up our itinerary.

Click here for the rest of our day two itinerary, plus lots of photos!

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By Gabrielle.

When we last visited Kirsty, she was outnumbered as the only female in a male-generous family. That ratio certainly didn’t show, however, in the family home’s decor. There was an abundance of white-not-scared-of-dirt-one-bit, a lacy tablecloth or two, and an elegant settee and white leather chair that just didn’t seem conducive to trampolining. I loved her style.

I still do, in fact. Especially since the family has added another member, and considerably more shades of pink to their surroundings. Friends, please welcome Kirsty one more  time!

Q: You’ve got a new addition to your family! 

A: Yes we do! Since you last visited our home, we welcomed the sweetest little girl into our all boy family. Her name is Scarlet Evangeline and she has her brothers’ whole hearts. She turned one in May, and is an absolute beauty who loves to tumble around with the boys and gets us all giggling with her scrunch nose, eyes closed smile. I have a little taste of every personality with my four kids: laid back and serious, daredevil and go-getter, goofball and best friend, and sweet little love. Scarlet is such a wonderful gift to our family.

Q: The last time we toured your home, you were living with four males, three of whom were under eight. How has this little lady made her mark on your aesthetic?

A: Well, I’ve always had a romantic style and aesthetic. For example, I love vintage chairs with tufting, quilts on all the beds, and fresh flowers around the house. And I’ve not necessarily shied from those inclinations even when my home was filled with boys. But the opportunity to decorate a room devoted entirely to a girl was just about the most fun I’ve ever had.

Click here to keep reading!

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Stockholm Day One08

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Day one in Stockholm! Such a great day. We spent the morning with Karina Lundell, Head Designer at Polarn O. Pyret. I first met Karina a few years ago and she is fantastic — so talented and delightful to hang out with.

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We started at the PO.P offices where Karina took us through the fall line, the holiday line and the outerwear line. We talked about the new fabrics and features and discussed Sweden’s famous outdoor preschools. (Completely outdoors! Even in the middle of winter!)

Polarn O. Pyret is a classic Swedish brand — any Swede could identify the signature stripes. And Victoria, the Princess, who recently had a baby, carries a PO.P diaper bag and has dedicated personal shopping hours at PO.P stores. She’s expected to dress the baby in this classic Swedish brand (and has even been criticized if she doesn’t).

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Each season, PO.P chooses a new theme for their line, and this fall it’s “cooking with kids”. Based on the theme, they created two new prints, plus kitchen accessories in the signature Polarn O. Pyret navy and red — a chefs hat, dishtowels, over mits, and aprons. I’m nuts about the polka dotted chef’s hat!

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After the HQ visit, we went to Polarn O. Pyret flagship store in the Gallerian shopping center so we could see the complete wares. All those stripes!

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Next up, lunch at Restaurang Prinsen with classic Swedish food on the menu. Can you guess what I ordered? Swedish meatballs — with mash potatoes and lingonberry sauce, of course! Really, really yummy. The restaurant has a perfect location for access to the best shopping in town. We ate outside and watches the fashionable people walk by while we chatted.

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One cute little detail: I liked how the dinner rolls were stacked on a stick!

Click for more of our Day One report!

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Slow Cooker Recipe: Easy Peach Crisp. Works with any summer fruit!   |   Design Mom  #crockpot

By Gabrielle. Images and styling by Lindsey Rose Johnson.

Are you ready for another super easy, super yummy recipe in my Slow Cooker Series? It’s peach season and one of my favorite ways to enjoy this glorious fruit is in a bowl of warm peach crisp topped with a big dollop of whipped cream — or a scoop of vanilla ice cream! I adore fruit pies and crisps — if I’m in a restaurant, and a fruity dessert is on the menu, it’s always the one I pick. A warm fruit crisp is my ultimate comfort food.

Happily, making a crisp at home couldn’t be easier. It comes together in just a few minutes and doesn’t require much attention after that. You literally toss everything into the slow cooker, set it, and forget it, as the saying goes.

Slow Cooker Recipe: Easy Peach Crisp. Works with any summer fruit!   |   Design Mom  #crockpot

This recipe uses peaches, but you can also use nectarines, plums, berries, or any other favorite summertime fruit.

Click for the recipe and tips!

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A Few Things

August 15, 2014

Ben Blair in Stockholm

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Was it a good week? I’m so glad to be here in Sweden with Ben Blair. I’m just pinching myself I feel so lucky! But at the same time, it’s been such a heavy week. I’m sick about the shooting of Mike Brown. So troubled. I can’t get it out of my head. I’m also heartbroken about the suicide of Robin Williams, and angry at the helplessness people feel against depression. And I was an emotional wreck leaving the kids as Ben and I went to the airport. They are in excellent hands, and I travel often enough that I should be an old pro, but it feels so different when both Ben and l leave them together.

All that heaviness, and yet, here I am in tourist mode, holding hands with my husband as we leisurely wander the old streets of Stockholm. Life is strange. The amounts of happy and sad that can be held in one head at the same time is beyond bizarre.

We’re off to do some more sightseeing, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- An important essay from Kristen Howerton on race, police brutality, and the dangerous act of being black.

- The advice new moms need. Thanks, Molly!

- I think this is fantastic: A free new cookbook aimed at helping America’s 47 million food stamp users create healthy meals on $4 per day.

- What not to say to a step-parent — or in front of a step-child, for that matter.

- Kids today have less freedom than we did. Is this true in your home?

Coloring pages from contemporary art.

- What you wish someone had told you about miscarriage. Thanks, Jenny.

- A really cool explanation of how optical illusions work. Thanks, Ryan!

- Norm MacDonald on Robin Williams.

I hope you have a fantastic weekend! I’ll be Instagramming from Sweden like crazy if you’d like to follow along. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Stockholm

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Good morning! I’m waving hello from Sweden! As I mentioned, we’ll be spending much of our time here in Gothenburg and West Sweden, but we’re starting our trip with a few days in Stockholm. Stockholm is gorgeous. Gorgeous and super cool. It’s like cool overload.

We arrived yesterday evening, checked into our hotel, then wandered around Old Town, and watched the sun set on the water. There were stages and live music, playing late into the night, all over the city. And twinkle lights hung back and forth across the cobbled streets. Pretty glorious.

Today, we’ll be getting a shopping tour of the city from the Head Designer at Polarn O. Pyret. Can’t wait to report!

P.S. — Our hotel room has a turntable and stack of records! Made me happy. We listened to the Eurythmics while we unpacked. : )

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L'Oreal Mousse Absolue Design Mom1

By Gabrielle. Photos by Ben Blair for Design Mom. //  This post is brought to you by L’Oréal Paris.

Manicures and pedicures. Hair cuts and hair color. Trimming your bangs. Event Makeup. Hair removal. Tanning sprays. Eyelash extensions or fake eyelashes. Eyebrow shaping.

I have tried all of the above. Further, I’ve tried them all both at home and in salon settings. L’Oréal Paris reached out about their new at-home color, Preference Mousse Absolue, and I thought it was the perfect excuse to discuss what type of beauty routines you prefer to do in shop versus at home. I’m always curious about how people handle their beauty and grooming habits.

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In general, I love the idea of taking care of as much as I can at home. It’s best when I don’t have to interrupt my day with an appointment and can take care of grooming tasks late at night if needed. But I’ve also noticed that if I don’t make appointments for certain tasks, I push them off until it reaches the point of ridiculousness. So I’ve had to find a balance. Here’s how it breaks down for me:

WAXING/SHAVING
Certain tasks, I prefer to do at home — specifically eye brow shaping and hair removal. I’ve tried laser hair removal and thought I loved it, but ultimately found it wasn’t very effective for me. I’ve tried waxing, too, but those in-between times when my hair is growing out until it’s long enough to be waxed don’t work for me. So at home, I use both an epilator and disposable razors, and I’m satisfied with the results.

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TANNING
Tanning sprays and self tanners I’ve abandoned altogether. I don’t even pull out bronzing powder. I wear spf every day and have stopped pretending I have a tan. I don’t have anything against tanning lotions and sprays, and I could probably be talked into putting on a tan for a particular event. But it’s far from a priority for me.

NAILS
Manicures and pedicures happen at a nail salon, or if I don’t have the budget, they don’t happen at all. I have tried to perfect the at-home mani-pedi, both as a teen and as an adult, and found I simply don’t have the patience to a) do a good job, and b) sit still until the paint dries. So these happen in a salon, or they simply don’t happen. Happily, a salon pedicure will often last me a month or more — my toenails grow at a snail’s pace, so that’s not too hard to manage. My hands are another story. I keep them so busy, that even the best manicure will chip within a day — so I don’t even bother to get a manicure unless I have a conference or event coming up. One exception, I’ve tried shellac manicures and they’ve lasted for a week+! But, they weaken my nails so much that I can only indulge in a shellac manicure on a rare occasion.

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HAIR
For hair tasks, I’ve gone back and forth over the years. When I wore my hair pixie short, Ben Blair would give me haircuts at home, and I would use at-home hair color as well. With really short hair, trims are needed every 3 to 4 weeks, so taking care of it at home was much easier than making an appointment. Plus, these were the grad school years and money was tight, so the at-home services were a huge help to the family budget. Best of all, I didn’t need to track down a babysitter for hair appointments! Dealing with everything at home just made sense all the way around.

These days, I make salon appointments for color and cuts — color is monthly, cuts and trims are more infrequent. I try to look forward to these appointments — to think of them as a time to relax, or maybe read an actual magazine, but if I have a deadline looming, leaving my desk to go to the salon can drive me nuts. Other times, I might make the appointment well in advance so that I’m not caught off guard, but then something comes up and I have to cancel.

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So sometimes, when I simply can’t fit in a hair appointment, but my roots are awful, I go with at-home color. In fact, it happened two weeks ago when I was on the epic roadtrip. I wanted to color my roots before we attended a wedding in Salt Lake City, but I didn’t want to search out a salon for a one-time visit, so I used Mousse Absolue — #400, Pure Dark Brown — in our hotel room and took care of the roots myself. No fuss, and no abandoning Ben and the kids mid-vacation while I took care of my hair.

The application was simple, and I loved the color, but the biggest selling point for me is that the excess color can be saved. If you’ve ever colored at home, you know that once you mix that color, you have to throw out any that you don’t use right then. But with Mousse Absolue, you can save the unused portion for a future touchup. Yay for less waste!

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I’ve thought about what an ideal grooming system for me would look like, and I can’t figure it out. I tend to remember things like needing a pedicure at 11pm, when I’m putting on my pjs for the night. Ideally, at that moment, I would be able to call an amazing nail expert and they would arrive at my house a few minutes later, and the pedicure would happen in my pjs, in my house, super late at night, while I worked on my inbox. Same with hair. Right when I step out of the shower in the morning, and remember my roots need attention, I would love to be able to call and have an appointment as soon as the kids are off to school. But of course, it doesn’t work that way. So I fit in grooming where I can.

How about you? How much grooming do you handle at home, and how much do you hire out? Also, if you could have a stylist or beautician come to your home, instead of going to the salon, would you prefer that? And lastly, are there any tasks that you absolutely won’t do at home? I’d love to hear how you manage your grooming routines.

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DIY Snack-time Placemats - Free Printable!   |   Design Mom

Photos and text by Gabrielle. // This post is brought to you by Blue Diamond Almonds.

BD Almonds Logo

It’s Back to School season! I love this time of year — really, I love anything that gives a feeling of fresh-starts and new chances and do-overs. One of the things I want to refresh as we head into fall is our snacks. Last school year we made great progress on cutting crappy food from our diet. But our efforts seemed to evaporate as summer came on. Popsicles and ice cold soda and ice cream sandwiches are hard to resist!

DIY Snack-time Placemats - Free Printable!   |   Design Mom DIY Snack-time Placemats - Free Printable!   |   Design Mom

There’s no time like the present to reintroduce healthier snacks. Of course, I could just serve them up as is (and probably will on many days), but I thought it would be a fun option to make our after-school snack times a little more playful. So, I drew up some simple illustrations and had them laminated as placemats. A fox, a cat, a man and a woman.

Click here for the full post and free printable!

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Rootbeer Flavored Cookies

August 13, 2014

donut sign 21

Image and text by Gabrielle.

We were laughing yesterday about some of things our exchange students noticed about America. The first thing they commented on was how BIG everything seemed, from the moment they disembarked from the airplance. The cars, the freeways, the buildings, the stores — they were wide-eyed at how huge everything was in comparison to their own countries.

They also had a talent for zeroing in on the craziest or most extreme items in the grocery stores or on the menus at restaurants. For example, during his last week here, Chris purchased a package of Rootbeer Float Flavored Chips Ahoy Cookies. Have you ever heard of such a thing? Don’t they sound like the strangest concoction? I had no idea they existed! Another time, we were at an outdoor mall and stopped at Fuddruckers for burgers. Victor and Charles ordered the enormous 1-pound burger just to see what it was like! Of course, I had never noticed it was on the menu and had certainly never heard or seen anyone order it. It’s one of those things that’s much more of a novelty than an actual menu item. During the roadtrip, when we were stocking up on snacks, Charles requested a bottle of Easy Cheese — as a Frenchman, he prides himself on knowledge of the best cheeses, and wanted to see this mockery of cheese product for himself.

We didn’t mind at all when they pointed out the strange things they would see. America has a reputation for crazy food and lots of it, so I think they were pre-disposed to notice the oddest bits. And we know we did the same sort of thing when we lived in France. We couldn’t help but notice the large glass jars of snails at the grocery store — though I never actually saw such a jar in anyone’s grocery cart.

To balance out the extremes, we would also try to give them common experiences. Sample breakfasts might be a bowl of corn flakes or Cheerios, another morning might be donuts, or something more traditional like sausage and eggs. Beyond food experiences, they would join us for family screen time, or run errands with us.

It was fun to see our world through their eyes. And now, when I’m at the store, I’m more likely to notice any strange new food items that have popped up.

If you were making an itinerary for visitors to your own town, what are the strangest things, and the most common things, you’d put on the schedule? What do you think they’d notice about where you live? What would you hope they’d notice?

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Maris Garcia.

The Dolgin’s Chicago apartment is as hard-working as they come. Scanning through Amy’s introductory photos, I kept coming back to her hallway and getting more ideas. (Built-ins and a desk nook are now on my wish list!) Somehow, she’s made an apartment feel as wide-open comfortable as a sprawling house! You know I enjoy a good vertical solution as much as anyone, so I was particularly taken with this tour. The window seats, the all-white with vibrant accent wall colors, a sleek and friendly kitchen — and did I mention the gorgeous built-in storage — all sealed the deal. I like this space.

Please be warned: This tour might make you yearn for a citified life. Friends, please welcome the Dolgins!

Q: Please introduce us to this Chicago clan.

A: There are five of us: me, my husband, Harell, and our three kids. Mischa is six, Romy is four, and Emmett is one. A family of five sounds so big to me when it’s in reference to other families, but doesn’t feel big to me in our home at all. I think that’s part of me still feeling a bit stunned by being a parent to three children! Kind of like how my age doesn’t really match how I feel anymore. I just turned 34, but feel stuck at 28 inside.

Harell is a contractor in a family construction business, so he renovates and builds both residential and commercial spaces. Although I was trained in public health and nursing, I recently started working with him to help during this period of fast-paced growth in the business. I still teach a Women’s Health course at a local university too, but I’ve loved getting involved in construction and design beyond it being a hobby or obsession. Harell is the calmest person I know. I feel so lucky about his general calmness, as he balances out some of my anxious and wanderlust tendencies. He is the eternal optimist, finding the silver lining in any challenging situation.

Our oldest daughter, Mischa, is finishing up her first year at our neighborhood public school as a kindergartner, and our middle daughter, Romy, will start kindergarten there in the fall. Mischa is determined and driven, but also silly and musical. She literally sings her way through each day. Romy cares deeply about clothing, colors, sparkles, and things being just the way she envisions them. She idolizes her big sister, but is also the only one in our family that Emmett kisses – and he does so about a hundred times a day! Having two girls so close in age (18 months apart) has been both exciting and exhausting, but we’re coming out the other end of those early years with girls who love each other endlessly and keep good company together. We waited a while longer before having our third child, Emmett. He is such a funny combination of cuddly and reckless, and we are loving every minute of his baby stage since we know how short it really is. I like to think that growing up with two big sisters will help him learn to be a respectful man.

Coming right up: the hardest-working hallway!

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Ideal Meals for Busy Weeks

August 11, 2014

Blue Apron Meal21

Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Blue Apron.

———

I’ve seen Blue Apron covered on many of my favorite blogs over the last couple of months. I’ve read the posts, thought it looked interesting, but assumed it wouldn’t really work for my big family. Until last week.

We got home from the epic roadtrip and all we wanted was home cooked meals. But, it’s this crazy, crazy time between the roadtrip and the Sweden trip — we’re trying to squeeze a month’s worth of family tasks and errands into a week and a half. Of course, this isn’t our first busy period. Typically, we’ll rely on take-out or drive-thrus to assist us with meals when life gets crazy. But in this case, no one could stand the idea of yet another cheeseburger after being on the road for 19 days. The whole family was craving dinners around the table with real food, prepared right in our kitchen.

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Enter Blue Apron. We ordered 3 meals, each with ingredients for 6 people. The ingredients for all three meals were delivered last Tuesday. They arrived in a refrigerated box, and we cooked the meals Tuesday night, Wednesday night and Thursday night. I hoped it would be helpful, I assumed it would be a nice plus, but it turns out we LOVE this service. In fact, this post is much longer than I expected to write, but we found this service to be so helpful that I want to thoroughly explain why I’m such a fan.

With Blue Apron, all the thinking and errands are done for you. As someone who likes to be in control, you would think I would hate having the decisions taken away from me. But it turns out, removing the menu planning, the grocery list making, and the errands from our task list is hugely helpful. Sometimes it’s really, really nice to have the decisions made for you and save your brain space for other tasks.

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Dinner time would roll around and instead of panicking, the ingredients and recipe would be waiting for us. And not just any old ingredients — farm-fresh, beautiful produce, with tons of variety, and sourced from local suppliers. We were delighted that the meals introduced our family to ingredients and dishes we’d never tried before, like the crispy fennel root salad pictured in this post. So yummy! On the second night, the side dish included green tomatoes — I’d only eaten them fried before and had no idea how wonderful they were raw. The food was delicious and menus (which are created by chefs) were unusual enough to makes the meals feel extra special.

Blue Apron Meal06

The cooking was simple. It would take about a half an hour — less time than if we’d had to run out for dinner ingredients or fast food. None of the prep was super involved. No special skills or unusual tools were needed. And having the kids follow the recipes felt a bit like cooking lessons. Our kids were learning how to make things beyond their favorite family comfort food recipes.

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I realize these are not bargain meals. This is not a college student eating cup noodles. They are $9.99 per person. I admit, at first that sounded high to us — each of the 3 meals we prepared last week cost $60. Then we thought about what a fast food meal for our family costs, and this was in the same range — but the food quality is much, much higher. And if we were to eat an equivalent meal at a sit-down restaurant it would be 3 times as much! So again, for us on a busy week, Blue Apron makes tons of sense. We would have been spending to eat out anyway, but instead of french fries or pizza, we ate delicious, fresh, home cooked meals, and learned some new recipes in the process.

Blue Apron Meal03 Blue Apron Meal12

Another thing we did to make it more economical: We had servings for six delivered, but we were feeding 7 or 8 or 9 people each night (sometimes one of the kids has a babysitting job or other activity that takes them away during dinner time). So we served the food “family style” instead of plating it, and we found the amount of food typcially served all of us. And if it wasn’t quite enough, we could stretch it. For example, on one night, we were planning dinner for 7, but added two more people at the last minute. We knew there was plenty of the side dishes, but we were worried about the amount of meat in the main course, so we grabbed some chicken from the freezer, and cooked it with the rest of the ingredients. Easy peasy. We could have done the same thing with rice or potatoes if needed. My point: I found that the meals could be easily stretched when necessary.

Blue Apron Meal07

The last thing I wanted to mention, is that I really like that I didn’t waste ingredients. On the first night, the recipe called for fresh tarragon and Blue Apron sent just exactly the amount we needed. If I’d done the shopping, I would have had to buy a whole package of tarragon which would have too much for one recipe. Perhaps we would have used the remaining tarragon in a future meal, but it’s just as likely that it would have eventually been thrown away. I liked not having extra ingredients to deal with (or waste).

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Anyway. I know I am raving about Blue Apron, but I really felt like this was a huge blessing for us. It totally saved the day last week. We have Blue Apron meals coming this week and next week, too while Ben and I are in Sweden. We thought it would be helpful to Audrey & Nick as they get into the rhythm of taking care of six kids. I’m curious to see what’s on the menu! They have a huge selection of recipes and add new ones each week. It will be fun to see what arrives.

I can easily see us ordering again in the future when one of us is traveling for work, or we have another particularly crazy week. We feel so much better about making Blue Apron than ordering take out.

Blue Apron Meal20

What do think of the Blue Apron concept? Would you ever try it? Would it ever make sense for your family? Delivery is available in 80% of the country (see this map), so there’s a good chance they cover your home, too! If you do want to try it, you’re in luck. The first 100 Design Mom Readers who sign up will get two free meals on their first Blue Apron order! If you don’t like it, no stress. There’s no commitment — you can skip or cancel the service at any time, and shipping is always free.

P.S. — Fun fact: chefs in training around the world wear blue aprons – it’s a symbol of lifelong learning in cooking.

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Gag Me With A Spoon

August 11, 2014

max_headroom_the80sman

By Gabrielle. Max here.

I’m not even sure where he first heard it, but the other day, Oscar asked me what “gag me with a spoon” meant. And that question turned out to be a trip wire of sorts — we ended up spending an evening talking about phrases and words that have fallen out of fashion since Ben and I were kids. The conversation highlights:

“Grody” and “grody to the max” got the biggest response. They all thought the word and phrase sounded horrible and they were glad it was gone.

In my hometown, St. George, the word “nivey” was popularized during my high school years, but I don’t think anyone ever used it again the moment they graduated. It had a negative meaning, as in, “Ugh, I’m having such a bad hair day. I look nivey.” Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I don’t think it ever took off with the population at large. Whenever I hear it now, I think of that line in Mean Girls: Gretchen, stop trying to make fetch happen! It’s not going to happen!

But the one that the kids marveled at the most was, “You think you’re hot snot on a silver platter, but really you’re a cold booger on a paper plate.” This was the ultimate insult in my elementary school circa 1984. Anyone else? I laughed when Maude pointed out to me that she wouldn’t want to be either snot or a booger. Hah! Apparently, my 9 year old self had never considered that.

Of course, the conversation made me curious. What phrases or words have passed out of your vocabulary since you were a kid? Anything particularly memorable? Can’t wait to hear!

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A Few Things

August 8, 2014

Vase of Flags

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you doing? We are having another big good-bye at our house. Tomorrow, Chris — our exchange student from England — is heading home. He’s been with us for a month, and we have loved having him! He will certainly be missed. And I must say, I think it will feel strange to have only our family at home. We’ve had visitors since early April so it’s been awhile. I’m sure we’ll enjoy the novelty, but just for a minute, because our dear friends, Audrey & Nick, are coming next week. They’ll be staying at the house to watch the little kids and hang out with big kids while we’re in Sweden. We can’t wait to welcome them!

Before I sign off for the weekend, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- On technology, patterns, and creating, from the guy who invented Gmail. “Escaping dogma is hard. From the inside, it simply looks like truth and reality.” Thanks, Emily.

- Modern Office.

- Maybe it’s parents, not kids, who need limited screen time. Thanks, Amy.

- I love working with The ONE Campaign. They recently launched the ONE Girls and Women Facebook page — I encourage you to like it. Then sign up for girls and women at one.org/women (halfway down the page).

- 3-D printing for kids!

- How to make strong passwords and protect them.

- Apparently this has already made the rounds, but it was new to me. Made me laugh so hard!

I can’t breathe. Thanks, Kelly.

40 years of birthday self-portraits. One woman, from age 30 to 70. (She’s bare-chested, so don’t look if that will bother you.)

- Are we spanking the gray matter out of our kids? This is an interesting conversation about social mores — and science.

- Look what you can do with shrinky-dinks! So cool.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — We still have our vase of flags out on the patio from our 4th of July get together. I think we’ll just keep it there through Labor Day. Or maybe Election Day!

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My Sweet Muffin Giveaway

August 7, 2014

DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

I’ve got a giveaway for you today that’s perfect for August. It’s hosted by My Sweet Muffin and they’re offering a $150 gift certificate!

My Sweet Muffin is one of my long time sponsors and I always get a kick out of seeing their new collections. Shina, the owner, does a really wonderful job of seeking out the very most interesting and unique and beautiful and quality gifts and toys. Her wares are perfect for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, and My Sweet Muffin is definitely one of my go-to online shops when I’m seeking a really good gift to give to a little one.

My Sweet Muffin Back To School 2014

This month, I’m taking inspiration from the My Sweet Muffin Back-to-School Ideas. Check out this page for a visual guide to prepping for the first day of school — the cutest backpacks, lunch boxes and art supplies. The happy products would make any child excited for the new school year! My favorites? The Fox Backpack, the Panda Bear Water Bottle, and the Circus Bento Box.

Visit My Sweet Muffin and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to hear if your kids will be eating school lunch this year, or bringing their own. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

——-

Betsy is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Sweden!

August 6, 2014

Sweden

By Gabrielle. Photo here.

Oh my. I am laughing while I write this post. I am still in the middle of stacks of post-roadtrip laundry, and at the same time making a packing list for our next trip. We are going to Sweden!

This trip is just for me and Ben Blair. No kids. Just us as a couple. I keep thinking about that line, something about what parents really need after a family vacation is a vacation. Hah! There’s definitely some truth to it — a family vacation isn’t much of a vacation for the parents. So I’m delighted to have a getaway on the schedule just for the two of us.

But that’s only one part of why we’re going. We didn’t come up with this plan for a trip to Sweden, though it’s been on our travel wishlist for years — this is one of those opportunities that came to us via blogging (and yes, I’m completely aware of how crazy lucky we are!). Sweden’s Tourism Board reached out with a fantastic promotion. They’re sponsoring 4 different bloggers on 4 different trips, each one with a specific theme — The Explorer, The Foodie, The Eco-Tourist, and The Curator. Our trip’s theme is The Curator, and the itinerary is fantastic. It takes us up and down Sweden’s West Coast and includes things like art museums, historic neighborhood walks, famed restaurants, sculpture parks and charming hotels.

The board wants us to see as much of the West Coast as we can, so instead of checking into one hotel and using it as a base, we’ll be checking into a new hotel every night, each one in a different town. In fact, one of the trip sponsors is Volvo. When we arrive in Gothenburg, we’ll be touring their factory and they’ll loan us a car so we can drive to destinations up and down the coast. Should be amazing.

For sure it feels like a wild time to be taking a trip. August is crazy at our house. There is back to school prep, two birthdays, house guests, kid camps, etc. Not exactly prime vacation time for us as parents. But the ultimate reason we said yes to this trip to Sweden, even in the midst of August chaos, is our wedding anniversary. It happens on August 19th — right in the middle of the trip. We are awful about celebrating our anniversary. We almost always let August busy-ness push the day to the bottom of our priority list. So saying yes to this trip felt like intentionally carving out time to celebrate our marriage and carving out time to be together, just the two of us.

Oh man. I could not be more excited about this trip. Every time I look at the itinerary I get goosebumps. Even hanging out with Ben on the plane ride sounds dreamy as can be. We fly out on August 13th — that’s a week away. I’m giddy just thinking about it!

And now I’d love to know, have you ever been to Sweden? I’d love to hear about your favorite spots. Also, I’m curious how you handle trip itineraries. When we travel as a family we tend to keep things pretty loose and plan the next day’s activities the night before. But for this trip, our schedule is set and we essentially won’t need to make many decisions about the day’s activities. Kind of refreshing. How about you? Do you travel with a plan?

P.S. — Of the 4 bloggers participating, I’m the last to travel, so you can already see their reports when you check out #inavolvo and #westsweden on social media. I’ll be adding to the hashtags when I get there!

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By Gabrielle. Milk bottle macarons via Raspberri Cupcakes.

There is no shortage of opinions when it comes to childbirth methods — and the opinions don’t stop after delivery! Whether from well-meaning friends and family, the latest issue of a parenting magazine, or even complete strangers at the grocery store, the opinions come. And they often bring a dose of parenting guilt with them. Worst of all, is when the reigning advice, guidance, or child-rearing tradition doesn’t work for your baby or your family. We’ve talked about it before, but it’s a great reminder at any stage of life: Sometimes, what is best for most might not be best for you. And that’s perfectly okay.

In Danielle‘s case, it was all about the breastfeeding. Some of us have been in the same spot as Danielle, some of us have had the completely opposite experience. I think, however, there’s a lesson here that everyone can relate to. Please enjoy Danielle’s story.

Danielle’s touching story, just ahead.

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Epic Roadtrip

Image and text by Gabrielle.

As promised, this post is about some of the logistics of the Epic Roadtrip. I’ll start with a few overarching details. We started the trip with 11 people — 8 Blairs, 1 French exchange student, 1 English exchange student, and a niece. In Las Vegas, the niece was picked up by another family of cousins, so we were down to 10. Then, during our stay in Salt Lake City, the French exchange student flew back to Paris (it was the end of a 3-month stay with us). So on the drive home from SLC to Oakland, there were only 9 of us.

We rented a 12-seater van for the trip. On some days there were long drives, on other days, were were only in the car for an hour or so. When we started out, the three teenage boys were in the 4th row, the three teenage girls (well, Olive is almost a teen) were in the 3rd row. Oscar, Betty & June were in the 2nd row, and Ben Blair and I were in the front row.

Click here for details on Food, Hotels, Itinerary and more!

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By Gabrielle.

With a blog called Less Than Perfect Mama, you can bet that Lindsay has a good grasp on this whole living with kids thing! The day before Hurricane Sandy flooded her home, she packed all of the family’s important stuff: toys, clothes, the family’s favorite books, and photos. I love that she chose much comfort over more costly items, don’t you?

Please join me in welcoming Lindsay. I know you’re going to enjoy touring her home and reading her words. (If only there was an option for this former pastry chef to bake a little something for us!)

Q: Please tell us about you and yours!

A: I live with my husband, Michael, in a tiny house in a small beach town on Long Island. We have two kids: Luke (7) and Madeleine (4). I’m a stay-at-home mom these days, and I try to nurture my creativity by writing a blog about the ridiculous nonsense that goes on around here in addition to anything food-related. I was a professional pastry chef before I had the kids and I still love, love, love to bake. Michael is an arborist, which means that often he spends his day dangling from a tree with a chainsaw in hand. I try not to think about that!

Luke is an old soul. While he has all the silliness of a typical kid, he also has a serious, intense side to his personality and can be quite focused when he wants to be. He’s an unyielding Thomas the Train enthusiast and says he’d like to drive trains when he grows up and also have a model train shop on the weekends.

Note to self: Steal Lindsay’s china cabinet. See it up next!

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Salt Lake City

Image and text by Gabrielle.

We originally built this roadtrip around two family events. Cousins Week in St. George, and our nephew’s wedding in Salt Lake City. The overall trip was probably longer than we typically would have chosen, but it made sense if we wanted to attend both of those events. That said, by time we arrived in Northern Utah, we were definitely feeling travel worn — craving home-cooked meals and our own beds. So we tried to keep our schedules pretty simple.

Visiting Salt Lake City felt different than other parts of our trip. We did less of the touristy activities, and instead, tried to connect with family and friends in the area as much as we could. The touristy parts included a visit to Temple Square — where we stopped into the famed Tabernacle and were able to hear someone playing the astounding pipe organ — and a visit to the mountains as well. We drove up a canyon without a solid destination in mind, then stopped at Solitude Ski Resort to hike around and play in the creek.

The city heat was not as bad as Las Vegas or St. George, but still pretty intense. So it was fun to show the kids that with a short drive into the mountains, it’s like a whole different world. Lush green, cool and comfortable. No red-rock desert in sight.

The rest of our visit was family focused. It was refreshing to step away from the van and the maps and the tourist brochures and just hang out. The wedding was lovely. Spending time with old friends made us happy. And late-night talks with siblings and cousins at Grandma and Grandpa’s house was a highlight.

We woke up on Sunday morning with the plan of driving across Nevada to Lake Tahoe, and staying there for the night. It’s not the halfway point, but it’s a good place to break up the trip between Salt Lake City to Oakland. But everyone was bummed out by the idea of checking into yet another hotel. The kids brought up the idea of skipping Tahoe and driving all the way to Oakland in one shot. Everyone was on board with the idea, so we did! We cancelled out hotel reservation and prepared for a long haul drive. More audiobooks. More ice for the cooler.

Then, late last night we arrived home. There were cheers all around! Jumping on the beds. Exploring the house. Remembering we had pulled up the carpet in the family room the night before we left. Hah!

Within minutes of making it home, the whole family was in bed. We were exhausted and slept soundly. Oh my. The feeling of coming home just can’t be beat!

And thus concludes Epic Roadtrip 2014.

I’d love to hear if you’ve ever visited Salt Lake City. Were you there to ski? For business? To visit family? Any favorite things to do with the kids? Feel free to share — the comments on these roadtrip posts are such a great source of ideas!

P.S. — I have a post I’ve been working on with tips on logistics and what worked for us on the drive. I’ll try to finish it up and share it this week.

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