By Gabrielle.

I am a big fan of families who not only make a smaller space work, but actually thrive in it. (I think I’ve told you this before!) There’s often so much more to living with kids than the house itself, right? Spacious, cozy, or somewhere in between, much of the goodness comes from what’s outside the front door.

And the way Sophie describes it, Phoenix has a lot to offer (I spent half of last week in Phoenix, and I agree!). Like the weather. For those who live in a cold climate, Phoenicians’ winters are definitely enviable. It’s the summers that keep families inside and hiding from the 110 degree heat! And it’s then that the smallness gets to Sophie. How does she deal? I’ll let her tell you! Welcome, Sophie!

Hi, everyone! My name is Sophie. I’m married to a totally awesome guy named Mike, and together we have three daughters: Ava, Perla, and Zosia.

Mike and I are both native Phoenicians, which seems to be mind-boggling to many people here. Lots of natives leave, while many non-natives relocate here. I used to be one of the people who couldn’t wait to leave, but over the years I’ve come to develop a true love for our city and state. Anyway, we were both born in the same hospital, which we now live a block away from. Sometimes I feel silly admitting that, but the hospital itself is somewhat of a landmark with some unique architecture, so it’s fun looking out our dining room window and seeing the place where we both started. We also live half a mile from the high school I attended. Another one of those things I’m not sure I should admit or not! Ha!

Phoenix often gets a really bad rap for being nothing more than a suburban wasteland, and that can’t be farther from the truth. While, yes, a large majority of the city is indeed suburban, the area in which we live is rich with cultural diversity. We live in a historic neighborhood in the downtown central area, where local businesses reign and true community exists. Our neighbors are some of the friendliest, kindest, most generous people you will ever meet. The market up the street knows us by name and treats my girls to lollipops every time we’re in.

We’re a three block walk from award-winning dining, a ten minute walk to our famous local library, the Phoenix Art Museum, several wonderful playgrounds, and our favorite neighborhood cafe. Just a few blocks from us is a glass studio that hosts live glass blowing performances during downtown’s First Friday Art Walk. Ten minutes on a bike will land you at the Children’s Museum, Symphony Hall, the Science Center, Chase Field Ballpark, or Saturday’s open air Farmer’s Market. We can see Piestewa Peak from our living room, watch airplanes flying into the airport, and can walk across the street to the public pool. It is truly a dream.

There’s just so much this city has to offer. And beyond the city are all of the other wonderful things Arizona has to offer. Surrounding us is the breathtakingly beautiful desert, with its blooming cactus, stunning sunsets, and late-summer monsoons. Mountains that offer the perfect day hike. Two hours north you’re in the forest, with much cooler temperatures and snow in the winter. And just beyond that is the Grand Canyon! There’s just so much beauty in our state it’s hard not to fall in love with it.

Although Mike and I were born in the same hospital, our paths didn’t cross until many years later when we worked together as baristas in the same cafe. It was an almost instantaneous connection; we were married less than 18 months later! We’ve been married seven years, over the course of which I’ve realized we make a pretty perfect match. Mike is level-headed and slow to speak, whereas I’m more hot tempered and I definitely speak too quickly. He loves coming home from work and taking over so that I can have a break. I fold the laundry, he puts it away. We make each other laugh every day. The mutual balance we’ve achieved is something I’ve really become so thankful for in our marriage.

More from Sophie, straight ahead!

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By Gabrielle.

Have you seen the new Olive Us episode? It’s fantastic! And a totally different concept than we’ve tried before. All thanks to our oldest son, Ralph. It was his idea, and he directed and edited the footage. Very exciting! I’m betting your kids will love it. And you too! It’s short and cute and really fun.

Olive Us: Lemon Waffles. On set. Olive Us: Lemon Waffles. Behind the scenes.

We first showcased this episode in the Olive Us newsletter last week and it’s getting such a fun reaction. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it. Feel free to share it with someone you love!

P.S. — Fun fact, since Olive Us launched, we’ve made 47 episodes total. You can find them all here. Subscribe to the newsletter to be the first to see upcoming episodes!

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A Few Things

May 1, 2015

You Are Special Today Plate DIY

By Gabrielle. Photo by Amy Christie for Design Mom.

Hello, Friends! I’m writing to you from Arizona. I arrived here on Wednesday for my book signing, and then I was lucky enough to stick around for the Mom 2.0 Summit in Scottsdale. I spoke on a panel this morning, and I’ve had a fantastic time connecting with old and new friends. For me, blogging conferences are like getting to hang out with c0-workers. It feels like such a treat to talk shop for several days in a row!

What’s next? Well, tomorrow (Saturday), I fly straight from here to Seattle. This coming week, Pottery Barn is hosting 4 book parties for me. How awesome is that? This is where I’ll be:

- On Sunday, May 3rd (that’s day after tomorrow!), I’ll be in Seattle, at the Pottery Barn in University Village from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM. And my co-host is the lovely Ashley Rodriguez of Not Without Salt. Address: 4627 26th Ave NE in Seattle.

- On Tuesday, May 5th, I’ll be in Chicago at the Lincoln Park Pottery Barn, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. My co-host is the fantastic Nicole Balch of Making It Lovely. Address: 1000 W North Ave in Chicago.

- On Thursday, May 7th, I’ll be in Atlanta, at Pottery Barn Lenox Square, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, with my amazing co-host Rachel Faucett of Handmade Charlotte. Address: 3393 Peachtree Rd NE in Atlanta.

- On Saturday, May 9th, I’ll be back in the Bay Area, at the Pottery Barn in Corte Madera, from 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM. And my sister, the wonderful Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day, will be my co-host. Address: 1822 Redwood Hwy, Corte Madera, CA in the Bay Area.

These Pottery Barn Events are FREE to attend. No need to RSVP. At each event there will be book signing, a parenting Q&A, a craft project, and treats — including a custom cookie made just for these events. And Pottery Barn will be open for all customers during these events which means you can browse the store as well. So please come by and say hello. I really hope to see you there!

(Wondering what the craft is? It’s that cute You Are Special Today plate pictured above. And if you can’t make it to the events, you can also find the DIY in my book.)

Now, I’ve got to get back to the conference. But before I hit publish, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- My schedule has been so unusual this week, but when I’ve had a few minutes here and there to check in, my mind goes straight to Nepal, and to Baltimore. It’s been a heavy week. I hope you’re all doing okay.

- One method for dealing with distractions.

- “What is it that prevents people from seeing themselves in us?”

Chemical party.

- Lost Mongolian tribe that trains reindeer, wolves, and eagles.

- Gay men when straight people aren’t around.

- Happy May Day!

I hope you have a good weekend. Maybe I’ll see you in Seattle! Either way, I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — I know this is a shorter than normal link list. Because I’ve been traveling, I’ve had less time this week to collect interesting stuff. But I’ll try to add to this list over the weekend, so feel free to check back tomorrow. And if you’ve seen something cool this week, share a link in the comments!

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By Gabrielle. Painting by the amazing Karina Bania, titled, Point of Balance

I’m so drawn to the lovely, quiet way Erin compares her drastically different births to artwork: both beautiful, but one with a few more brushstrokes that only come with experience. So many of us try to gather up all the information we can possibly carry before a big life-changing undertaking – it’s comforting, right? – only to discover that our experience didn’t remotely follow the books and methods and tried and true advice. Sometimes you’ve just got to feel it for yourself.

You’re going to love Erin’s story. I just know you will. There’s anticipation, disappointment, a second  chance, a sudden twist of fate that will make you gasp, a brilliant suggestion to spend the night before delivery at a sweet hotel, and a very happy ending. Oh, I hope I didn’t spoil it for you! Here are all the good parts of Erin’s story! Enjoy!

Welcome, Erin!

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Keurig Design Mom2

Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Keurig. Use code DESIGNMOM to get 30% off a Keurig 2.0! Details below.

So I was on a call with Keurig, and they mentioned they wanted me to try their 2.0 brewing system. I responded that I’d need to pass because I’m not a coffee drinker, and they said, “Actually, that’s perfect! Because the 2.0 system is not only about coffee. It was created for the entire family (even the kids!), and there are over 400 different beverages available. Many of them have nothing to do with coffee at all, like hot cocoa, peppermint tea, and apple cider.” And then I was like, “400 different options?!” And they said, “Yes. Over 400. And we partner with more than 60 brands that you know and love, including Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Tazo, Snapple and Swiss Miss.”

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So I thought, why not? Beyond a french press, I’ve never actually used a coffee machine of any sort. I see them in hotel rooms and have no idea how they work. But hey, it’s never too late to learn! Plus, chamomile tea and hot cocoa are daily staples at our house, and once I learned about Keurig’s offerings, I could see we would actually use this machine daily. And beyond our own family, I love having the house stocked for visiting neighbors, exchange students and houseguests — and that means having coffee on hand. So I decided to give Keurig a try.

Keep reading for a post update about Keurig’s sustainability practices.

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Transhumanism & Ben Blair

April 29, 2015

By Gabrielle. Photo by Justin Hackworth.

I’m heading out today for the longest leg of my book tour. I’ll be gone 10 days. That is so long! I’ve never been away from the whole family for that many days, and I won’t lie, there were a lot of tears as I sent the kids off to school this morning. I’m feeling especially grateful to Ben Blair this morning. All this travel is a major disruption to our family schedule and puts a big burden on Ben.

Like all families, our regular life is full and active — while I’m gone, there are science fair projects due, prom shopping that needs to happen for the big dance next week, a middle school concert (and a choir uniform that needs to be dealt with), gymnastics for the youngest three, and regular stuff like laundry, etc.. But Ben acts like managing it alone is no big deal. He has been incredibly supportive of this book project from the very beginning, and it simply wouldn’t exist without him. Gosh I like Ben Blair.

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In addition to being an ideal husband and parenting partner, he’s also a really interesting person who is always working on cool projects and developing new ideas. In fact, a few weeks ago he was in Salt Lake City presenting at the Mormon Transhumanist Conference.

Have you ever heard of transhumanism? There are official definitions out there, but when I try to explain quickly, I say it’s humans after The Singularity — when humans and computers merge. Imagine post-humans — an advanced version of humans that are super-hero-like, or even God-like. If you saw the movie Interstellar, it references future humans who can see and create in more dimensions than we can currently. They don’t use the word transhumanism in the movie, but that’s what I thought of when I watched it. Most transhumanists are athiests, but there happens to be a Mormon faction, because our doctrine actually fits quite nicely with the idea of transhumanism.

Anyway, Ben’s presentation was a shortened version of an essay he’s been working on for months. He looks for ways to bridge the conversation between religious and non-religious people and his essay is a good example of his thinking. Plus he references a Rilke poem that is one of my favorites!

We just got the link to the video of his presentation and it’s so good! I wanted to share it here because I’m proud of him, and also because I think you’ll find it interesting. It’s about 20 minutes long and well worth it! If you get a chance to watch it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Even better, if you like it, I hope you’ll share it. And I’d also love to hear your thoughts on transhumanism if you have any. I pretty much love to hear your thoughts on any topic. : )

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Ez Pudewa.

It’s been years since Marichelle and I first spoke about a home tour. Years! And by the time she contacted me again, there were two more daughters and a new, very cool shop added to her story. Isn’t it funny how time and babies fly?

For those of you who struggle with redefining your identity after adding children and all the responsibilities that arrive along with them to your life, Marichelle has a bit to say about her own experience. For her, it was integral to develop her professional life in order to enhance her personal life. She’s become a much happier mother by simultaneously becoming a very happy entrepreneur. You’ll adore her shop, adore her home, adore her wraparound porch, and I think you’ll fall a little in love with her story, too. Please enjoy it! Welcome – FINALLY! – Marichelle.

Q: Please introduce us to your family!

A: Hello! Thank you for having us! We are a family of five. My husband, Jonathan, and I have three daughters: Emma is four and a half, Lucy is two and a half, and Alice is nine months.

I was born in the Philippines and we came to the US when I was seven years old. I pretty much learned English by watching Romper Room and Sesame Street. I grew up in Queens, New York, and if you listen very closely and catch me off guard, you can still hear the Queens in me! Jonathan grew up in Stilton, a tiny village in England. Yes, it’s where Stilton cheese gets its name! The village even has a yearly cheese rolling event! We met at work, started dating, and shortly thereafter moved in together. He’s the smartest, funniest, charmiest of charmers, and tallest (6’4”) man I know!

Emma has a crazy sense of smell; she can always tell when I’ve been for coffee at our favorite bakery, Able Baker. Lucy is our spitfire. We knew we were going to have our hands full the moment she came into the world. I’ll never forget the moment when she was crowning and my OB started laughing because Lucy wasn’t fully out yet and she was already crying! Alice is the baby. She’s been a gem and is a perfect mix of her two older sisters, both physically and personality wise. She’s currently our human Swiffer since she hasn’t quite learned how to crawl yet and instead drags herself from place to place. I try to keep her in a onesie – more coverage that way!

Q: Where do you live, and how did your house become your home?

A: We currently live in a 100+ year old Victorian in Maplewood, a small town in New Jersey within commuting distance to Manhattan, NY. We realized we were outgrowing our previous house, and decided to put it on the market and try to find a home in the same neighborhood that would fit our needs better.

More sweetness, straight ahead!

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Dwell Studio-2

By Gabrielle. 

Before I jump into my report, the first thing I want to mention is that the next book party is happening tomorrow night in ARIZONA! 7:00 PM at the Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe. Extra fun: Jenny Komenda of Little Green Notebook will be there to do the Q&A. I love Jenny so much. I can’t wait to see her! Friends, YOU are totally invited. There will be treats and goody bags and a book signing and mostly, I can’t wait to meet you.

Now. New York. I am still grinning thinking about the New York party at DwellStudio. It was gorgeous. All of it. The store, the guests, the flowers, the food, even the weather!

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This is the first of the book parties where we had a professional photographer in place and I’m so glad! It’s essentially impossible for me to both sign books all night and take photos, and if I have one regret about the book parties, it’s that I haven’t arranged for a photographer at each event. So I LOVE having these photos. In fact, if you attended the party, or want to see lots more images from the party, they are posted on Dropbox here.

Let’s talk party details. The flowers were by Taproot. They are an amazing Brooklyn-based florist and they are committed to only using local growers. There were simple, stunning flower arrangements on every table and they were so beautiful — they fit right in to the sophisticated and modern DwellStudio aesthetic.

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There was champagne and passed hors d’oeuvres throughout the evening. And another fun thing about the book party in New York is that instead of gift bags, DwellStudio gifted my book to each guest! So instead of purchasing the book, a donation to Every Mother Counts was suggested. So great! If you’d like to make your own contribution, you can do so here.

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Christiane Lemieux is the founder of DwellStudio and she hosted the party. She is a business powerhouse with flawless taste and an incredible eye — you may recognize her as one of the judges on Ellen’s new design show. We originally met at Alt Summit and we’ve become friends over the last few years. I feel incredibly lucky to know her.

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Christiane did the Q&A and she had excellent questions for me. At Alt Summit, I am usually the one asking the questions in an interview, so this was fun to have the tables turned! The Q&A was actually videotaped, and as soon as I can track down the link, I’ll share it with you.

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I am so grateful to Christiane for hosting the party, and I’m grateful to the whole DwellStudio staff for being so amazing. The event organization was super smooth. Between the DwellStudio team and my publicity team at Artisan Books, every detail was attended to, and I was able to focus on meeting the wonderful party guests and signing books. I can’t thank everyone enough!

Dwell Studio-48

Being in New York is always fun for me, because when I’m there I get to see a mix of friends from my old neighborhood, co-workers from my ad agency days, blogging friends I’ve met over the last 9 years, and my book team from Artisan as well. I LOVED seeing all those dear people at the event, and meeting so many amazing readers as well.

Seriously, it was such a fun gathering. I just beam when I look at the photos. I can’t thank people enough for coming to the party. You guys are awesome!

Another party report ahead! Click for Boston details.

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11 Secrets to Cleaning Your Tech Devices. Laptops, cameras, smart phones, etc.

By Gabrielle. Image by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom.

Normally, weekends are my favorite time for catching up on Facebook or spending time on Pinterest. But I’ve noticed that over the last few weekends, I’ve barely been on social media. I might share an Instagram, but nothing else — I hardly even glance at my phone. I think it’s because my schedule has been unusually intense lately, and when the weekend rolls around, I really crave a social media break.

In fact, I realized I ended up getting something like 48 hours away from the internet last weekend., and oh my goodness, it was such a reminder that an extended break like that feels so good every now and then!

Though really, when I “step offline” it’s not a strictly accurate phrase, because I still use the internet and my phone for things like watching a movie with Ben Blair, or texting with my kids so I know when to pick them up from practice. For me, going offline means no Instagram, no Facebook, no Twitter, no Pinterest, no blogging and no blog reading. I definitely take offline breaks during my normal work days, but extended offline periods are much more rare.

I’m curious, what does “going offline” mean to you? And how often do you give yourself an internet break?

P.S. — When’s the last time you cleaned your tech? Here’s the Design Mom how-to guide.

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A Few Things

April 24, 2015

New York

By Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I flew home from New York last night. My book tour events in Boston and New York were fantastic and I’ll be posting about them next week, but right this minute, I couldn’t be happier to be back in Oakland. Coming home is the best feeling! And I’m really looking forward to the weekend. How about you? Anything you’re looking forward to?

I’m stepping away from my laptop to get working on post-trip laundry, but here are a few things to keep you entertained over the next few days:

- A little boy takes flight.

- Exciting changes for some of my long-time online friends: Big announcement from the original Mommy Blogger. And what will become of SF Girl By Bay?

- The Pink Tax.

- DIY marbelized ribbon.

- The hidden reason for global poverty. It’s the best TED talk I’ve seen in ages.

- Giraffes at the pool.

- Woman walks the Paris Marathon with a bucket on her head.

- This is not a well-researched claim, but the idea of real live books making a comeback made me happy anyway.

- 7 lost American slang words.

-  The value of terrible female engineers.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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DMgiveawayBanner

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I guarantee you do NOT want to miss this giveaway. It’s a really good one, and it’s perfect for creating gifts for Grandmas and Mother-in-laws for Mother’s Day. The giveaway is sponsored by Artifact Uprising, and the prize is a $250 gift certificate!

Artifact Uprising6

Do you know Artifact Uprising? They are a small company dedicated to preserving the beauty and the stories that are sitting on our phones and in our digital cameras. They are “inspired by the disappearing beauty of the tangible” and they’re driven by the belief everyone has a story to tell. That dedication and inspiration translates into simple, gorgeous photo products — photo books, prints, and cards.

They offer about fifteen options, and each one is perfection. So you can’t go wrong, and you won’t need to spend hours deciding what to pick. I love that! It means one less barrier to getting those photos on paper, so that you can preserve and observe them in a tangible way. Check out their Mother’s Day gift guide to find the ideal present.

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I chose two items to give as Mother’s Day gifts this year. First, this Wood Calendar. It comes with 12 sheets, featuring 12 different images, printed on beautiful paper. Then you clip them onto the board and switch them as the months go by.

There are two things I especially love about this product. First, you don’t have to wait until January to use this, because the calendar is printed on a rolling basis. Meaning, you place the order, and the first sheet of paper will display the current month.

Artifact Uprising2

Second, the clipboard comes with a magnet on the back, so you can pop it on the fridge instantly!

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The other item I chose is a the Wood Block plus Prints. It comes with 12 photos, again, printed on luxe paper, that sit in a handsome wooden holder. And the wooden block is handcrafted using reclaimed beetle pine from Colorado forests. You can switch around the photos as often as you like — by the month, by the year, heck, by the hour!

I used images from a recent family photo shoot — a combination of portraits and candid shots. Some feature the kids individually, and some feature the family altogether.

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I’m so impressed with the quality of these products! And I also want to note, that Artifact Uprising designs many of their offerings with a square format, which is ideal for using Instagram photos. And if you use Instagram photos for these projects, uploading them takes mere seconds. Which means you could have your Mother’s Day gifts sorted, uploaded, and ordered in a snap. (Speaking of Instagram, Artifact Uprising’s stream is one of my favorites!)

To enter the giveaway, enter your email in this widget. The contest is open until April 30th. Good luck!

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aqua vespa profile

By Gabrielle.

Okay you guys. I know I should wait until it arrives in a few weeks, but I’m too impatient. Ben Blair just bought this vintage Vespa! Isn’t it gorgeous?!! He says it’s a Mother’s Day gift, but honestly, we rarely ever buy gifts for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, so I know we’re just using Mother’s Day as the excuse. But I don’t mind at all. Hah!

I have wanted an old school Vespa for years and years, and he has been keeping his eye out all this time, waiting until he found a good source. I’m so excited about it. I can’t wait to see it in person!

aqua vespa

I’m sure I will be inundating you with photos when it finally gets here. It will be Vespa overload! But for now, enough about the adorable scooter. Let’s talk about what YOU want for Mother’s Day.

Not kidding! For Mother’s Day, PayPal wants to know exactly what moms this year. So they launched a really fun social campaign: Share the gift you’re wishing for on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, starting today through Wednesday, May 6th, and tag the post with #ultimatemomsday. Oh. And they want you to think BIG. So presents can be small or large — and feel free to include why you need/want the gift you’re asking for. Share exactly what you want and you just might be surprised.

I’m partnering with PayPal to get the word out about this campaign because I think it’s a great way for them to celebrate mothers, and it’s a perfect excuse for people to try PayPal if they’ve ever been curious about it. I’m actually a long-time PayPal user. I’ve had an account for a decade, and I’ll go out of my way to use websites that offer PayPal — I even favor certain airlines that allow PayPal payments, and Ben Blair used PayPal to buy the Vespa!

The first reason I love using it is convenience. I don’t have to have my wallet or purse nearby if I need to make a purchase. All my info is stored in PayPal, so it’s just a matter of clicking a button instead of inputing credit card info and expiration dates. I find it so much easier, that I realized I’m like 200% more likely to donate to a good cause if PayPal is an option. Seriously. It’s just such a time saver for me.

And the second big thing I use PayPal for is to reimburse family or send money to friends. For example, if someone picks up theater tickets for me, I can instantly send them money before I forget, and without having to stop at the ATM. It’s also a great way to collect funds when you’re working on a group gift or any sort of group purchase.

Anyway, I’m a huge PayPal fan, and if you do much online shopping, I would definitely encourage you to give it a try. But more then that, I would encourage you to post your Mother’s Day gift wish, and tag it with #ultimatemomsday! Wouldn’t it be awesome if you were surprised with what was on your wish list?

Now it’s your turn. Do you know what you’d like for Mother’s Day, or will you need to think about it for a bit? And have you ever used PayPal? Also. What do you think of the Vespa? Adorable, right?

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Famous Names

April 22, 2015

Humans of New York - Beyoncé

By Gabrielle. Photo by Humans of New York.

Apparently, I am the last person in the world to read the Humans of New York story about a school girl named Beyoncé. She says:

“Sometimes I hate my name because it always draws attention to me, and I’m not a very social person. My family moved this year from Pennsylvania. I was so scared the first day of school that someone would notice me. I wouldn’t even adjust my seat because I thought it would make a noise. One time I really had to cough, but I held it in. When the teacher started calling attendance, I got really nervous, because every time people learn my name is Beyoncé, somebody starts singing ‘Single Ladies.’ And some did, of course. But the second day of school wasn’t too bad. Because everyone knew my name.”

The comment section on the Facebook post is pure gold. If you need a grin today, I highly recommend taking a look. : ) Of course, it also got me thinking about my own name. It’s not a famous one, but when I was growing up in St. George, Utah, “Gabrielle” was considered unusual. I remember every first day of school, as the teacher took roll, there would be a conversation like this:

Teacher – “Gaww-breeee-ellle?” (Always said in an attempt at an accent.) ”Is that how to pronounce that?”

Me – “That’s me, but you can just call me Gabby.” (I always offered this because Gabrielle seemed hard for people to pronounce.)

Teacher – “Gabby? Why? Do you talk to much?” (Cue laughter from classmates.)

Me – “Well, actually…”

And then in 7th grade, which was the first year I had different class periods with different teachers, I had the realization I would need to have that conversation 7 times in the same day. And I totally did! But I didn’t mind the name Gabrielle, or Gabby. Other than the first day of school, people rarely gave me flack about it, and I ended up liking the fact that I had a memorable name.

It made me wonder, do you, or your kids, or maybe your siblings, have names that have dual meanings, or sound famous, or are memorable in one way or another? And if yes, did you like having a remarkable name? And when you named your kids, did you search for, or avoid, remarkable names? I’d love to hear. I get such a kick out of name stories!

P.S. — Remember when we talked about nicknames?

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Bela Lumo Photography.

If you’ve ever been tempted to move to Florida but were waiting for just one more sign that it’s a brilliant idea, here’s your sign. To convey to you as accurately as possible that Blythe loves Florida, I would have to write it like this: BLYTHE LOVES FLORIDA! Although I’d need a few hundred additional exclamation points and maybe a few billboards to really get her point across!

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To me, it’s pure delight when someone loves the place they live; I always seem to gravitate toward those people, don’t you? Blythe is no exception. She loves her plot, is over the moon about her family and career, and has such a fresh approach to the how and why she decorates her family’s home with meaningful-to-them objects. Oh, and the way she describes teaching To Kill a Mockingbird to her students gave me goosebumps.

This is a good way to spend some time today, Friends. I really hope you enjoy Blythe’s tour.

Q: Please introduce us to your family!

A: Hi, readers! We are the Grossmanns: Nathan, Blythe, Cora, and Cassandra.

Nathan is my husband, our provider in the most literal sense: he spends any free time he can out in the woods or on the water, trying to lure in whatever animal he can! He justifies this hobby by saying he’s harvesting and contributing to our dinner table, and using the animal products in the most extensive way he can – more on that later – but essentially, he is just a free spirit who needs to connect with the wilderness on a regular basis. Nathan is thoughtful in a quiet way, spending lots of time teaching Cora how to work on a boat, or to crack open a coconut, or painting her nails. He and I started dating back in high school. Even then I was drawn to his quiet strength, his appreciation for our home state, and his odd sense of humor. Those things haven’t changed, nor has my affection for them.

If I’m going in chronological order, I’m next. My name is Blythe and I teach English at our local high school. It is a calling as much as a career. I absolutely love books, love sarcastic, boisterous, bighearted teenagers, and I absolutely love my job. I am also a mama, obviously, and this certainly doesn’t come secondary, although that comes as a bit of a surprise to me. I never thought I would need to have kids – Nathan and I both were doing just fine without them – and yet, coming to feel so passionately about parenthood has been the sweetest surprise of my life.

On to the kids! Cora is four years old, and never fails to astonish me with just how thoughtful she can be. Case in point: my grandmother succumbed to a long illness last night and when I told Cora today that she had passed away, her first response was, “Mama, we need to keep visiting her house. All of her friends [she lived in a small assisted living facility] will be sad and we need to take them cupcakes and maybe sing to them.” Of course, she’s right…but the fact that her heart always goes towards others is something that I find both inspirational and comforting. In addition to being tender-hearted and generous, Cora is many other things, including dramatic! Nary a day goes by without her losing her mind over something: the house burning down, getting stung by a bee, misplacing a marker, or me looking at her the wrong way are equally tragic and ALL garner the same reaction. Loud crying. Yeah, it’s…awesome. Not at all exhausting. Perhaps one of the things I love most about Cora is her lack of squeamishness. This is maybe a classic case of nurture beating out nature, but Cora is very casual about catching lizards, playing with earth worms, and eating dirty carrots straight from the garden. Cora is so in tune to nature and has such a great appreciation for every living, growing thing; she knows where her food comes from, delights in helping us grow it in our backyard garden, and I think that’s just cool.

Last but certainly not least, there’s Cassandra, more often referred to as Tickle Baby or, and I’m sure we’ll regret this, just Tickle. For whatever reason, Cora started calling her that when I was pregnant and it just stuck! It’s hard to describe an eight-month old’s personality, but so far Tickle seems to be the calm in our storm. She has just started crawling, so she’s into EVERYTHING, but she almost never cries so long as we’re around and is just a cheerful, complacent baby in general. She’s a bit of a Mama’s girl as of now – I think nursing encourages that – but she is so interested in Cora and our dogs and the world around her. We don’t plan on having more kids, and something about this baby…maybe knowing she’s our last has made her first months some of the sweetest ones I’ve known.

Super sweet shared girls’ bedroom, up next!

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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I’m super excited for today’s giveaway, and I can’t wait to introduce you to littleBits Electronics. Have you heard of littleBits? Maybe you watched the Ted talk? Well either way, I’m thrilled that they are sponsoring today’s giveaway — because I’m super impressed with this toy, and I know you’ll love it. By the way, the prize is a $200 Deluxe littleBits Kit!

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I mentioned littleBits is a toy, and that’s true. But it’s also an amazing educational kit. It’s made of these small color-coded electronic modules that snap together easily via built-in magnets. Once you open a box, it’s pretty much irresistible to start messing around with the pieces to see what they will do, and what you can create.

After just minutes, Oscar and Betty had worked on module combinations that included actions like clapping to turn a light on, pushing a button to make a buzzer go off, fading a light in and out, and adjusting a light to be different colors by turning up or down the different RGB dials. They have had zero previous experience with this sort of thing, so littleBits was completely eye-opening for both of them.

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At first, we just started messing around with the kit, but the kids got really excited when we checked out the projects that the littleBits community has made. Things like sending a text message when someone rings your doorbell, and a remote pet feeder. We didn’t get into anything that ambitious — the closest we got was Betty making a pineapple sign that spun around and around on it’s own. Hah! But the grin on Betty’s face when she accomplished her goal? The best!

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As a parent, my favorite part was watching Oscar and Betty test things and figure out how they worked: “Ooh! what if we make it so a red light goes on when we clap?” And, “Let’s try to make it buzz and spin when we push the button!”

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Little Bits feels like the ideal educational kit — our kids learn as they use it, but it definitely feels like play. And the reward is seeing (or hearing) whether putting the pieces together worked how you thought it would.

To enter, visit Little Bits and leave a comment below — I’d love to hear if your kids have ever shown any interest in the “making” movement. Would they enjoy a toy like this? The winner will be announced on Thursday. Good luck!

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Amy D. is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Boston & New York

April 20, 2015

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By Gabrielle. Photo by Seth Smoot, styled by Kendra Smoot for Design Mom.

Oh my goodness, our reading weekend was awesome! In fact, it was so good, that ideally, we will repeat this twice a year. Some of you have asked for more details, so I’m working on a little post with an itinerary of what we did. But first, a little Design Mom Book reminder. For any of you in Boston & New York, I want to make sure you have all the info for my tour stops this Tuesday & Wednesday (that’s tomorrow! and the next day!).

First up: Boston. On Tuesday, April 21st (again, that’s tomorrow), I’ll be signing books at Trident Booksellers on Newbury Street from 7:00 PM till 9:00 PM. The brilliant Christine Koh of Boston Mamas will be co-hosting the event, and she is all prepped to interview me with some Design Mom Q&A. Plus, there will be treats and gifts for attendees! Crossing my fingers you can make it.

Then, on Wednesday, April 22nd (that’s day after tomorrow), in New York, there will be a Book Party at DwellStudio in Soho, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. The always fabulous Christiane Lemieux will be co-hosting. Join us for cocktails, a parenting discussion, and a book signing, too. Something extra special about this event: A proceed of the book sales will benefit Every Mother Counts, a cause near and dear to my heart! If you can join us, please send an RSVP to kmargolis@dwellstudio.com today.

I think that’s it for now on book news. Off to pack up for the trip!

P.S. — Thanks again for those of you who have added reviews to the Amazon book listing. I appreciate it!

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A Few Things

April 17, 2015

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By Gabrielle. Image by Kristen Loken.

Hello, Friends! What are you up to this weekend? We are trying something new: Ben Blair planned a weekend family-read-a-thon (gosh, Ben Blair is the best). And to make sure it happens, we’re all headed to a nearby hotel.  If we’re home, we’ll end up running kids to practice, doing laundry, tackling some yard work, stuff like that. But at a hotel, in theory, it’s easier not to get distracted. We’ll see how it goes, but I have high hopes. I think it will be great!

Now the big question: What should I read? I’m for sure planning to gobble up Katherine Center’s new novel, Happiness for Beginners. Katherine is a friend, and I hear this is her best novel yet! I want a few more titles too. Any suggestions? I need them. I have barely made time for book reading in the last 12 months and feel so out of the loop book-wise. I really need recommendations!

I’m off to go pack everybody up, but before I do, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

How much water do you drink?

Sarah Silverman doesn’t think the wage gap is funny.

- How long can your sign hold a grudge?

- I’d love your thoughts on these new #partyhardmoms Hefty commercials.

- And then I’d love your thoughts on Baddie Winkle — the 86-year-old Instagrammer and model for LA-based Dimepiece.

- From an Art Director: Why I wear the exact same thing to work everyday.

- A save-the-date video that feels Wes-Anderson-esque. Thanks, Azra.

- NEW STAR WARS TRAILER!

- This 1991 Sizzler commercial is so epic it’s hard to fathom.

- One company’s new minimum wage: $70,000. And I heard they partly made it happen paying the CEO much less. Which I think is super admirable. It also gets me thinking: if a huge company that oftens employs the underserved in our country (like any fast food place or Walmart/Target), raised all of their employee’s salaries to a minimum of $70,000, how much would their product prices rise overall? Would they be 10% more expensive? Less than that? More?

Lots of videos this week, huh? I hope you have an amazing weekend! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Betty (pictured at top) has been feeling crummy for a couple of weeks. She’s been to the doctor, but there is no diagnosis. The suspicion is that it’s an unusual virus working its way through her body. I don’t think it’s serious (I certainly hope it’s not!). But I’ve never had a sick kid that didn’t have specific symptoms that led to knowing just what the sickness was, with a course of action to get healthy again. Poor thing. Have your kids ever had a mysterious sickness?

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By Gabrielle. Family photos on bikes by Lily Wanderlust. All others taken by Sara.

Sara Fritsch lives in Amsterdam with her husband Oliver, their six year old son named Winter, and a daughter who is five called Penelope. After two years, Sara freely admits the city has her heart, but there’s still a possibility for a return to Portland, Oregon, which has the family’s heart as well. Expat life is tricky like that.

And there are a lot of details during her day that will make you want to dream a little harder about living somewhere far away. Or just dream of owning a bike that can hold five of your favorite little ones! That would be wonderful, too.

Come see what a day in Amsterdam looks like, will you? Welcome, Sara!

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

A: Goedemorgen! My favorite way to start any day is with a really early run. Ideally I finish my run and shower before anyone else in my family is awake. I love knowing that I accomplished a little something for me without impacting any of them.

Insider dining recommendations, just ahead!

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By Gabrielle. Photo by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom.

Remember when we chatted about beauty tasks that we’ve never tried, and I mentioned that I’d never experienced a facial? (Still haven’t!) Well, Rachael Weesjes was kind enough to leave a comment about at-home options that work just as well as spa services. I almost didn’t believe her, but she should know: she’s been an esthetician for eight years! We emailed back and forth, and I asked her if she would share her expertise with us all. Happily, she agreed.

You’re going to love what she has to tell us, and you’re going to love even more the facial concoctions and remedies we can whip up at home to help with dry skin, acne, and aging. I can’t wait! Let’s start with a little background and insider tips first, shall we? Friends, please welcome Rachael!

Q: We’d love to know what it takes to be an esthetician!

A: Hello! I’m Rachael. I’ve been a certified esthetician for eight years. Everyone always wants to know about my training, maybe because we’re all on the hunt for amazing skin! I completed a two year make up artistry program, and then took a one year esthetics course. I do both now, but mainly esthetics with bridal make up thrown in during wedding season.

I started my career in a spa right after graduation that exclusively used high end skin care products from Europe. I stayed for almost seven years, but lost my job after the birth of my second child. I searched for another job for a few weeks to no avail. A woman with whom I had worked left to start her own spa a few years prior; when she heard that I lost my job, she invited me to work with her.

I always admired her. She wanted to work in an environment where she could make the majority of her skin care products, without any pressure to sell creams for hundreds of dollars. When we worked together at the first spa, we had agreed almost daily that it was too hard to sell budget-killing products we didn’t truly believe worked best. We knew that clients could get fantastic results at home without spending a ton of money. So our goals for the spa were very alike. She relocated to another city, and I now run the spa by myself.

My job description includes manicures, pedicures, waxing, aromatherapy and relaxation massage, hot stone massages, facials, body scrubs and cellulite wraps, eyelash and brow tinting, and make up. Estheticians can also deliver lash extensions, spray tans, and artificial nails. The list definitely can be different depending on where you live and how far you take your education.

What to expect, what to ask, and what to avoid! Coming up next!

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Solar Panels on the Brain

April 14, 2015

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By Gabrielle.

I’m partnering with SolarCity on this post and I’m geeking out about them. Have you heard of SolarCity? The company is based here in California and it’s a super high tech, really modern solar energy company. In fact, Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX is their chairman. They’ve essentially disrupted the century-old energy industry by providing less-expensive, renewable electricity directly to homeowners. Their goal is to make solar energy easy by taking care of everything from design and permitting, to monitoring and maintenance.

There’s no upfront cost, you only need a good roof, because solar panel installation is included at no additional cost! Not kidding. You have a consultation and sign up, they install in a day, and the cost of the panels is worked into your monthly bill. Best part? Even with the cost of the panels worked in, your bill is still less than you’re paying right now.

So far, SolarCity serves 16 states and it’s growing fast — it signs up a new customer every minute of the work day. And hey, if you’re a California resident, they have a really good promotion going on: the first 10,000 new customers in California who sign up for SolarCity will receive a Nest Learning Thermostat for free!

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So why am I thinking about solar panels? You may have noticed, we took a break on major home renovations while I focused on my book. But now that it’s printed and sitting on my coffee table, we’ve started talking house projects again. In fact, I have a drywall team coming to make a bid this afternoon, and we’re getting measured for new patio doors as well. But the thing we’ve been talking about the most lately is converting our house to solar energy. Solar panels seem like such a natural fit in sunny California, and we have 2 different neighbors that have started using solar panels in the last year, both with really positive results. So it’s on our mind.

Of course, I like the idea of reducing or eliminating one of our bills, but I also love that it feels like a truly eco-conscious step. Some of the earth-friendly actions I take feel sort-of vague, but this feels much more real. Does that make sense? I think I’m a little solar obsessed. My daughter told me she learned that there’s a particular spot in the Sahara desert, and if it was covered in solar panels, it could provide solar energy for the whole world. I LOVE that kind of thing.

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The thing that’s stopped us from going forward with solar panels is that I thought the whole process was really complicated. I didn’t know where to start. I suppose that’s another reason I’m so jazzed about SolarCity. I read their how-it-works info, and could feel my mind calm. There are steps! The steps are doable! I don’t have to figure this out myself! I’m really looking forward to our consultation — though I’m nervous that our roof will be too shady with all these trees. Hah!

Now I’m curious. Have you ever considered using solar energy? Are there solar services available where you live? Do any of your friends and neighbors use solar? Have you read much about it? Oh man. I find it so appealing. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

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