A Random Monday Update

December 15, 2014

Christmas Tree & Bucket

Image and photo by Gabrielle.

I woke up today thinking of 3 things:

1) I have been Oil Pulling for over a year now.

What? That’s crazy! But I still love it. I feel like I’m so much gentler on my mouth than I used to be, yet my teeth are cleaner and healthier than ever, and they feel like they get a daily polish as well. The biggest benefit I’ve seen (and that may or may not be attributed to oil-pulling), is that I haven’t had a head cold or sore throat or cough — or any congestion at all — since I started. And that’s unusual for me. Historically, if I go a few days without enough sleep, I’ll wake up with a sore throat. But over the last year, that hasn’t happened. And it should have, because it was high-stress, not-enough-sleep kind of year.

Is the oil-pulling responsible? Or is it all in my head? Who knows! But I’m sticking with the oil pulling. I had a conversation with a dentist the other day  (not my own dentist), and he mocked oil pulling mercilessly. I tell you, it didn’t even phase me. The oil pulling is not hurting, and it seems to be helping. If it’s the placebo effect, I’ll take it. : )

2) Speaking of my high-stress, not-enough-sleep kind of year, I have a little report on my mental health medication. My prescription ran out the day before Thanksgiving and I was only able to get it renewed and refilled a couple of days ago, so I’ve gone about 3 weeks without Wellbutrin.

I wondered if I should use the unexpected circumstance to go medication free. I did okay over the 3 weeks, but there were a couple of days where a deep desire for my own death started to creep in again, so back on the meds I go. For me, it’s a no brainer — I experience no side effects that I’m aware of, and the benefits are beyond beneficial.

That’s just a little side note for anyone reading who is feeling shame about being on mental health meds. I want you to know that I am not ashamed at all, and you don’t need to be either.

3) Lastly, I’ve talked a few different times over the last six months about doing something different with my hair (beyond trying bangs). And I’ve finally got an appointment on the calendar to go blonde. It’s scheduled for this Friday!

The goal is go white blonde, like Jihan, but, I’ve talked to a dozen hair stylists about it, and they all agree this will not be a one-day process, and that I’ll have to chop off some, or most of my hair to get there. So I really have no idea what I will look like when I leave the stylist’s chair on Friday. I’m guessing my hairs will be somewhere in the yellow-blonde range, and at least several inches shorter, or maybe I’ll have a full on bob. We’ll see.

I’m just so pleased to be taking some action. My hair has been a wreck for months! I feel like I’ve been on pause while I figured out what I wanted to do, and then made time to do it.

I know that is some random stuff to share on a random Monday. Hah! I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of it.

P.S. — More rain this week in the Bay Area — we have a bucket out ready to catch any drips. A friend at Loeffler Randall sent me the cutest rain boots and I’ve been putting them to good use!

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A Few Things

December 12, 2014

Santa and Gabrielle Stanley

By Gabrielle. Image of me as a kid — I think I look like Oscar.

Hi Friends. How are you? We are still in the middle of this crazy West Coast storm. Such a different feel from the big nor’easters we experienced during our years in New York — though it’s wet outside, it’s far from cold. But the instinct in response to the storm is still to seek out coziness. Our Christmas twinkle lights are on in full force, candles are lit, throw blankets are accessible, hot cocoa is on the stove. And Maude made the best gingersnaps in all the world.

The kids had off school yesterday, but are back in class today. The Treehouse sprung a tiny link — a very slow, manageable drip — but otherwise, we haven’t had any drama from the storm. Our power has remained intact (knock on wood!) and the roads have been navigable when we’ve had errands to run. We are counting ourselves super lucky and hoping everyone has access to a warm, dry place to be.

What about you? Any weather excitement in your neck of the woods?

My brain needs a bit of cheer this week, so I’m sticking with mostly light-hearted links. Here are a few things I hope you’ll find of interest:

- Carrot Clarinet.

- Body Image Story of Identical Twins healing body issues after their mother passed due to complications from obesity.

- 25 Days of Christmas in Sweden.

- FREE e-book of Family Giving Ideas.

- Are you racist? This test can tell you.

- For all of us Gilmore Girl fans, here’s the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.

- ”She wasn’t doing a thing I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” 51 of the most beautiful sentences in all of literature. Thanks, Erin.

- I am a huge Williams-Sonoma fan, but this still made me laugh (Heads up: lots of cussing).

- Thoughts on Bridge to Terabithia by the author. Thanks, Kelsey.

- The Big Bang may have created a mirror universe where time runs backwards. Thanks, Carlos.

- The trailer for The Little Prince. I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s one of my sacred books.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Ralph & Olive get home in 9 days. I CAN’T WAIT!

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Gingiber Giveaway

December 11, 2014

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Yes! Another awesome Giveaway. Three cheers for December! Today’s prize is sponsored by one of the cutest Etsy stores on the planet, Gingiber. You could win $150 to the Gingiber Shop!

Fox Tote Gingiber

Is Gingiber new to you? It’s a home wares store based in the Midwest. Gingiber offers goods that are sweet enough for children but smart enough for adults. The shop is the work of illustrator Stacie Bloomfield — a childhood doodler turned full-time illustrator. Stacie is living her dream of being a working artist!

Antler Tea Towels Gingiber Pig Pillow Gingiber

Gingiber offers prints and tea towels and tote bagsPillows and calendars. Even holiday ornaments and cards. And everything in the shop is ideal for holiday giving. If I won, I would plan on gifting the 3-piece Antler Tea Towel Set, the Cat Calendar, and the Pig Pillow, to some of my favorite people. It’s always fun to spruce up your house with some fresh and pretty home goods!

Visit Gingiber and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to hear what you would pick if you win. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

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DIY: Wooden Peg Doll Ornaments

December 10, 2014

DIY: Wooden Peg Doll Ornaments — make a whole family!

By Gabrielle. Image by Amy Christie.

I’ve got the cutest DIY I just shared over on Babble. Use wooden peg dolls to make a little family of ornaments that looks just like yours! I kept the patterns really simple — so even non-crafters can handle this project. Wouldn’t they make a cute gift for a family you know?

Find the full tutorial here.

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A Christmas Wish — plus 32 other Wonderful Holiday Books

Images and text by Gabrielle.

What are your favorite holiday books? We have a tradition of adding a new Christmas book to our collection each year. I love this tradition because it’s easy, it’s something the whole family can enjoy (and can continue to enjoy for many years), and it’s typically under $20 to get a new book, so it’s a tradition that doesn’t break the bank.

A Christmas Wish — plus 32 other Wonderful Holiday Books

Ben Blair found this year’s pick and it’s a good one! It’s called The Christmas Wish, and it had us reminiscing about our trips to Sweden and Norway. We’re not the only ones who like it, apparently it’s a New York Times Best Seller. And it’s no surprise. It just oozes Christmas and wintertime — her clothes, the polar bear and reindeer she meets — every little detail is delightful.

A Christmas Wish — plus 32 other Wonderful Holiday Books

Looking for more holiday books? I’ve shared tons of great picks over the years — click through for a full list. For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, my apologies in advance, because my list is very-much Christmas focused. But obviously, there are lots of other winter holidays, so if you have favorite non-Christmas holiday titles to share, please do!

Click through for 32 of my favorites!

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New-to-Me Ghee

December 9, 2014

Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice4

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

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Last week, in my post about persimmons, I asked if you’d tried any new tastes lately, and one reader mentioned that she’s been trying new flavors via her Blue Apron deliveries. I thought: Me too!

It seems like every delivery includes an ingredient or two I haven’t tried before. Last week, it was ghee and bagoong, both of which were completely new to me. I won’t lie, turns out I’m not the biggest fan of bagoong, which was used in the Shrimp & Mustard Greens recipe pictured here. But ghee? I’m totally into it!

I didn’t know it until I watched this video, but ghee is an oil made from milk. Apparently, because it’s such a purified product, there are many people who feel ghee is loaded with health properties. And though it’s made in cultures around the world, it’s especially associated with Indian cooking. One tidbit I also learned: those who don’t tolerate lactose can usually eat ghee without a problem.

The ghee Blue Apron uses is made by Ancient Organics, a small artisanal company based here in California. It was founded in 2003 by two Ayurvedic practitioners, and is currently owned and operated by Matteo Girard Maxon. I LOVE that about Blue Apron — they work hard to source ingredients from local, responsible sources.

Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice1 Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice3

I started using Blue Apron this past summer, and I continue on as a big fan. If you haven’t heard of it, here’s the 411: Blue Apron delivers chef-designed recipes, and all the farm-fresh ingredients you need to make the recipes, right to your doorstep. No trips to the grocery store and no waste from unused ingredients. Boxes arrive with three meals per week — for two or four people, and the price is $9.99 per person with always free shipping. They offer a large selection of recipes and they add new dishes to their menu every week — and you can access all the recipes online, even if you’re not a customer. Blue Apron is probably available in your area, because it ships to over 80% of the country.

Want to give it try? Well you’re in luck! The first 100 Design Mom Readers get two free meals on their first Blue Apron order!

Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice5 Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice2

A couple of other things you should note, if you’re planning to try it. Blue Apron ingredients arrive in refrigerated boxes. So don’t stress out if you’re not at home when your package arrives. There’s no commitment — you can skip or cancel the service at any time! And my favorite parts: all their meals can be prepared in 40 minutes or less, and like I mentioned above, ingredients are incredibly fresh and sourced from quality local suppliers and artisans.

Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice7

I didn’t realize how much I would appreciate using this service. On busy evenings, knowing there are ingredients and a recipe waiting for me is invaluable. And I love how it gets me out of my same old dinner ruts, and keeps me from relying on take out. I’m thinking Blue Apron would be a great gift for any over-scheduled parents on your list!

Now I’m curious: Have you ever tried ghee? Or bagoong? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — Know where the name comes from? I found out when I started using their service: chefs in training around the world wear blue aprons — it’s a symbol of lifelong learning in cooking. You can find Blue Apron kitchenware products here.

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By Gabrielle.

For those of you who still haven’t gotten around to setting up holiday decorations and feel guilty about it, let me introduce you to Danielle. Her calm attitude about enjoying Christmas is certainly contagious, and a sweet reminder that the most beautiful traditions are rarely about perfection or the latest trends or elaborate advent calendars (although this one sure was cute!); they can be as simple as a bowl of oranges on the table.

Sigh. Refreshing, right? Well, just wait until you hear the rest of what Danielle has to say about her holiday decorating. Cheers to reasonable and relaxed traditions. Let’s embrace them with open arms, Friends!

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

A: Our family currently consists of myself, my husband Randy, our 11 year old tender-hearted son Aiden, and feisty nine year old daughter Maia.

I have the wonderful opportunity to stay at home, but I have worked in various positions in health insurance, escrow, and even as a notary public in California. My husband fills his days as a Respiratory Therapist at a local hospital and NICU, along with being the best handyman around. Our house rarely has a broken anything and I so appreciate that!

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…

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Hour of Code

December 8, 2014

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By Gabrielle.

What’s your take on learning coding? Do you think it’s an important thing for ALL kids to know, like math and spelling? Or do you feel like it’s something you’ll introduce to your kids only if they show an interest in it. I’m not sure where I land on the subject. I feel like people speak about coding the same way they talk about speaking Chinese — like in the near future, no one will have a chance for success unless they’re a proficient coder and fluent in Mandarin. But I think I still approach coding as if it’s a particular expertise instead of general knowledge everyone should have.

Mark Zuckerberg thinks differently than me. He’s quoted as saying, “In fifteen years we’ll be teaching programming just like reading and writing… and wondering why we didn’t do it sooner.” Quotes like his are getting me to shift my thinking, and make me feel like it’s urgent that my kids should gain some coding skills. And infographics like this make me think that programming could be an amazing tool for bringing more equality to people of color, and to women in particular, in the work place.

So, over the summer, we started having the kids go through coding tutorials and they seem to enjoy it. (I don’t think that means they’re natural coders, I just think kids enjoy learning things!)

Amy Hackworth (you may remember the terrific posts she contributed last year), just sent me a link to a really cool campaign going on right now. It’s called Hour of Code and it’s an educational event geared toward helping kids all over the world, aged 4 to 104, try an hour of code sometime this week.

The lofty goal is to have 10,000,000 kids participate! I love the idea and can’t wait to tell my kids about it. Oscar & Betty’s school has early out dismissal all week, so this could be a really cool thing for them to try with their extra hours. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s the main site. And here are fun and easy tutorials for learning code (including one with Anna and Elsa — smart!).

Have your kids tried any programming yet? Perhaps Hour of Code is a good excuse to introduce them.

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A Few Things

December 5, 2014

Rainy Treehouse

Image and text by Gabrielle.

What a week. How is everyone doing out there? Will you get a chance for some calm this weekend? Maybe get a minute to catch your breath? I sure hope so.

I’m hoping for a very home-focused weekend. I want to bring the Christmas boxes down from the attic and go get a tree. I want to bake with the kids and just sit around and absorb some of what I’ve read this week. I’m craving my own family so much. Ralph and Olive will get home in 16 days and I’m fully counting down the minutes!

But before I leave my desk, there are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Like many Americans, I’ve read a ton of essays and articles, and watched a bunch of videos, in response to the recent verdicts out of Missouri and New York. Here are four I’ve made note of:

How to be an Ally.

The development and growth of the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite.

An opinion piece on why so many people are oblivious to white privilege.

And,  The Stages of What Happens When There’s Injustice Against Black People.

- A new way to look at the solar system.

This made me smile: Your adult siblings may be the key to a long, happy life. (I know!)

- 35 things to do for your career before you’re 35.

Chris Rock on racism in Hollywood. It’s so good. Every essay and interview of Chris Rock that I’ve seen this week has been amazing.

- Cranberry wreath placecards.

- Question: When we moved from France, we gave our WiiU to some French friends, and we’re thinking of getting another one for Christmas. Do you have a preference between WiiU and XBox or other gaming systems?

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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scholarShare411

By Gabrielle.

Can we discuss a parenting topic that is sometimes a stress trigger for me? College savings for kids.

I would say the standard thinking in an average American family is that parents want to, and intend to, pay for their child’s college education. But for many (or most) families, having a fully funded college savings account when little Jimmy or Janey turns 18, isn’t realistic. (Raising my hand here.) And oh man. Those “college calculators” on savings sites and bank sites are so depressing. They basically tell you you’ll need a quarter of a million dollars to pay for child to go to a university. (In my family’s case, times that by 6. Yikes.) And if you’re like me, when you see that number, and feel like you can’t hit it, you just want to ignore it altogether.

For sure, a part of me wishes I could say we dutifully set aside $1500 each month per child, the moment they were born. But it’s not true, and frankly, it was never in the cards for us — we already had 5 kids as Ben Blair finished up his PhD (about 5 years ago). We were still paying for our own education while we should have started saving for our kids’ education. Hah! In fact, we didn’t make room in our financial life for college savings until our oldest was about 11 or 12. Obviously that is not ideal. But it is what it is. And we’re not the only ones. Life rarely works out the way anyone expects.

Then, even when we were finally in a position to start saving for college, I found I was feeling paralyzed about starting, knowing we were so late to the game. I had to consciously let go of my regret at not doing it perfectly from the beginning, and I just had to start. Just start.

On Wednesday night, I was invited to a dinner in the city hosted by ScholarShare. ScholarShare is California’s 529 college savings plan, and it’s managed by non-profit, TIAA-CREF. You know how a 401(k) plan is for retirement savings? Well, a 529 is similar, but intended for college savings, and they give you an important tax advantage — there is no income tax or capital gains tax on the earnings as long as it is used for education. Even though the topic can stress me out, I totally get how important it is, so I made sure to attend, and I’m glad I did.

At the dinner, I asked the head of ScholarsShare what are the top 3 pieces of advice she would give to people like me, who felt (or are feeling) like they didn’t do it right from the beginning, and have ignored saving for college for one reason or another. She said:

1) Don’t be intimidated. Don’t get overwhelmed by the calculators. Think of college expenses in chunks. Tuition. Dorm. Books. Semesters. Maybe you’ll start saving now and have enough saved for books. Or maybe you’ll save enough for housing — and you’ll pay for tuition some other way, perhaps a combination of scholarship and financial aid. Maybe you’ll save enough for tuition, and Grandma will help with housing — or your child will live with relatives nearby the college. You might not be able to save up the whole cost, because it’s massive! But perhaps you can save a year’s worth. Or a semester. It all helps.

2) Anything is better than nothing. Try $25 per month per kid. When you feel like that seems normal in your monthly expenses, say, maybe six months later, try increasing it to $50 per month per kid. And slowly go up from there, if and when your budget allows. If windfalls or bonuses come your way, you’ll have a ready spot to put the funds.

3) Let people help. There may be people in your life that want to help with this. Maybe grandparents or aunts or uncles or close family friends. But they don’t really know how to get started or get involved. You can make it happen. You set up the account and let people know it’s there and that they are more than welcome to contribute to it. It’s an awesome place to put gift money! In fact, after they’ve made a contribution, they can download a “Gift of Education Certificate” to place in a card or wrap with a bow. When grandparents or relatives don’t know what to send for a birthday or holiday gift, this is perfect.

At the beginning of the post, I mentioned this topic can be a stress trigger for me. If you’re the same, I can tell you, that one of the things that helped me let go of the regret at getting started saving so late, is that I paid my own way through college. My parents were hugely supportive, but simply didn’t have the funds. So, I earned some scholarships. I received some pell grants (that’s the student financial aid you don’t have to pay back). I kept a part time job during school. I worked summers. And I supplemented with student loans, graduating with about $10,000 in debt, which I quickly paid off.

Would it have been easier to have my college paid for? Sure. But I managed to figure it out, and if you can’t fully fund your own kids’ college, you’ll help them figure it out too. My current thoughts on paying for my kids’ college education is that yes, I’m planning on it and saving for it. But, if life surprises us and it’s not working out, we’ll figure out other options.

Bottom line: if this topic throws your guilt meter into high gear because you haven’t started a college savings fund for your child, let that guilt go. Being able to pay for your child’s college education is not a measure of how good a person or parent you are.

Your turn. Do you have a philosophy regarding paying for college or grad school for your kids? Do you feel responsible for paying for your child’s college education? Did you pay for your own way at university? Or contribute funds for your housing or food? I’m always curious about this sort of thing because families handle it a million different ways, and I feel like I learn so much from the comments and discussions. I remember hearing from my brother-in-law, that his father was willing to pay for any university he could get into. But for grad school (my brother-in-law is a lawyer) he was on his own. How did your parents handle it? And how do you plan to handle it?

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post, shared in partnership with One2One Network and ScholarShare. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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My Sweet Muffin Giveaway

December 4, 2014

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By Gabrielle.

One thing I love about December is all the giveaways! And I’ve got a great one for you today. The sponsor is My Sweet Muffin and the prize is a $150 store credit. This is a terrific opportunity to find gifts for all the littlest ones in your life!

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 most interesting, unique, beautiful and quality gifts and toys. Her wares are perfect for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

My Sweet Muffin Holiday Toys 2014

If you’re shopping for little ones, My Sweet Muffin is definitely a go-to online spot for finding a really good gift. Their gifting section is super helpful — you can find gifts suggestions by age, or check out their gifts under $25. If I won, I would be tempted by the Moover trucks and prams, the Stack & Scare block sets (4 different versions!), or basically anything by Moulin Roty.

To enter, visit My Sweet Muffin and leave a comment below — I’d love to hear what toy your child/niece/nephew/grandchild would love! The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

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Sheri is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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marijuana-leaf1

By Gabrielle. Image taken in my back yard. Kidding! Image found here.

Question: do you have an opinion about pot?

I know very little about it, and I’ve never used it, but it’s been brought up in a dozen conversations I’ve had over the last couple of months so it’s on my mind. It seems to come up because it’s becoming legal in more and more places, and it’s also been brought up by people in my life who are using it to manage serious illness.

The discussion often turns to the history of the drug/plant, and several people have told me marijuana should never have been classed with illegal drugs in the first place, because the effects of the drug are far less harmful than many legal substances.

So I’m wondering, as marijuana becomes legal in more places, will using it become commonplace and completely socially acceptable? If you’ve never tried it, and marijuana becomes legal where you live, will you give it go? And if you already use it once in awhile, do you think you’ll make it a more regular thing if/when it’s legal in your state?

I was thinking about why I’ve never tried it and I could identify three reasons. First, it’s been illegal for most of my life and I tend to have rule-following instincts. I have zero idea of how and where to even buy marijuana. Second, in Mormon culture, illegal drugs of any kind are a big no no. Even legal substances like alcohol and tobacco aren’t consumed. And third, I tend to resist anything that I perceive as possibly making me feel out of control. Hah! So drug use in general has never been tempting for me.

The Mormon aspect has me especially curious. There’s really nothing specific about marijuana in Mormon doctrines about health and diet. Tobacco is mentioned. Alcohol is mentioned. But we don’t call out cocaine or meth or heroin or marijuana — grouping them all instead under “illegal drugs”. So if pot becomes widely legal, will Mormons feel free to use it or still feel like it’s taboo?

I’m also fully aware that most Americans steer clear of illegal drugs. It’s not just a Mormon thing. So I’m wondering about the population at large. Will people that have never considered using an illegal drug make a mental switch with marijuana and put it on their “approved” list? While it’s been illegal for us, will it be normal for our grown kids?

What’s your take? Do any of you feel strongly that it should NOT be legal? Or the opposite, do any of you feel strongly that it should never have been illegal? If you live in a place where it is legal, have you found there is still hesitation from the population about using it recreationally — even legal, does it carry a bad reputation? Do you talk to your kids about avoiding pot the same way you talk to them about other drugs? Or does marijuana feel different to you? If it’s legal but I still have no interest, does that make me close-minded (or maybe just old)?

Or, do you have a better framework for thinking about legal/illegal drug use? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — Good gracious. I just had to look up how to properly spell marijuana. Clearly I’m out of my depth here. : ) I’m sure I sound like an idiot even admitting to be thinking of this, but what I can say? I’m curious. Also, related, this video of 3 grandmothers smoking weed for the first time has been making the Facebook rounds.

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By Gabrielle. Baby Super Hero Cape and other hero accessories available at LoveLane.

Veronika Bush cracks me up. If you’re ready for a fairly raw portrayal of her birth, I’m pretty sure she’ll crack you up, too. Beyond her humor and honesty, there are some real lessons in Veronika’s tale. First, it’s important to surround yourself with a team you adore and trust. Also, this birthing business is a pretty unreliable industry, especially in terms of timing. But mostly, you’ve got to trust yourself… especially if you’re the one delivering.

The truth is, births rarely go as imagined! They may be messy, they may be embarrassing, they will probably be exhausting, and all we can really hope for is a wonderful ending. (But even then, we’re allowed to complain a little, right?)

So please join me in welcoming Veronika. (And just in case you’re reading, I’m sure there are no hard feelings, Terri!)

There’s an interesting warning for the squeamish readers!

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By Gabrielle.

Remember Julie? She was the lovely one who moved to the country – 30 minutes outside of Seattle – with her family, and enthusiastically embraced all that the outskirts has to offer. Like relishing any opportunity to mention that someone or something is “in the barn.” That still makes me smile! One year later, I wondered how life had settled into itself and changed. Julie was kind enough to respond, and Mother Nature sweetly sprinkled some snow to accessorize her holiday photos. Welcome back, Julie!

Q: One year later, how is country living suiting you and your family?

A: Our family is really enjoying country living! It’s been amazing to have the extra space (a little over two acres) for our boys to play and explore, the ability to have more animals, room for a garden, more outdoor entertaining area, and the general sense of privacy and freedom we have here.

Adorable advent buckets, just ahead!

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Olive Juice Kids Giveaway

December 1, 2014

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By Gabrielle.

Since today is the first day of December, I’m craving a holiday-focused giveaway to share. And happily, I’ve got a great one! Olive Juice is the sponsor, and they are offering a $150 gift certificate. Hooray!

Pink Velvet Dress by Olive Juice

Olive Juice is a long-time Design Mom sponsor and it’s always a delight to feature their clothes here on the blog, because I’m a huge fan myself, and because I know how much readers love their wares as well. The quality is excellent, the styling feels classic and European, and best of all, their clothes truly are made to be worn by kids — the cuts and materials are comfortable and realistic.

Red Velvet Dress by Olive Juice Corduroy Dress by Olive Juice

Like so many of you, I’ve started thinking about holiday clothes for my own kids, and what sorts of dresses I’d love to see our girls in this year. I went straight to Olive Juice for inspiration and ideas, because their holiday collection is terrific. It’s full of classic silhouettes in rich velvets with interchangeable ribbons. My favorites are the Birdie Velvet in Ruby, the Becca Dress (which is on sale!) and the Classic Wool Cardigan — it’s available in pretty jewel tones.

Olive Juice Holiday 2014-1

Visit Olive Juice and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to hear what your favorite piece in their holiday collection is. The winner will be announced on Thursday. Good luck!

P.S. — Not shopping for holiday clothes at the moment? Olive Juice also has darling school and play clothes for girls and boys.

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Carolyn Mackie is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Persimmons

December 1, 2014

seasonalfruits

By Gabrielle. Seasonal Fruit poster from Chasing Delicious.

Something light to start your week! Persimmons were heroes in my Thanksgiving arrangements this year, I must have used about a dozen. But I was embarrassed when I realized I’ve never actually tasted one. Maybe I’ve had a bit mixed into a salad and I didn’t know it, but I’ve never intentionally sliced one myself and taken a bite.

I’m not totally sure why, but the realization caught me a bit off guard. I expect taste surprises when I’m traveling, but I guess I assume that as I walk through the produce department of my local grocery store, I’ve tasted everything they have to offer. No doubt that’s way off. I’ll bet if I was to pay more attention on my next visit, I’d realize there are dozens of commonly available veggies and fruits that I have yet to “discover”.

Have you experienced any new tastes lately? If yes, what was it and how did you like it? And do you have an opinion on persimmons? My kids describe them as a mix between an apple and a tomato.

P.S. — Realizing my lack of persimmon tasting reminded me of Maggie’s goal to taste a thousand fruits.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Image and text by Gabrielle.

It’s late on Wednesday night as I type this. I confess, I fully intended to write a post first thing this morning, but ended up spending my writing time discussing (and arguing about) the grand jury decision that was announced in Ferguson on Monday. Like many Americans, my emotions are running hot this week and I’m sometimes finding it difficult to respond in a way that will foster a helpful discussion. So I keep rereading the call for compassion written by The Bloggess, and I keep doing my best to take her sound advice.

In the midst of my discouragement at the state of racism in our county, I’ve also been prepping for Thanksgiving, which I’m very much looking forward to. I’ve been doing things like setting the table, gathering leaves and greens from the yard to add to the centerpiece, cleaning the house, and running errands. It’s another one of the those odd times where I fly between happy and sad from one minute to the next.

I know there are millions of people going through a similar range of emotions this week. And I send my love to each and every one. I have an endless list of things to be grateful for, but today, I’m feeling particularly grateful that I have the opportunity to freely discuss what is happening in the world, even when what is happening in the world is hard. I am hugely grateful to the community here on Design Mom for adding your voices to the discussions that happen here, and for being respectful of the varied opinions shared. I can not thank you enough.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I hope the pie you get to enjoy this year is the best yet!

P.S. — For my lovely readers who are not American, I know you won’t be celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, but please know I am thankful for you as well. : )

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By Gabrielle.

I hereby declare Noa Weintraub Queen of the Stunning Staircase! She is ruler over two of the most startlingly stylish sets of steps I’ve seen, so I really think she deserves the crown. (There should really be a crown.)

Her home is a fun house, for sure. You would never in a million years think that the force who designed these spaces thought she didn’t want a child! This honesty, this unabashed creativity, and Noa’s great advice — one of her gems is “Life’s too short to wait for a special occasion! — all make this tour a favorite of mine. I hope it’s one of yours, too!

Welcome, Noa!

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

A: Hi! I’m Noa, an artist, illustrator and ceramicist. My partner, Mark, is a photographer, and we live with our six year old daughter, Matisse. Until recently, we also lived with Mark’s son Wyatt who is 20, but we are still lucky to see him frequently — especially when good food is involved.

Sharing our house are Wyatt’s two snakes: Psycho Sy is a King Snake, and Fluffy is a Royal Python. I know, I know! It took me a while to get used to them, but they really are nicer than they sound and conveniently very low maintenance.

Mark and I met while on an advertising job, back in my more glamorous days when I used to be a fashion stylist. These days, I’m more inclined to be wearing flats and wellington boots than high heels and sequins. That’s not to say I don’t try and dress up as much as I can. I’ve always believed life’s too short to wait for a special occasion. Wear the clothes you love as often as possible, even if it means dressing up for the school run! Working as an illustrator and being a mum work well together, I’ve discovered. I have the flexibility of choosing my own hours and I make sure that I work around Matisse’s schedule. (It’s also a really good excuse to buy loads of vintage children’s books, one of my favourite things!)

Second set of stellar stairs, coming right up! Come see!

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LilaPops Giveaway

November 24, 2014

DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

I’ve got the cutest giveaway for you today. Lilapops is offering a charming prize package featuring 5 of Lila’s Sick Day Picks!!

LilaPops Giveaway

The prize package of “Lila’s Sick Day Picks” includes: 1) Lilapops (of course!), 2) This is the World Book by M. Lasek, 3) Magnetic Doodle House, 4) the sweetest BlaBla Handknit Sheep, and 5) a set Mr. Sketch Scented Markers. So fun!

Who is Lila? She’s the namesake of Lilapops, a mom-approved company that makes all natural cough drop lollipops for kids. They leave out the yucky dyes, artificial flavors and preservatives — helping kids feel better in a deliciously fun and healthy way. We’ve been using Lilapops for over two years now and found them to be soooo soothing.

I think this giveaway comes at the perfect time as we head into cold weather and flu season. It’s nice to be prepared when kids inevitably wake up with a a scratchy throat! And I love the idea of having a care package at the ready to lend comfort and relieve boredom when little ones are stuck in bed. I know my kids would adore this sick day care package!

Visit Lilapops and leave a comment below to enter. The winner will be announced on Monday (Dec 1st). Good luck!

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Laura is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Thanksgiving Prep

November 24, 2014

tutorial for the perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

By Gabrielle. Food photos by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom. Centerpiece photo by N. Underwood.

We’re hosting Thanksgiving this year and the whole family is looking forward to it like crazy. We’ve been making lists and plans, thinking up activities for the kids table, trying new furniture arrangements, making an inventory of dishes, glasses and silverware to make sure we have what we need, and wondering if we should add crab to the menu like last year.

Speaking of last year, I keep thinking back to how I was just trying to get a handle on my mental health about now, and comparing it to this year. What a world of difference! Last year I was in survival mode, and this year I’m making probably-too-ambitious plans for the centerpiece. Of course, it feels wonderful to be in a healthy productive place.

I know Thanksgiving is all about the food, but as I’ve already implied several times in this post, I’m more excited about the pretty stuff. I’m thinking about the entry and how I want the house to feel as guests arrive — the music, the smells, the lighting, the decorations. And I’m figuring out the kids table. Will it be warm enough to use the outdoor balcony table? Or should I make room inside? The main dining table probably has me the most excited.  I keep fighting the urge to set it today!

For those of you who are prepping for Thanksgiving as well, I thought I’d gather some posts that might be helpful. First, here’s a Turkey 101 post. So much good information. I re-read it every year.

persimmons, squash, yellow apples, satsumas red berries, pomegranates, grapes

Next, here’s a post filled with ideas on How to Garnish the Turkey Platter. Gorgeous photos!

Here’s a post about Perfect Pie Crust that you’ll find invaluable.

Autumnal Arrangement for Thanksgiving. Step-by-step instructions.

And there’s also a step-by-step tutorial for putting together this Stunning Autumn Arrangement.

How are you feeling about Thanksgiving this year? Are you hosting? Or are you traveling? Did you do all your food shopping last week, or do you like to wait till Wednesday night? And what are you looking forward to most — food, family or the decorating? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — There is one big downer about this Thanksgiving — Olive and Ralph aren’t with us! Such a strange thought. Four more weeks till they get home, but it feels like forever.

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