A Few Things

August 29, 2014

19th Anniversary

Image and text by Gabrielle. 

Hello, Friends! How are you? For those of you in the States, are you looking forward to the long Labor-Day weekend? I certainly hope so. I’m picturing happy barbeque gatherings across the country.

What a week it’s been at our house! We arrived home from Sweden on Sunday. We said goodbye to our dear friends Audrey and Nick (they were watching the kids while we were gone) on Tuesday night. Ralph flew to England on Wednesday amid much emotion from his parents and siblings. School started for Maude, Oscar and Betty, but we’re still playing catch up on prep — we have many school-related errands to attend to. We had two birthday celebrations (we now have 3 teenagers!). This morning, we’re driving to Utah for a family gathering. And we’ve been working hard to get Olive prepped and packed for France — while we’re in Utah, Olive will fly to France from Salt Lake City.

There’s so much I want to write about and discuss with you! More reports on our public schools, and how we’re dealing with Ralph’s schooling while he goes from England to France. How the whole family is feeling about sending two of our family members across the ocean. Projects I’m in the middle of (or more likely, behind on). But I feel like I’m in a bit of a processing cocoon, rolling everything over in my mind, having quiet conversations with Ben Blair as I sort my thoughts. No doubt, I’ll be writing it all up soon.

Before we head out, I wanted to share a few things with you. Lots of fun stuff — many of the links sent in from readers!

- Lunch ladies are heroes. Thanks, Reshma.

- I’ve fallen in love with tiny kitchens.

- Hah! The definitive list of the top homeschools across the country.

- The last true hermit: 27 years alone in the woods of Maine. Thanks, Meghan.

- A mountain, a mom, and a year of magical thinking after Dad is gone. (Prepare to cry.) Thanks, Amanda.

This panda knows a little something about self care. Thanks, Beccah.

- Laces help kids learn to tie shoes.

- This is how scientists feel about climate change. Thanks, Julie.

- Another one that made me laugh! Back to school in the 70′s versus back to school today. Thanks, Kathryn.

- Where we donate versus diseases that kill us. Thanks, Laura.

- I don’t pretend to know what this is about, but thought it was interesting. This family wants to find a lucky person (plus one) to take with them to Disney.

I hope you have a really wonderful (long!) weekend. I’ll meet you back here next week. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Marstrand Island in West Sweden

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Okay. Here’s my final report on our big Sweden trip. I wanted to share the West Coast Itinerary that the West Sweden Tourist Board created for us. World class cities are fairly straightforward to visit — they offer lots of hotels, excellent restaurants, good shopping, and terrific museums. But once you get out of the city, exploring can feel intimidating. So I was truly grateful to have an itinerary set that helped us take advantage of the best of the best that West Sweden has to offer, without having to spend a ton of time researching options.

I’m sharing our full itinerary here, so you can see when we stayed at each of the hotels I wrote about. I’ve also included notes on the museums we visited — and the amazing meals!

Day 1 Bohuslän 

We left Gothenburg in the morning and drove to the sailing destination, Marstrand Island (the drive takes about 45 minutes). We parked the car at the big parking lot near hotel Marstrands Havshotell, then we caught the ferry to Marstrand. You buy your tickets in the tobacco shop in the port. Tickets costs 25 sek per person. The boat leaves every 10 minutes.

Marstand Island - Four Days in West Sweden Marstand Island - Four Days in West Sweden Marstand Island - Four Days in West Sweden

We explored Marstrand. Suggested exploring included visting the Carlstens fortress, hiking around the island, doing some shopping or buying some fresh shrimp for lunch and eating on the rocks overlooking the sea. They also suggested the beautiful spa at Marstrand Havshotell in case we wanted to relax.

Public Swimming Pool, Swedish Style. On Marstand Island.

We explored to our heart’s content, and caught our breath when we saw the island’s public “swimming pool”. There’s a diving board nearby as well!

Full itinerary ahead. Keep reading!

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Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

Images and text by Gabrielle. Some photos by Ben Blair too!

Okay you guys, before the trip gets too far away from me, I have two more Sweden posts! Today’s post is all about where we stayed once we left the city and started exploring the coast. In tomorrow’s post I’ll share our full itinerary, including museums and restaurants.

Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

There are 5 amazing accommodations we got acquainted with in West Sweden as we explored — Salt & Sill on Tjorn Island, Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast, Evert’s Boathouse in Grebbestad, and Victoriahuset Hotel at Läckö Castle — plus one bonus spot: the Guest Studios at the Nordic Watercolor Museum. I think finding a place to stay is the hardest part any trip, so for those of you wanting to see Sweden, hopefully this will take some of the planning burden from your shoulders.

Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

First up, my favorite one to photograph, Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast. I took a TON of photos at this home. In fact, everything you see pictured before the “click through” is from Lådfabriken. I told the owners it was the coolest house I had ever been to, and I meant it.

Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

The B&B is run by Marcus and Johan. They’ve put their heart and soul into the place, slowly transforming it over the past 7 years. Every knob, every fixture, every surface was lovingly pondered, and most additions/renovations are totally custom — designed and fabricated especially for this house.

They opened it to guests about a year and half ago. Though it looked perfect to me, they told me the house still has many projects ahead and they consider it to be at “toddler” stage — much more growth and change until the house is an “adult”. Hah!

Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

The B&B has 3 guest bedrooms, each one ridiculously charming, and each with their own bathroom. The bedroom we stayed in can be converted for a family — there’s a king size bed, and two twin size beds that hide in the wall. And the bookshelves include cute selections for the kids.

Garden at Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

The back of the house opens onto a beautiful garden that is steps away from the sea — you can take an early swim in the ocean before breakfast! Johan said that kids love to spend the day on that beach catching tiny crabs and then releasing them.

Breakfast table set at Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

I highly recommend a stay at Lådfabriken. The whole house will inspire you, and it’s worth the trip just to meet Marcus and Johan! I love that by staying here, you get to have conversations with actual locals. So often when we’re traveling, we really don’t get to talk to anyone except the hotel desk clerk — so I loved having conversations over breakfast with the hosts and the other guests and asking all my Swedish cultural questions.

Lådfabriken Bed & Breakfast - West Sweden

If you’re worried about not speaking Swedish, don’t be. Johan is Swedish, but commutes to Boston, and Marcus is from The Netherlands. They actually speak to each other in English. : )

More favorite hotels! Keep reading.

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DIY: Cereal Box Embossing

August 27, 2014

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom

cheerios box By Gabrielle. Photos & styling by Amy Christie.  //  This post is brought to you by Cheerios — makers of wholesome, sustainable products that families love!

 

 

When I was in fifth grade, my name written in bubble letters was how I personalized my notebooks. When I was in high school, I covered my textbooks in plain paper and filled them in with doodles — favorite band names and not-so-secret crushes. At the start of the school year, the clean surfaces of brand new school supplies offer such an inviting blank slate. For a sleek, modern twist on notebook personalization, I thought creating a DIY embossing plate from recycled cardboard would be a lovely way to add your mark to your school supplies.

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom

This idea came from a challenge I received from the good people at Cheerios. Cheerios has long had a focus on sustainability. Some of the sustainable features are straightforward — for example, their boxes are made from 100% recycled materials — and have been since the 1930′s!

Other sustainable features I had no idea about, but am impressed by. For example, their Minnesota milling plant uses a bio-mass burner that burns the oat hulls and creates the energy needed to run the whole plant. Then, the ashes from the hulls are returned to the oat farmers. Then, the farmers use the ashes to fertilize their crops. Circle of life! You can see more about their efficiency and sustainability on their website, or check out the graphic I included at the bottom of the post.

So their challenge to me was to create a project that uses their recycled cardboard cereal boxes — something most families have on hand at any given moment. I love a good challenge, and since we’re in the middle of back-to-school season, I immediately thought of this cardboard embossing technique and how it might relate to school supplies.

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom DSC_0625-1

Making your own embossing plate out of cereal boxes offers so much variation and freedom. The sky is the limit on shapes and initials. And once the plate is made, you can emboss to your heart’s content — the cardboard form will last a long time!

DIY Cereal Box Embossing - Customize all your school supplies!  |  Design Mom

I did a lot of experimenting to figure out best practices and have detailed them all in the tutorial below. Chances are you have everything you need in your home already  — just pull that Cheerios box out of your recycling bin and let’s get started!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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By Gabrielle.

Rachel is British and her husband is Balinese, and their babies were born in Indonesia and welcomed in typical — but still fascinating — Hindu cultural fashion, which all combines for a super interesting birth experience! I’ve read this essay at least three times, and I’m still crazy about that ground touching ceremony. (But seriously gasping at the story of Rachel’s online friend’s mother-in-law! Oh my goodness!)

You’re really going to love this one, Friends. So please join me in welcoming Rachel and her Balinese babies!

Rachel’s Balinese experience, just after the jump.

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Jylare Smith Photography.

No matter how many times I read Elle’s words, they still make my heart lose a few pounds of worry and stress. If you’re feeling like you’ve not enough space in your home or too much chaos in your life or even too much fear creeping into your parenting style, read this. I promise you’ll feel the warmth, gratitude, and sincerity with which she tries hard to surround herself daily.

In short, I really like Elle. I hope you do, too.

Q: Tell us all about your family.

A: My husband, Jared, is a surfer boy from Southern California. Half of my childhood was spent in the swamplands of Texas and the other half in the mountains of Utah. We married while we were still just babies eight years ago. We finished our degrees together, have had three children (Lucy is five, Solomon is three, and Frances is three months) and run a baby carrier business called Solly Baby from our 740 square foot home on 3/4 of an acre in North County San Diego. Somehow, we’re still pretty crazy about each other. Or maybe we’re just crazy. Either way, I think we’ve got a good thing going.

Lucy is our fiercely independent, creative spirit. She can be found thinking of sad things just so she can watch herself cry in a mirror, carrying around her chicken “Cloudy” like she is a doll, and scrambling eggs for lunch for herself and her little brother. At her dance recital this year, she told me she “enjoyed being on the stage, but next year would rather do something ‘freer’ and maybe even a little bit ‘wild.’” Yeah, she’s amazing.

Solomon is pure energy and laughs. He was almost kicked off of his soccer team this year for repeatedly spanking the coach’s bum as well as gymnastics for coming up with (what I would call “creative”) alternative uses for the apparatuses. He can be found kissing his baby sister every. waking. minute. He’s always telling me to not be so “serwius” and he’s got a thing for superheroes, being strong, and the music from Les Mis.

Effortless and airy, coming right up. Breaths of fresh air included!

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DIY: Cement Pencil Holder

August 25, 2014

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie. // This post is brought to you by Office Depot. #TeachersChangeLives and so can you! Go here to find out more.

——-

It’s official: a new school year is upon us! And like many kids, my children have the itch to make something for their new teachers. A drawing, a little piece of origami, a sweet note. Of course, I always wonder if there’s something we can add, something to go along with the little note or drawing, that their teacher will find useful. A gift card so that their teachers can buy supplies for the classroom is always helpful, but if you’re in the making sort of mood (I am!), I thought this cement desk organizer fits the bill very nicely.

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

The project incorporates two of my favorite things — fresh school supplies, and cement. Best of all, it’s not just for pens and pencils. This handsome + utilitarian item can be designed to hold any number and any size of desk accessories. The style and layout is all up to you!

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

Don’t be anxious about working with cement for this project. Yes, it requires concentration and muscle (which surely you have in spades), and an odd combination of working fast and waiting. But the end product is worth it. These heavy duty holders would look handsome on any desk!

DIY: Cement Desk Organizer and Pencil Holder   |   Design Mom

Plus, there are lots of ways to include the kids on this project, from gathering supplies, to stirring cement, to decorating the dried organizer with Sharpies (we used silver).

Ready to get to work? Let’s go.

Click here for the full tutorial.

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Eiffel Tower View2

By Gabrielle. Photos taken April 2012 — Ralph and Olive on the Eiffel Tower.

Oh my goodness. Ben and I arrived home from Sweden yesterday afternoon, just in time for a remarkable week for our family. We have two birthdays this week — Olive and Ralph. We have the first day of school (it’s today!). And we’ll be traveling to Utah as a family this coming Friday to celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday.

But more impactful than any of that: two of our kids will be exchange students this fall, and they are flying off this week! I find myself crying elephant tears while I type this because the reality of them leaving feels so big. I can honestly say, I’m over the top happy that they’ll get this experience, and at the same time my heart tightens and I catch my breath trying to imagine the house without them.

Keep reading, more good stuff ahead.

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A Few Things

August 22, 2014

Marstand Island - Sweden

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Has it been a good week? We are still in full travel mode — we’ll be exploring more of the coast today, and then go inland to the countryside tomorrow — and I’ll be sure to write up posts about the rest of these Sweden adventures — the itinerary that was prepared for us is too good not to share!

We will be flying back to California on Sunday and of course, we can’t wait to see the kids. I don’t believe we’ve ever gone this long without seeing them. It’s strange for us to think about.

While we hit the road, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- I quit “liking” things on Facebook and here’s what happened.

- Anything but 9 to 5. This is such a fixable problem. We need to fix it.

- A four-year-old reviews the French Laundry. Thanks, Jenny.

- From Pew Research: If you don’t think Ferguson is a big deal, chances are high you’re white. Thanks, Vrylena.

- A set of DIY breakfast bowls in 4 easy patterns — a cute little way to celebrate back to school.

- What happened if, instead of judging others, we thought about the “moment before” this one, instead? Thanks, Monique.

- Beautiful script.

- After tragedy, remembering the relationship. One chat at a time.

- Fully functional chocolate legos.

- 52 powerful photos of women who changed history.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — I am seriously Instagramming up a storm on this trip — I just can’t resist all the colors! Feel free to follow along.

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Visit Sweden: Volvo Factory

August 21, 2014

Volvo Tour3

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

As part of my agreement related to this Sweden trip, I was asked to include the hashtag #inavolvo as I document our trip. A separate blog post about Volvo was not part of the agreement. So this post is not a sponsored post. But I wanted to write about what I learned at Volvo factory because I think you’ll find it interesting. I certainly did.

The Volvo factory is just outside of Gothenburg, and part of our itinerary included a visit to the facility to attend a safety demonstration and get the scoop on the Overseas Delivery Program. This program is pure genius and whoever figured it out wins the prize for… I don’t know, being a genius.

Basically, it’s this: If you live in the United States or Canada and you buy a new Volvo, you’ll get airfare for two to Sweden, plus a night in the Radisson Blu in Gothenburg (a lovely hotel, I included a photo of it at the bottom).

Why? For several reasons (free trip to Europe!), but the main one is that it actually brings down the price of the car. For reals. As a customer, you buy the car from your local U.S. Volvo dealer, then you come to Sweden, pick up the car from the factory, drive it around the countryside, or maybe take a side trip north to Norway. Then, you drop it off at the factory again, and they deliver it at no charge to your U.S. dealer. By doing this, it allows the car to be brought to the U.S. as “used” instead of “new” and the import tax is lower. Which, like I said, brings down the overall cost of the car.

So in a nutshell, if you’re buying a Volvo, taking a free trip to Sweden will get you the best price!

Fantastic, right?

Volvo Tour2

While we were at the factory, we met three couples from the U.S. who were all taking part in this Overseas Delivery program. One of the couples was taking part for the 5th time! The program has been going on for about a dozen years, and apparently there’s at least one couple who buys a Volvo every year, and then spends the summer touring Europe. Hah!

Keep reading, more info and photos ahead!

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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!

Gothenburg03

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!

Gothenburg09

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. : )

Gothenburg07

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.

Stockholm Day Two03 Stockholm Day Two04

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.

Stockholm Day One05

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).

Polarn O. Pyret Fall 20141

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!

Stockholm Day One07 Stockholm Day One06

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!

Stockholm Day One09

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.

Lunch in Stockholm1

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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