By Gabrielle.

Nadine Mellor has believed in adventure – at least once a month – for most of her adult life, and that didn’t change when two kids were added to the equation. While it seems to be a much easier proposition to just stay at home with young ones, she lays out a pretty convincing argument of why we should just pack a carryon and go! I like her style.

Traveling with kids is, admittedly, a huge part of Nadine’s life. She is the London-based editor of i-escape Kids Collection, which features over 850 stylish family-friendly hotels, B&Bs, city apartments, and house rentals spanning 45 countries worldwide. I can’t wait to take you on a tour of her life! Friends, please welcome the Mellor family!

Q: Tell us about this jet-setting family.

A: Hi, I’m Nadine and my lovely Irish husband, Colman, and I have two charming and articulate children: our daughter Esme, almost seven, and son Cormac, who will be three in a couple of months. We currently live and work in London, but two years ago we returned home to this great city after five and a half wonderful years in San Francisco – and yes, we definitely left our hearts there! Both kids were born there so they have American citizenship (as well as British, Irish, and Australian nationalities).

Q: You’ve lived and travelled a lot of places with your family. Tell us why you’ve settled in North London.

A: I am actually from Islington, which is where I still live and my parents are 15 minutes’ walk away, which is super now we have kids. I was born and raised in this village. When I met Colman, he was living in South London, which is a great part of town but just not my village, so he did the gallant thing and moved to my area when we decided this was for life. And then just a year later, we had the opportunity to move to San Francisco, which I resisted to start with as I couldn’t imagine uprooting to live abroad again – I had already lived in Australia for seven years in three different stints – but once I was there I fell in love with it and we very nearly stayed in the States.

However, it is the right decision to return to London, closer to family and friends, and being in Europe speaks to us. Ultimately, we are from the British Isles. And Europe is such a fab place to live – so many different languages and cultures in a relatively small and accessible area – so we will never run out of great places to visit!

More fireplaces and charm, after the jump!

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Appearance

June 23, 2014

Bangs

Selfie & text by Gabrielle.

Thank you for the terrific comments and discussion last week about experimenting with looks and identity. I went out that same day and had bangs cut! Not an extreme change, I realize, but still fun to get a glimpse of myself in the mirror and see something new.

Related to the same topic, Ben Blair told me there’s a section in the book, The Singularity Is Near, that talks about the future, and predicts that a time will come when we can control how we appear to others. To be clear, it doesn’t say that we will actually change our bodies, but that we would control how we are perceived. So, if we want to appear taller (or shorter), we can. If we want to appear with darker (or lighter) skin, we can. If we want to appear curvier (or thinner), we can.

I have no idea how this will technically work (I think he said something about avatars), but let’s pretend for a minute that it will. Let’s imagine for a minute that it’s a fact. If you could appear however you like to the people that you encounter — without actually changing your body (no pain, no surgery) — would you choose to look any different than you do now?

My first thought, when Ben told me about the concept, is that we will all choose to appear as supermodels — bronzed and tall and lithe like Iman. It will be non-stop super models all day long. Supermodels at the grocery store, supermodels at the bank, supermodels at the dry cleaner.

Then, I thought: no, to appear as a completely different person will be difficult — people will want to be recognized by friends and family and colleagues. So perhaps it will be subtle things, like being perceived as having straighter teeth, or smaller pores, or a scar that can no longer be seen. This would be closer to what some people do right now — dyeing hair or getting nails painted or wearing spanx.

Next, I thought: I can already guess at the backlash. If everyone appears as a perfectly coiffed, super gorgeous human all the time, I can imagine a resurgence of appreciation for appearing naturally. A recognition of the true beauty found in the variety of the human race.

As I continued thinking about this, my friend Rona came to mind. I met Rona when Ben Blair and I lived in Athens, Greece, seventeen years ago. She was an expat from England, and sometimes we would discuss accents in England and how they affect social status. She said that in certain shops, she would use a different accent — an accent that made her sound like she was part of the nobility — in order to get better service. It wasn’t a change to her body, but still affected how she was perceived.

This got me considering characteristics beyond physical bodies — things like accents, or confidence, or attitude (maybe rebellious, or obedient), or even clothes and brand names — and how they affect how we are perceived by others.

I haven’t read the book, and it’s very likely I don’t understand correctly, but ignore that for a minute and chat with me. What thoughts come to mind for you? If you could appear differently to those around you, would you? Would you go for a drastic change, appear as is, or something in between? And whatever you would choose (from drastic to no change at all), what does that tell you about your self-image? Do you like how you look right now? Do you feel like people perceive you accurately and positively?

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Slow Cooker Recipe: Chicken Taco Salad   |   Design Mom  #crockpot

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Lindsey of Café Johnsonia.

It’s almost been a year since we moved to The Treehouse, and now that we have such a wonderful gathering space, we’ve really upped the frequency of get-togethers. We have a few standby menus that we like to serve to guests, and Taco Salad sits right at the top of that list — taco salad is like the easiest thing to serve ever!

Just lay all the toppings out on the table and let guests build their own. This is particularly great if you’re accommodating special diets. Vegetarians skip the chicken. Dairy-free eaters skip the cheese. Everything is naturally gluten-free. Everyone finds something they can eat. : )

Slow Cooker Recipe: Chicken Taco Salad   |   Design Mom  #crockpot Slow Cooker Recipe: Chicken Taco Salad   |   Design Mom  #crockpot

For this recipe we’ve used chicken thighs, which are really great for long, slow cooking because they are more flavorful and tender. It’s a snap to put together too. Just put everything into the slow cooker (or Dutch oven — that’s what we use!) and forget about it for a few hours.

Beyond that, the only other prep work is shredding the lettuce and getting the other toppings ready. It may not be a true 30-minute meal in that it cooks for several hours, but it sure comes together in a flash. I love those kinds of meals!

Let’s get cooking.

Click for the recipe and tips!

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A Few Things

June 20, 2014

Martha Stewart at Alt Summit

By Gabrielle. Image by Laurie Smithwick.

Wow! What a week. I LOVE Alt Summit. What an amazing thing it is to meet and spend time with so many inspiring women. Old friends, new friends, and lots of family. And I’m still on a high from getting to interview Martha Stewart for her keynote address! She was as down-to-earth and gracious and smart and funny as could be. I can’t wait to tell you more about it when I’ve had time to process —and when the video of the keynote is ready to share.

Now, on to the weekend! Ben Blair flew in to Salt Lake City yesterday — just in time to see the big interview. And tomorrow, we’ll attend the wedding of our nephew here in Utah. We’re very much looking forward to it. How about you? Any weekend plans you’re looking forward to?

While I attend my Friday meetings and say my Alt Summit goodbyes, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- The last women footbinders of China.

- This is how my neighborhood sounds when Brazil scores in the World Cup.

- Why Blue Ivy’s hair matters.

- Every English novel ever.

- Kind of surprising news – but don’t spray that sunscreen on your kids! (I adore the convenience of sunscreen sprays, so this bums me out.)

- Meet The Exodus Road.

Generation Grit — American Girl, but for boys. Thoughts?

- Silly: Mentos suit + Diet Coke dunk tank.

- These beach cake toppers made me smile.

- The critical importance of kindness.

- Are you doing anything to mark the Summer Solstice? Maybe a visit to Stonehenge?

I hope you have a marvelous weekend — and greet the new season with open arms! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Since the year began, I’ve been trying to average 7 posts per week, but this week, I’ve only managed 5. It was just one of those weeks! Ben Blair and I fly back to Oakland Saturday evening, so I should be back to the usual schedule starting Monday.

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By Gabrielle. pray4trax necklaces available in the little vikings Etsy shop.

Oh, goodness, but I enjoy browsing through Kassi Bacquet‘s life with her five lovely babes. Her experience began with the birth of her son when she was in high school and ends with the arrival of twins, one of whom was born with a fatal genetic disease. I thought we could all glean a lesson or two from this mama, especially the honesty and grace she carries with her daily. Please enjoy her words, Friends!

Q: Tell us about you and your beautiful family! 

A: Gosh, my husband and I are both thirty-four and very young at heart. I had Tyler at sixteen, so he and I have always been pretty close…although now that he’s a teen and almost seventeen, he has far less time for dear old mom! We have a lot of dance parties at home with my two daughters – Tannyn, who is nine, and Tayli, who is six – and the twins, Tavvi and Trax, who are 19 months. Our home is loud, crazy, and wild almost all of the time! It’s never quiet until the kids are in bed.

We’re a family of surfers. Dan, my husband, and the three older kids surf competitively here on the gulf coast. We love the beach and now that the babies are older, they are surfing, too.

A birth and a diagnosis and a gorgeous shot of Kassi with her twins, just ahead.

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Cassie Jones.

When I put together a Living With Kids tour, I try to mix in at least one photo of the family – or just one small member of it who happens to be running through a gorgeous glimpse of a room! But never have I posted a home tour where every photo includes a family living in it. This week is different, then. And instead of distracting from the interiors and bright ideas, the Carpenters added something decidedly sweet to our peek. The home came alive. You’ll see. (And you’ll also probably laugh out loud when you read Hannah’s response to when her home works best!)

Welcome, Carpenter family!

Q: Please tell us all about this adorable family.

A: We are the Carpenters. My husband, Heath, is a writer, college English professor, and is currently getting his doctorate in Heritage Studies. His most loved authors range from the greats like NT Wright and William Faulkner to the equally great Andre 3000 and Johnny Cash. Needless to say, Heath has diverse interests…which keeps things fresh around here.

I am a freelance illustrator and, like many moms, I enjoy blogging. Between my illustration work, blogging, and homeschooling our kids, I have a full plate and a full life. Heath and I spend our lives learning the balance; the balance of home and work, of family and friends, necessity and want, of us and others, and the ultimate balance of the secular and the spiritual. We’re a good team, Heath and I.

We have four kids: Tristin (11), Silas (seven), Enid (five), and Tom (almost two). Tristin is your classic first child, responsible to a fault. She is a second mother to my other children. She loves Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, and manatees.

Silas is my creative child. While he can’t focus on a task like cleaning his room for longer than, oh, 30 seconds, he can sit and draw for hours. His little brain is always creating, and he can make up a killer joke:  ”Why wouldn’t the wheel turn at night? It was notturnal.”

Enid is emotional and excitable and skips everywhere she goes, even from one room to the next in our little home. She loves koalas and sucking her thumb and has the power to simultaneously make you feel like the best person ever and the worst.

Tom. Oh, Tom. Tom has rocked our world. He is unlike any of the others: busy, destructive, fearless, needy, and just sweet enough that we love him anyway. We all live together in a little home in a little city just north of Little Rock.

More day-in-the-life scenes, coming right up!

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Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle. This post brought to you by Quaker Chewy — they’re all about fueling backyard fun. In fact, they’re offering free Nerf toys! Details at bottom.

——–

Have you ever thrown a party at the end of the school year? We like to mark the change in weather with an outing or a get together. This year, we had the cousins over for a Welcome to Summer party. Jordan, Liz and I divided up the activities and turned a regular old Sunday afternoon into an epic event! There was lots of laughing, lots of mess, and everyone ended the day with big grins plastered across our faces.

I was in charge of Lemonade Toasts and Sun-dye Prints. I’ll tell you all about one activity today and another next week, in case you’d like try them out at your own parties this summer. Liz and Jordan are writing about their activities too — Fruit Kabob Sundaes and a Giant Color Fight!

Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

Lemonade Toasts was Ben Blair’s brilliant idea. It’s simple, adorable, and was a great way to start the party and get people thinking about how much good stuff there is to look forward to in the summer.

Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

We printed out a basic prompt on cardstock and cut it into strips. Then the kids filled out the strips. The wording of the prompt is: This summer, I want to ________. Here’s to ______ and ______!

The kids filled them in with things like: This summer I want to go to the beach. Here’s to surfing and sand! Or, This summer I want to read 50 books. Here’s to free time and no school!

Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

Then, they took turns standing on a crate and reading their toasts to the whole family — with a fancy glass of lemonade in hand!

Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

Things that are awesome about this activity:

1) It couldn’t be easier.

Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

2) The kids LOVED it. It gave each child a chance to be in the spotlight. Each child could think about what they wanted to say, and each one received a round of applause when they were done. It feels good to be heard and acknowledged!

Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

3) Sometimes, kids doing grownup things (like toasts) is the cutest thing ever. Seeing their faces get serious, so they could concentrate and read the words correctly, then clinking their glasses of lemonade with their cousins, was as charming as can be.

Start the summer off right with Lemonade Toasts! A great party activity where every kid gets a chance to shine.  |  Design Mom

4) It’s nice to find out what they’re looking forward to most about the summer!

I highly recommend this activity. Five stars! It really was a wonderful way to kick off the gathering, and was as fun for the grownups to watch as it was for the kids to participate.

Tell me, Friends. Anything fun you’re doing (or you did) to welcome summer vacation?

quaker-chewy
P.S. — Thanks to Quaker Chewy for sponsoring our Welcome to Summer Party and fueling backyard fun! Quaker Chewy gives kids the energy they need to play. That’s why Quaker and NERF are teaming up to fuel backyard fun, helping families get active together, right in their own backyard. When you buy three specially-marked boxes of Quaker Chewy, you can enter the codes online at http://fuelfun.quakeroats.com to get a free Nerf sports item.

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This Is Forty

June 16, 2014

matteo montanari for d la repubblica delle donne

By Gabrielle. Image by Matteo Montanari for d la repubblica delle donne.

So. I didn’t mention it last week, but on Saturday it was my birthday. I feel odd about mentioning my birthday on the blog. With a forum like Design Mom, I’m lucky, because I get kind comments and emails from readers regularly, so it somehow feels greedy if I mention my birthday, as though I’m hoping for special greetings. But now that’s it’s over, I want to talk about it. Because it was a big one. I turned 40!

I’ve been thinking about this birthday for awhile. Forty has a reputation for being a difficult birthday, and I wanted to avoid feeling bummed out. I figured if I made a good plan in advance, I wouldn’t be caught off guard when the big day arrived. The idea of a mid-life crisis is really discouraging to me, and I think I’m actively trying to avoid it if at all possible.

So in January of this year, when I was working on New Year’s Resolutions and plans for 2014, I put some thought into my birthday. What did I want to do? Have a big party? Go on a trip? Accomplish a goal? Get in good shape? Make a list of 40 things I could do to commemorate the day?

I pondered possibilities over a few days and the thought that kept coming back to me was: grooming.

What do I mean by grooming?

Keep reading for a long post on the topic…

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A Few Things

June 13, 2014

polkadot windows

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? We are feeling festive at the Blair house. School is out! Hooray! We’ve been celebrating with ice cream and a day of nothing on the schedule. Which is the best!

This should be a fun weekend. A laid back Saturday and Father’s Day on Sunday. I’m also headed to Salt Lake City on Sunday afternoon — because Alt Summit Summer is next week! It’s going to be a terrific conference — feel free to check out the speakers and schedule if you’re curious. The thing I’m most excited about? On Thursday, I’m interviewing Martha Stewart for her Keynote Address! Holy moly. I admit, I’m a little nervous. And I can not for the life of me figure out what to wear. Hah!

While I start getting packed for next week, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- How to Not Review Women’s Writing.

- I regret to inform you that my wedding to Captain Von Trapp has been cancelled.

- Grilled Cheese for grownups (and don’t forget the tomato soup!). Thanks, Dani.

- Were you ever left in the car growing up while your mom ran into the grocery store to get milk? Or paid for gas? Fast forward to 2014: One mom did just that. The boy was completely fine, but she became a criminal. The Day I Left My Son in the Car.

- Have you seen this ad? It’s like a punch to the gut. Words matter!

- He turned his bedroom into an arcade.

- When negotiating, should women Lean Out?

- Ideas for a Welcome Summer party!

- Nothing like Father’s Day to make me miss my dad. Enjoyed this article about honoring dads who aren’t here anymore. Thanks, Amy. 

- 5 minutes in a mom’s head.

- I’m crazy sad about this news. Two people, whose work I view as hugely positive to the Mormon community, are being threatened with excommunication. I’m following the story closely (this interview was informative), and trying to wrap my head around what possible good could come from this action. I think this article did a good job of articulating some of the disheartening implications. It feels like the church is saying, “There’s room for everyone! Except you and you.” I’m grieving for my community.

Sorry to end the list on a bummer note. In contrast, I hope you have a truly wonderful weekend! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Brimful Toys Giveaway

June 12, 2014

DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

What is it about June that brings out the awesome giveaways? Whatever it is, I’ll take it! Today’s giveaway is a really good one. It’s sponsored by Brimful, a happy shop stocking the most wonderful toys and gifts for babies, ages 0-18 months. For a prize, they’re offering a $100 store credit so you can choose your favorites for all the lovely babies in your life!

Brimful Toys - Summer 2014

If you’re like me, you have a dozen pregnant friends at the moment (or maybe you’re expecting yourself!), so stocking up baby gifts is a good idea. And Brimful has everything cute thing you could want. Created by two mothers, Brimful focuses on stocking modern, whimsical and well-crafted items — toysdecorbooks and accessories.

Brimful Toys - Summer 2014

There are several sweet items I have bookmarked for baby gifts — Juliette Rabbit, the Rainbow Teething Ring, and the Trotting Horses pull toy, are among my favorites. I love picking out sweet things for babies!

Extra fun: Brimful is offering a 20% off coupon to all Design Mom Readers. The code is DMBRIMFUL20 and is good through June 16th.

Visit Brimful and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to hear what you think of the shop. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

——-

Jessica C. is the lucky winner. Good luck!

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Summer Reading

June 12, 2014

Hold Me Like Ohio. A book of poetry by Amy Turn Sharp.

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Today is the last day of public school here in Oakland. I am grinning ear to ear. I LOVE getting a break from the morning routine of packing lunches and last-minute signed permission slips and where-is-my-favorite-jacket searches. I’m grinning ear to ear.

I confess I was a bit surprised to find out how late the school year goes here. In other western states I’ve lived in (Colorado and Utah), school is out in May — for sure before Memorial Day. And really, I feel like I’m been mentally checked out of the school year for a couple of weeks now. So I’m glad we’re actually done!

Another surprise: since we’re still on year one of living in Oakland, we’re still getting a sense of the weather in each new month we live here. There have definitely been some hot days, but my kids all wore jackets (admittedly, light jackets) to school this morning. I associate the last day of school with hot, summer weather, so it’s a funny sensation to be checking the temperature this morning and telling the kids to put on jeans instead of shorts. (Not that I’m complaining. The weather here is amazing. It’s just new-to-me.)

Hold Me Like Ohio. A book of poetry by Amy Turn Sharp.

But enough about the weather. What I really want to talk about today is summer reading. I need ideas! We are reading Huckleberry Finn as a family, which has been highly satisfying. We started with the quote from Hemingway about how “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called ‘Huckleberry Finn.’” Little June distracts herself with toys or other books during the reading, but the rest of the kids are way into it. So I’m feeling good about that.

And for me, I’ve been saving my amazing friend’s book of poetry — Hold Me Like Ohio by Amy Turn Sharp (pictured here). It’s been ages since I’ve picked up a book of poetry so I’m very much looking forward to digging in to it.

Hold Me Like Ohio. A book of poetry by Amy Turn Sharp.

Other than that, I have zero books on our summer list. Maude and Olive could use some YA titles (I usually like these too). Betty and Oscar need some upper elementary recommendations. And I’m craving a stack of really good novels, with a sprinkling of current, fascinating non-fiction picks. So, my question for you: What are you reading these days? And what’s on your summer book list? Any and all ideas welcome!

P.S. — A little sidenote on Huck Finn: as you may remember from when you read it as a kid, the n word makes a frequent appearance. How would you handle it if you were reading aloud to your kids? I could use some advice here.

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DIY: Vintage Classroom-Style Posters. Better than a crummy frame!  |  Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.

Remember the boys’ bedroom? To encourage Oscar’s love of marine biology, I hung posters of shark diagrams and catalogues. But instead of framing them, I turned them into old-school classroom-style, pull-down posters. I was so pleased with how they turned out, I promised to whip up a tutorial, and (hooray!) it’s ready to go.

DIY: Vintage Classroom-Style Posters. Better than a crummy frame!  |  Design Mom

There are a few reasons why I’m so pleased with this solution. 1) It’s inexpensive — far cheaper than framing a poster. 2) It’s easy to do and not-intimidating. 3) It looks great — and adds some fun texture to a wall. 4) It’s an appropriate solution for an inexpensive poster or a temporary hobby/interest.

With kids, sometimes their interests change from month to month. In June they love the Olympics, and in July they love antique cars. As parents, you want to encourage their interests, and hang up the latest poster they bring home, but it can be hard to invest in expensive artwork or frames, knowing that their interests will likely change sooner than later.

So for me, this is an ideal solution. It makes the poster look great on the wall, but isn’t a big investment of time or money. If Oscar’s passion for marine biology continues, the posters will continue to look good, but if he decides he’s into something else, it won’t feel like a big sacrifice to say goodbye to the shark posters. Does that make sense? : )

DIY: Vintage Classroom-Style Posters. Better than a crummy frame!  |  Design Mom

I think vintage-style posters work best for this project, because we’re going for a look that is similar to the old pull-down posters used in classrooms. Those posters are what inspired this project in the first place. Anything that has diagrams or notes, or looks like it could appear in a textbook, would work for this. Botanical prints. Biology drawings. Old maps. Stuff like that.

DIY: Vintage Classroom-Style Posters. Better than a crummy frame!  |  Design Mom

And the how-to process is as simple as can be. Once it is put together, it can go on the wall immediately. No waiting.

DIY: Vintage Classroom-Style Posters. Better than a crummy frame!  |  Design Mom

Ready to get started?

Click here for the full tutorial.

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front

By Gabrielle. Some photos by Sarah-Marie Photography.

There’s often a little internal struggle when all of our life’s dreams don’t look exactly like they did with our eyes closed. Even if the reality is just as wonderful and just as ideal, it takes a moment or two of growing pains to adjust! It happens, doesn’t it? So I completely understand when Anne talks about her reticence to fully embrace suburban life for a while. Homes all on top of each other and neighbors knowing when you’re leaving and when you’re coming home wasn’t how she envisioned her life, but their location and all the lovely friends they’ve made in their neighborhood turned out to be a huge factor in the happiness levels of her family! Eyes closed or open, that is just heavenly.

Friends, I hope you enjoy the bright colors and bright ideas in this tour. I sure did! Welcome, McGraw family!

Q: Please introduce us to your sweet family!

A: My husband, Ryan, and I have been married for eight years and have two vivacious daughters. Cora is six, and is wickedly smart and all the fun things that come with that: strong willed, independent, and determined to eek every second out of every day. She actually says, “Today was the best day of my entire life” at the end of most days. She’s my mini-me and my teacher in so many ways.

Greta is four, and is literally the happiest child you’ve ever met and always has been – even as a baby. She’s full of sweet sass and loves to sing and perform and make everyone laugh.

Ryan is a technology consultant and works out of the house when he’s not traveling to visit clients. We met in Atlanta where we went to college together, and moved to New York City and Minneapolis before settling down in Nashville almost seven years ago. I work at a very large and well known global organization, which is what brought about our move to the suburbs in order to reduce my commuting time. I’m also producing Nashville’s first Listen To Your Mother show this April!

Brightness and happy colors, straight ahead!

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Meri Meri Giveaway

June 9, 2014

DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

Happy Monday! I’ve got a wonderfully charming giveaway for you today. The papergoods shop, Meri Meri, source of endlessly delightful party supplies and paper goods, is offering a generous $150 voucher for their happy products!

Cookie Cutters by Meri Meri

UK- based Meri Meri is a long-time sponsor of Design Mom and I’m always delighted to write about their wares — it’s easy to do because their products are completely adorable. They offer a huge range of party supplies — garlands and cake stands and cupcake sets and plates and napkins and platters and gift bags and stationery and boxes for baked goods, and on and on. They’re all about sweet and unusual party themes, and they offer products for every holiday as well. The best part? All of the designs are exclusive to Meri Meri!

And they come up with new products all the time. In fact, my latest favorite thing is their stand-out Cookie Cutter Collection — eyeglasses, squirrels, lovebirds, nesting dolls. Each one is cuter than the next!

Let me guess: summer events coming up? Independence Day BBQs? Birthday parties? End of the school year bash? Well, $150 is more than enough to buy everything you need for an amazing event.

Visit Meri Meri and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to know if you have a favorite party theme. The winner will be announced on Thursday. Good luck!

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Danielle is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Slow Cooker Recipe: Greek Gyros   |   Design Mom  #crockpot

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Lindsey of Café Johnsonia.

Greek food! Our family loves Greek food. None of our kids have ever actually visited Greece, but somehow they still feel connected, knowing that Ben Blair and I have spent time there. Or maybe it has nothing to do with that, and they just love the food! Which would make sense, because it’s so dang good. When I’m thinking of Greek food, I imagine lemon and oregano, strong feta cheese, light, summery, cucumbers and tomatoes and yogurt. Then I imagine all those foods combined. It’s magic, I tell you.

I think it’s safe to say that gyros are the most famous of Greek meals — a classic sandwich, with meat cut from a spit, wrapped in a pita, and topped with tzatziki (yogurt sauce). Happily, gyros are easy to make at home. True, they will not be as authentic as the kind you’d get from a sandwich cart in Athens, but they sure hit the spot when I have a craving!

Slow Cooker Recipe: Greek Gyros   |   Design Mom  #crockpot

It’s nice to be able to toss everything into a pot, forget it, and let it cook slowly for a few hours until it’s time to eat. While the chicken is delicious on its own inside a soft pita bread, adding tzatziki makes it that much better. We like to serve our gyros with a simple Greek salad on the side. We use mixed baby greens and add some sliced cucumber, tomatoes, kalamata olives, crumbled feta, and a basic balsamic vinaigrette. For an additional side, roasted potato wedges cooked with lemon and oregano, or even potato chips, are great. If you’re serving a large group, you could also add a chickpea salad, fresh veggies and fruit.

And that’s it. A super easy summer meal that you can take with you to a park or eat it out on the patio.

Ready to get cooking?

Click for the recipe and tips!

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A Few Things

June 6, 2014

Bearded Betty

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? Was it a good week? Ours was full of end-of-school-year activities. Yesterday was Hero Day at the elementary school and Betty dressed up as Ben Blair! The last day of school is next Thursday — I’m guessing Monday thru Thursday will be pretty laid back. This weekend we have lots going on. A track meet, a birthday party for a friend, and a family cousins get-together on Sunday. Should be fun!

Also. This is cool. Saturday morning, our whole family will be hosting an early screening of How To Train Your Dragon 2 in Emeryville— it’s part of the Fandango Family Screenings. If you’re a Bay Area family, you can win tickets to join us at the showing! Popcorn and soda included!! Send an email to DesignMomScreening@gmail.com for more information and for your chance to win. Emails will be accepted until 5:00pm today (that’s Friday, June 6th). Then one lucky family, chosen at random from all emails received, will be notified by 6:00pm. See you at the movies! #fandangofamily

Now, while we get ready to embrace the busy weekend, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- It’s been over 50 days. BRING BACK OUR GIRLS! #bringbackourgirls

- On compromise.

- Cute! She made an infographic about important family information (like who enjoys ice cream most).

- Do you want to be “exceptionally likeable“?

- The Bloggess is the Bluebird of Happiness.

- How ingrained is sexism in our culture? Well. Turns out Americans are less fearful of storms with female names.

- It’s the 70th Anniversary of D-Day today. And a 93-year-old WWII vet will parachute into Normandy — again — to mark the day.

- The 15 Coolest DIY Gifts for Father’s Day.

- A one minute version of Jim Carrey’s commencement speech. So good!

- Manifesto against the tyranny of luxury kitchens.

- It’s time for another Olive Us Contest! Share your favorite episode and win $15o to Amazon. Details here.

I hope you have the happiest weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — My inbox has had some heavy heartbreak in it this week — a reminder to me that everyone I encounter is probably having a rough time of it in one way or another, and that I need to be ever kinder. For those in a hard spot, I hope people are nice to you this weekend. : )

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Five Summer Films

June 6, 2014

TFIOS-poster

By Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by The Fault In Our Stars. In theaters June 6th — based upon the number-one bestselling novel by John Green.

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Can I tell you how happy I am that summer film season is here? I feel like there was nothing I was excited to see for months, then suddenly, I want to see a ton! Or at least 5:

1) Last week, Ben Blair and I saw X-Men: Days of Future Past. The last X-Men movie wasn’t my favorite, so I had low expectations for this one too. But it turns out I loved it! A really good script and story. We’ll be sending Ralph to this one for sure.

2) Then today, The Fault In Our Stars comes out — in fact, according to Twitter, some of you saw it at midnight screenings last night! This one I’m very much looking forward to. Maude, Olive, and I have all read the book. And cried over the book, too. Ralph is also excited about this one. He hasn’t read the book, but he’s a huge John Green fan. John Green is not just a best-selling author, he also has a super popular vlog that he runs with his brother. That’s how Ralph became a fan.

The story is about two teenagers dealing with cancer. I know that doesn’t sound too romantic, but it actually makes for a sweet love story. Happily, from the look of the trailer, the movie is going to stay very close to the book. Are you picky about that sort of thing? I’m medium picky. Maude is super picky. She’s a huge reader with a memory for details. So when a movie strays from the book plot, she takes it personally. Hah!

Have you read the book? Are you planning to see the movie? Here’s the trailer in case you’re curious:

3) The whole family is excited about How To Train Your Dragon 2. We’re headed to a screening this weekend. I didn’t know I would love the first one so much, but I did. I was impressed with the story, the animation, and the music too. I hope this sequal is equally good.

4) Betty and June keep asking when the new Annie is coming out. It’s a fresh (much more diverse!) take on the story and looks cute.

5) Ben Blair and I also want to see Edge of Tomorrow. We hadn’t heard much about it, but it’s getting good reviews. So now I’ve got in on my list. Lots of date nights on the horizon!

Now your turn. Any movies you’re looking forward to this summer? Any you’ve already seen and loved? And what’s your favorite book-to-movie adaptation? I’d love to hear.

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Travel Advice

June 5, 2014

suitcases lined up blair family

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Something a little lighter today. I was reading this list of travel advice from Anthony Bourdain (I like him a ton), and loved so much of what he had to say. One of the standout tips he offers is to read fiction on the flight set in the location you are headed to. He says, “Fiction is in many ways more useful than a guidebook, because it gives you those little details, a sense of the way a place smells, an emotional sense of the place.” Isn’t that great?

Another thing he mentioned is that he prefers to check his baggage on flights. I was a little surprised when I read it, because I feel like for years all travel advice has pointed to carryons, carryons, carryons. I have some friends who are passionate about having a carryon-only policy. They make no exceptions. Even on long-haul trips, they prefer to travel as light as possible. And they also carry some concern about lost luggage — it’s too big a risk in their eyes and they’re not willing to hand off their suitcase to anyone else.

But I admit, I also cheered when I read Anthony Bourdain’s luggage advice, because I feel the same way! I arrive at the airport, and I can’t wait to get rid my luggage and see it transported away on that magical moving belt. Especially if I’m traveling with the kids! For me, going through security with the least possible amount of stuff is ideal. And then, if we happen to be there early, we’re free to roam around and see what the airport has to offer — maybe even take in a sit-down meal, or get a pedicure — without having to watch our baggage. Heading down the gateway, finding our seats, settling the kids — all of it is easier with no luggage dragging behind us.

I realize that sometimes, we simply don’t have a choice — when we moved to France and when we moved back to the U.S., we used every checked baggage and carryon option available to us. And when I’m traveling for a big conference — like Alt Summit which is coming up in June — I often have so many supplies that a larger suitcase is essential, which means checking it is essential too. But on most of my flights, I only bring a roller bag, so I really do have a choice between carrying it on and checking it.

I should note, that even if I’m boarding a plane without a carryon, I still carry a tote with my laptop/book/magazine and other essentials. But if possible, I prefer to hand off my actual luggage to someone else.

A silly topic, I know — I guess I wanted an excuse to share the article on travel advice. : ) But now I’m curious. Where do you fall on the checked baggage versus carryon baggage debate? Any strong opinions? And if you read the Anthony Bourdain article, I’d love to hear if any tips stick out to you.

P.S. — The tricky thing these days is the luggage fees. They’re the worst! I’m always looking for a workaround to avoid them, though I fly so many different airlines that I don’t have a good system.

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NatureBox Giveaway

June 4, 2014

DMgiveawayBanner

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Thinking about summer + kids? Well then, I’ve got the perfect giveaway for you! NatureBox is the sponsor and there are two big winners. Each will receive a free 6-month NatureBox Deluxe Snacker Subscription — worth $120 each!

Naturebox - Healthy Subscription Snack Service Naturebox - Healthy Subscription Snack Service

Have you heard of NatureBox? It’s been recommended to me by several friends and it was fun to finally give it a try. It’s a snack subscription service — a box of yum delivered to your door, no shipping fees. Even better: all the snacks are made with wholesome ingredients and are nutritionist approved! They have 3 different size options — 5 bags, 10 bags or 20 bags per box — and the box arrives once a month.

Naturebox - Healthy Subscription Snack Service Naturebox - Healthy Subscription Snack Service

I’ve mentioned that I’m sometimes skeptical about “healthy” food discussions, because “healthy” seems to mean so many different things to so many different people these days. For one person, it’s gluten free. For another, it’s simple ingredients. For another, it’s no added sugar. For another, it’s no dairy. And on and on. But NatureBox has something for every version of healthy out there. I swear.

Naturebox - Healthy Subscription Snack Service Naturebox - Healthy Subscription Snack Service

School gets out for us next week, and that means it’s time for me to up my snack game. During the summer break, the kids are wandering in and out of the kitchen constantly, and friends are coming and going constantly, and we really have to keep the pantry stocked! I can see NatureBox will be a huge help with this.

But honestly, more than even having lots of excellent snacks to pick from, I think it’s the novelty of getting a package that convinced me how fun a service like this is. When it was first delivered, Oscar brought in the NatureBox package from the front porch and it was like Christmas — a box full of food! And it was easy to picture how having a new box arrive each month — filled with both familiar and new tastes — would add some excitement to a random summer day.

Extra fun: Get 50% off your first box of any size (only $9.95!). It’s valid on your 1st month’s box, for new customers only. Use the code DESIGNMOM.

Naturebox - Healthy Subscription Snack Service Naturebox - Healthy Subscription Snack Service

To enter the giveaway, visit NatureBox to check out their offerings, then leave a comment below — I’d love to hear what NatureBox snack you want to try first! The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

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Lindsay and Angela Adlich are the lucky winners. Thanks for playing!

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#DIY Wooden Postcards with Photo Transfers   |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.

When I was in 6th grade, I got to take a trip to Hawaii with my dance group (it was called the Super Steppers, in case you’re curious). One of the main things everyone told me I must do in Hawaii is mail home a coconut in its husk. No box. No padding. Just write the address on the coconut with a marker and slap on the stamps. Of course, to my 11-year-old ears, this sounded like the coolest thing a person could possibly do. There’s something so fun and funny about getting a non-standard letter or package in the mail!

These postcards are admittedly not as extreme as a coconut. But. They are made of wood! And they are awesome to find tucked in between the bills and junk mail! I’m a huge fan of photo transfers — they’re practically magic. And I thought image transfers + wooden postcards sounded like the perfect storm of fun, useable, good-looking projects.

To up the charm even more, I used historical images from New York City (available here), and I love how they turned out so much!

#DIY Wooden Postcards with Photo Transfers   |   Design Mom

I should note from the beginning, these handmade wooden post cards are not the same as paper post cards. Due to their width and weight, they are priced similar to a large envelope or a ‘flat’. But they’re worth the extra stamp — their unique, one-of-a-kind quality makes this snail mail more like art work.

#DIY Wooden Postcards with Photo Transfers   |   Design Mom

It takes some work and patience but the outcome is definitely worth it!

#DIY Wooden Postcards with Photo Transfers   |   Design Mom

On to the postcard how-to!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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