Alt Summit Summer

February 28, 2014

Ben Silbermann and Gabrielle Blair. Alt Summit Keynote, January 2014.

By Gabrielle. Images by Justin Hackworth for Alt Summit.

For those of you who follow along on my Alt Summit adventures (I’m one of the founders of Alt Summit), I’ve got some big news. We’re experimenting with a major schedule change this year. Instead of holding a mid-size conference in New York and San Francisco, we’re going to host a second flagship event in Salt Lake City — Alt SLC Summer!

Click here to learn more — and to see a few more photos of me interviews Ben Silbermann of Pinterest.

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dblf-bell-hooks-1988-BWPhoto

By Gabrielle. Image of bell hooks — if you know the photographer, please share.

February is quickly coming to a close, but before it’s officially over, I wanted to feature some of the best articles and bits of history related to Black History Month and racism that I’ve read this month. I’ve basically relied on Kelly Wickham as my source — she’s a genius and she’s done a fantastic job highlighting essays and blog posts over the past few weeks. I highly recommend following her.

I suppose racism is always a topic on the minds of Americans, but it has especially been in my brain since Ralph and Maude started attending our public high school here in Oakland — a school with only a small percentage of white students, which is new experience for them. I grill my kids with questions about it: How often does race come up? How often does racial stereotyping happen? What kind of language do teenagers here use to discuss race? I get a little obsessed. It’s just that I want to be actively engaged in raising kids who will help eradicate racism in our country — I assume most parents feel the same way. But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, and how to get it right.

Here are three of the things I made note of this month:

It’s Not About You, and other adventures in privilege.

“Whiteness is the reason that when I see a Muslim character on television, they’re more likely to be a terrorist than a love interest. Whiteness is incredibly problematic and we can and should question it and the ways in which it affects and harms people of colour. Because that’s what it’s about, see – not making white people feel bad, not white guilt or white-shaming or reverse racism. It’s about tearing off the shackles that bind us.”

- bell hooks. An author I haven’t read, but now want to. I plan to start with All About Love.

- The Blacked Out History tumblr. Really well done snippets of history. I learned about Maroon Communities which I had never heard of, and the 10 demands of the Black Panthers.

UPDATE: A reader named April commented below and recommended two more blog posts that I found really compelling. I’m adding them here so you won’t miss them:

- For Whites (Like Me).

- How White People Will Ignore Obama’s Speech on Zimmerman.

- There have also been 3 mentions of the book, NurtureShock in the comments — specifically the third chapter titled “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race”.

Tell me, Friends, how do you teach your children about race and racism? Is it something you discuss as a family? Any related links you’ve come across this month? I’d love to hear.

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Resident of California

February 26, 2014

Washington DC in the Snow

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

I like to listen to NPR when I’m in the car, and during the local news updates when a story about California is being shared, I’ll be listening in a removed way and then all of sudden think: Oh. I live in California! This story is relevant to my life! I’m a Californian!

And then I think something along the lines of: That is so strange.

A related thing happens when Ben Blair is driving and I look up from the passenger seat and see a landscape or cityscape that is completely unfamiliar and think: We’ve only been in the car for two minutes, but I wasn’t watching where we are going and I have no idea where we are and would have to use GPS to even point myself in the right direction if I wanted to head home.

Basically, I’m in a funny situation where my home city and home state aren’t quite home yet. It’s not that I have regrets or complaints about moving here, it’s just that everything still feels so new and 7 months in I’m still playing catchup.

This really hit home during my trip to Washington D.C. (I’m still here in D.C., writing this from my hotel room and will head back home today.) On Tuesday, I had the chance to lobby the senators and representatives from my state on behalf of ONE.org. ONE is bipartisan so we were lobbying both republicans and democrats. As we were being briefed the day before, I experienced a moment of identity crisis. My thoughts were something like: I’m lobbying for California? I haven’t even registered to vote there yet. I’m still using my Colorado driver’s license. I have only a slight handle on Bay Area geography — on which cities are where. And I have no idea who my congresswomen/congressmen are!!

Luckily, California happens to have some famous names among our representatives (think Nancy Pelosi, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer), so I actually do know many of my representatives, and my identity crisis was short lived. I reminded myself I was born in California and lived there till I was 5. I learned to speak my native language in California. Growing up, I spent time in California every year of my life and both of my parents were born and raised in California. So I have deep roots in my new-again state.

This trip has been a good reminder to me that it’s time to dive deep and really get to know my state and my city; to learn the problems and passions of California and of Oakland specifically, and to care (or care more) about the outcomes of propositions and proposals that affect my slice of the country.

It also made me curious: Have you ever been in the same state-of-mind that I am in now? Have you ever been surprised that you are a resident of the state/country/city you reside in? Have you ever felt like a resident of no place at all — sort of detached from where you live? I imagine not everyone experiences this sort of thing. Where do you consider yourself a resident of? What are your thoughts?

P.S. — I’ll give a full report of my trip to Washington later this week (or possibly next week.) But have to tell you how lovely it was when it snowed yesterday. The flakes were giant and fluffy and since Oakland doesn’t experience the sort of winter I’m accustomed to, it was a treat to have snowflakes on my nose and eyelashes.

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By Gabrielle.

I know of two people who live in Lake Como, Italy: George Clooney and Cristina Cavallari. Lucky for us, one of them is with us today to take us on a tour of her family’s unique home: a monastery built in the 1400s that’s been modernized, transformed, and constantly reconfigured to hold lots of family.

There’s so much that’s interesting to me about this tour, from the idyllic location to Cristina’s commitment to ethical and organic products, the grace with which she’s preparing for her eldest’s move away from home, to a tragic circumstance that has changed her life in the past year. And when I read her thought about how she is raising her kids – “More real friendships, less internet” – my heart sang! It’s inspiring stuff, all of it, and I’m so grateful to be able to share it with you today. Friends, please give a rousing Benvenuto to Cristina! (And just as soon as Mr. Clooney has some babies, we’ll hit him up for a tour, too!)

Q: Please tell us all about this Italian family!

A: Hello! My name is Cristina Cavallari, and I live with my husband Paolo and our three kids: Miriana (19), Noa (14), Zoe (seven), plus two crazy cats called Matisse and Piggy.

Miriana is a strong creative young woman trying to determine her role in this family. Noa is a young man mad about sport, ironic, and sweet. Zoe is only seven, but she is smart and perceptive. She is practicing artistic gymnastic, always jumping, and draws with passion.

You’ve got to see the loft bedroom – it’s the coolest!

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By Gabrielle. Photos the day before Charlie was born by LK Griffin Photography.

You might know Emily Henderson as the winner of HGTV’s Design Star, or maybe you’re a fan of her hit show, Secrets From A Stylist. Perhaps you were super inspired by the rooms she designed for Joy Cho. (That brilliant and so adorable toe kick makes me happy every time I see it!) I happen to know her as a friend, so it thrills me to share a little Q and A about her most stylish project to date: her son, Charlie. From his baby shower to his stunning nursery wallpaper to Emily’s brilliant advice about new dads, this one is all about the happy. And I just love those kinds of stories, don’t you? Friends, please welcome Emily (and Brian and Charlie!)

Q: Describe the moment you learned you were pregnant. 

A: It’s crazy how even when you’ve been trying for a year, finding out you are pregnant is still somehow so shocking. I had been traveling that month and thought for sure that i had missed my days (which, by the way, was the problem and why it took so long to get pregnant: I’m a late ovulator.) so I didn’t think it was possible. I told Brian immediately in a pretty non-dramatic way and we kinda celebrated, but after having a nine week miscarriage earlier in the year we were super cautious and curbed our excitement.

This time I learned not to tell family because managing their pain can be difficult when you are trying to heal yourself. I actually felt guilty that they were so upset. So we told close friends in LA that I see all the time and couldn’t keep it a secret from, but waited to tell the rest of our family and friends until after we saw heartbeat for two ultrasounds in a row. It wasn’t until 12 weeks that it felt even kinda real, though, and I was super cautious about getting too excited for what felt like months. Part of me thinks that once you’ve had a miscarriage, you never really celebrate until that baby is in your arms. And then, my gosh, I celebrated.

The best advice for new dads, just ahead.

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What Does It Mean Books1B

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello from Washington D.C.! I’m here at the ONE.org Power Summit. I’ll be attending policy sessions about poverty and world aid throughout the day, and then receive training on how to lobby my congressmen later this afternoon. I’m very excited about it!

The group I’m here with is ONE Moms — which is the same group I traveled with to Ethiopia. It feels like a little reunion. And I’m happy as can be to get to spend time with these wonderful women. One of the women, Rana DiOrio, runs Little Pickle Press — a small publisher “dedicated to helping parents and educators cultivate conscious, responsible little people.” A wonderful goal! And I think it aligns so well with the work that ONE Moms engages in.

If  you’re someone who spends time thinking about how to raise kids that are globally minded — eager to learn about different cultures, curious about other countries, and respectful of all races and religions — there’s a set of 4 books from Little Pickle Press that are a great way to introduce these concepts to your children:

What Does It Mean To Be Global?
What Does It Mean To Be Green?
What Does It Mean to Be Safe?
What Does It Mean To Be Present?

They’re non-fiction picture books and they make excellent conversation starters between parents and kids — or in classrooms, too. They introduce important topics in an easy to understand, comfortable way, and the illustrations work hard to offer the reader a better understanding of what’s being discussed. One thing I especially appreciate about the books is that they cover some big topics without being self-righteous or judgmental. Hooray!

I’d love to hear if you’re already familiar with these books — or if you have related books you’d recommend. Feel free to add links or titles in the comments. And wish me luck on the lobbying!

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A Few Things

February 21, 2014

Donut Time sign in Oakland, California

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How’s it going? Did you have a good week? I loved having a shorter school week! At the same time, I feel like shorter work weeks throw me off my game — so I’m happy as a clam that the weekend has arrived! It should be a good one. On Saturday the family is helping out with a track meet at the high school. Then on Sunday I’m headed to Washington D.C. for the ONE.org Power Summit. It’s been years since I’ve been to D.C. and I’m really looking forward to it.

When we lived in New York, we made several fun trips to Washington as a family, but I first fell in the love with D.C. when I was in college. During the second half of my sophomore year, I moved to Washington (I lived in an apartment in Alexandria) and worked on an economics+history research project in the National Archives. I couldn’t believe I worked in the same building that houses the Constitution and Declaration of Independence! (I’m still wowed!)

I LOVED walking into that grand building every day and working at huge leather topped desks with green glass lamps. I handled original documents from Civil War Veterans — letters they wrote, forms they filled out — always hand written. Sometimes there would be photos. The research project was run by Nobel prize winner, Dr. Robert Fogel, and went on for years. I only worked on it for 6 months, and I only had a general idea about what the overall aim of the project was. It had nothing to do with graphic design, which was my college major — I was just there for the adventure!

Have you ever spent time in D.C.? Any fun plans this weekend? While I get some laundry done so I can pack, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- I think our family needs this poster. Thanks, Laura.

- What it’s like to send your child to “forest kindergarten” in Denmark.

- A glimpse of humor at the Blair house: Three very short videos (CountingPBJ and Office) that Ralph (and Ben Blair) made over the weekend. Dying laughing!

- March 8 is the National Day of Unplugging, based on the idea of the Sabbath Manifesto — taking one day a week to unwind, unplug, and get outdoors. Your thoughts?

- Some color for your wintery day: Marimekko is launching a full children’s collection!

Sweet Child O Mine re-imagined.

- My trench coat is on its last leg, so in preparation for Spring, I’m scoping out a new one. The daydream version is this Burberry number, and my reality version is from DKNY — I love the cute color options. (Can you believe the difference in price? So crazy!)

- Simple DIY wire bracelet.

- I love this Happy Birthday poster.

- Last day to vote for The Homies! Three categories: Best Family & Kids Blog, Home Projects & DIY Blogs, Home Design & Inspiration Blogs. Readers pick the top 5 and then judges add their picks too. I’m one of the judges this year!

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — What time is it? Donut Time! I snapped the sign at top here in Oakland. Isn’t it fantastic? The store is closed down now, but my mouth waters just reading the sign.

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Brimful Toys Giveaway

February 20, 2014

DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

The baby crazy in my life continues — it seems like everyone I know is growing their family! So this giveaway is perfectly timed. It’s sponsored by Brimful, a happy shop stocking the most wonderful toys and gifts for babies, ages 0-18 months. For a prize, they’re offering a generous $150 store credit so you can choose your favorites for all the lovely babies in your life!

Wooden Camera from Brimful Toy Shop brimful toys spring 2014

Created by two mothers, Brimful focuses on stocking modern, whimsical and well-crafted items — toys, decor, books and accessories. Since Brimful is still quite new on the scene, I thought you might enjoy this little video introducing the company:

There are several sweet items I have bookmarked for baby gifts — the heart blanket, this little doll from Spain, and the snail sorter are among my favorites. I love picking out sweet things for babies!

Extra fun: Brimful is offering a 15% off coupon to all Design Mom Readers. The code is DM15OFF and is good through March 1st.

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

——-

Pepper is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Olive Us: Nursery Rhymes

February 20, 2014

Text and photos by Gabrielle.

I’ve got another episode of Olive Us to share with you today. It’s called Nursery Rhymes and it’s a charmer! It features a collection of animal masks that we amassed while we lived in France — and that happily hang in our Oakland playroom today.

Nursery Rhymes10 Nursery Rhymes11

Masks like these, in dozens of variations, are available at toy shops throughout France, and I found them irresistible. Though our visitors sometimes had differing reactions — some friends found the masks creepy as can be. Hah!

Nursery Rhymes06 Nursery Rhymes05 Nursery Rhymes02

The masks are so distinctive, that we thought it would be fun to use them in an episode — and nursery rhymes turned out to be a perfect fit. It was fun to come up with a list of which rhymes we would feature — and work in a few fairytale references too — like The Three Bears.

Enjoy the episode! I love how this one turned out. I’d love to know: What’s your reaction to the masks? Lovely or scary? And do you have a favorite nursery rhyme?

Click here for behind-the-scenes images from the shoot.

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Bargain DIY Concrete Floor

February 19, 2014

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I’m pleased as punch to tell you about the concrete floor experiment that we tried in the reading loft of The Treehouse. I love how it turned out! The texture is wonderful. The floor looks layered and feels like it has depth — but the whole surface is barely 1/8″ deep! It’s easy to clean and maintain. It has the industrial look I am every drawn to. Plus, it was inexpensive and totally DIY-doable.

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

I originally thought we would put carpet in the loft, but then I changed my mind and thought I would rather install a sweepable surface with an area rug on top. I made some inquiries about concrete floors and was told the weight of true concrete would be too heavy for this area, so I shifted my attention to tiles. But about that time, Jenny Komenda published a blog post about resurfacing her laundry room counter with a thin layer of concrete and I wondered if I could try the same method on the reading loft floor to achieve a concrete look without the heavy weight.

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

I finally concluded: why not try? The space is small and a low-traffic area. The materials are a bargain, so if it failed it wasn’t too great of a loss. Plus, if it was a disaster, I could cover it with tile or hardwood and hide the evidence. : ) So I gathered the materials, and when Ben Blair was in France (and I was consequently bored)  I went for it!

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

Would you like to see how it came together?

Click here for the full tutorial.

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By Gabrielle.

Sarah Wallace decided to submit her home for a Living With Kids tour for a pretty unique reason: she wanted to fall just as in love with her home as the ones she’s been pinning and ogling online. She felt frustrated when her gaze shifted from the clutter-free, design perfect scenes on her monitor to her own less than idyllic space, clutter-filled most days. And she didn’t enjoy that feeling at all. None of us do, right?

So she decided to put a little lipstick on her home, straighten its skirt a bit, and let it shine for us…and for her. (Full disclosure: Sarah would like you to know what it looked like just outside of the frame of most of the pictures. Piles of paper and clutter were removed from her kitchen counters, there may be dirty dishes hiding in the sink, and all the craft supplies from the dining room table were shifted to the stairs during the photo shoot! Thanks for keeping it real, Sarah!)

Friends, I hope you enjoy the dressed up version of the Wallace family home. More importantly, I hope you take away a little bit of reassurance that pictures aren’t always worth a thousand words and all our attention; sometimes, it’s all the stuff that we try to edit that tells us the most about our lives. Welcome Sarah!

Q: Please tell us all about your family.

A: Our family consists of four people and two animals: myself, my husband Joey, our sons Oscar and Archie, our dog Lucy, and our chinchilla Matthias.

There may be a mess outside of the camera’s reach, but the rest is gorgeous!

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Slow Cooker Recipe: Three Bean Chili Deluxe. This recipe has won chili-cookoffs all over the country!   |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos by Lindsey of Café Johnsonia.

We are exactly 7 months into our new life in Oakland, and frustratingly, we are still trying to get a handle on our family schedule. Coming up with dinners continues to be one of our biggest challenges — and I know that’s not unusual for families everywhere. In fact, I get emails almost weekly asking for tips and suggestions about weeknight meals and menu ideas. And I get it. So often at our house, we find ourselves looking at our clock and saying, “Dinnertime already?!” At which point, we cross our fingers that there are spaghetti ingredients in the cupboards, or order out for pizza, or hit the drive-thru.

But the whole family is pretty discouraged with the last-minute meals at this point, so Ben Blair and I have vowed to do better. Over the years we’ve gone through crummy eating phases now and again, so this isn’t the first time we’ve had to regroup. Luckily, at this point we know the big trick that works for us: We decide on the dinner menu before we start work that day.

This works for us because we aren’t caught off guard when meal time rolls around, and we can also note if any early prep needs to be done during the day (like marinating something), and work it into our schedule. It’s also a chance to check that we have the needed ingredients, and if not, we can also plan a stop at the grocery store into our daily errands. I don’t know if this trick works for all families, but for us it’s magic!

Slow Cooker Recipe: Three Bean Chili Deluxe. This recipe has won chili-cookoffs all over the country!   |   Design Mom

In addition to deciding the dinner menu first thing in the morning, we’ve also been making use of slow-cooking techniques. Yes, it’s great to have dinner decisions made when mealtime rolls around, but it’s even better to have dinner cooked and ready to go! So I thought it would be fun to share a series of slow-cooker recipes that our family loves. Most will be longtime family favorites (like today’s recipe), and some will be new-to-us recipes we’re trying out.

I’m super excited about this new series! I hope it will be helpful to you, and I hope you’ll share your own tips and suggestions on every post. As usual, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Are you in a recipe rut? Any particular foods you hope I’ll cover? Thoughts on the series in general? Let me know!

One more note before we jump into the recipe: I don’t actually use an electric slow cooker! Since we work at home, and aren’t leaving the cooking food unattended, we typically do our slow cooking on the stove top in a heavy pot (as described here). But these recipes will work for any type of slow cooking — crock pots included!

And now, without further ado, the first recipe in this new series: Award Winning Three Bean Chili Deluxe!

Click for the recipe and tips!

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A Few Things

February 14, 2014

garance dore i love you guys

By Gabrielle. I snapped the image during Garance Doré’s Keynote at Alt Summit — it was one of her slides.

Hello, Friends. Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you are having a day filled with love and kindness — or at the very least, I hope you get to indulge in something sweet to eat. : ) Since Valentine’s Day isn’t much of a thing in France, we didn’t really celebrate the last few years, and we’ve been getting a kick out of the school festivities this week.

Ben Blair and I have no official plans this evening (that sounds so unromantic!), but we had a lovely little family breakfast this morning, and tonight, Maude is inviting friends over to watch chick flicks and wants to set up a pink and red dessert table a la Amy Atlas. Should be fun!

But the thing I’m looking forward to most is that this morning, I’m hoping to visit the famed White Elephant Sale here in Oakland. Alex told me all about it and it sounds amazing! I’ll be donating some lamps and seeing what it’s all about. I hope they let me take pictures so I can share with you. In the meantime, here are a few things I thought you might enjoy:

- Old floppy disk drives put to good use.

- Do you think any of these are true? I gasped at several! Via Dooce.

- Ben Blair was interviewed about Olive Us and our family reading habits and his answers are so good! You will love the thoughts he shares. I promise.

Seattle’s Food Forest — a public park filled with fruit-bearing plants that citizens are free to harvest. Love this idea so much!

- If your house is in the middle of a bed-wetting situation, these peel-away waterproof sheets sound interesting.

- Just heard about cobra weaves and I’m obsessed! Find a simple tutorial here. Seems like a genius way to spend some time if you’re snowed in or rained in.

- A kid’s room that I fell in love with.

- What do you think of this gratitude-focused kickstarterThanks, Amy.

- Related to oil-pulling, apparently toothpaste was invented by an American businessman — he used habit/cue behavior to make it into a product people would use daily. Fascinating! Thanks, Etta.

- Cool promo for the Grand Canyon Half Marathon (my brother’s race!). The heart-pumping shot is at 1:34.

- The Boy Scouts are helping lobby UNESCO to make the D-Day Beaches a protected site. Thanks, Mary.

- It’s not too late to enjoy the Winter Olympics! Here are 16 fun ideas so you can celebrate with your kids or host a little viewing party.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend! Schools are out in Oakland on Monday for President’s Day so we’re getting 3-days off. You too? Speaking of President’s Day, here are 17 silly and fun and cool little crafts you can do to acknowledge the big day.

I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Hey. I know Valentine’s Day can feel like salt in the wound if you’re feeling lonely already. Please know that I’m sending my best wishes and happy vibes to get you through the rest of the day. It’s almost over! Just think, starting tomorrow there will be 95% less of those awful jewelry commercials. Hang in there.

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Tea Collection Giveaway

February 13, 2014

DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

I’m delighted about today’s giveaway. Fabulous Tea Collection is the sponsor and they’re offering a generous $150 gift certificate!

tea collection women1

Do you know Tea Collection? They are one of my all-time favorite children’s clothing lines. The quality of their clothing is outstanding, and I love that they take design inspiration from cultures all around the world. Their collections feel modern with traditional influences, and their color palettes are always really delicious.

tea collection women2

Something you might not know: Tea Collection has a Women’s Line as well! And it’s wonderful. Pretty silhouettes and flattering cuts. Pieces you’ll want to wear every day.Want to try it out? You’re in luck! Use the code DM15WOMENS to get 15% off any item in the women’s line! But if you want to use the code, act fast — it expires at 11:59 pm on Friday, 2/14 (that’s tomorrow!).

Dibs on the Casablanca striped top — it’s calling my name!

tea collection kids 0214

And yes, Tea Collection is still making their wonderful children’s clothing too. In fact one of their women’s tops coordinates with one of their girl’s dresses. So sweet!

Visit Tea Collection and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to hear what pieces catch your eye first. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

——-

Erin is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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vintage dishwasher image

By Gabrielle. Tons of vintage dishwasher images here.

Fun fact: over the weekend we got a microwave! It’s just a little one, but it gets great reviews — and it won’t take up too much space in our kitchen.

I realize microwaves are nothing new, but as it turns out, we haven’t had one for over 3 years! It wasn’t really intentional, it just sort of happened. When we moved to France, the house we rented didn’t have a microwave. At first we wondered if microwaves were looked down upon in France, but learned later that wasn’t really the case. They are widely available anywhere small appliances are sold, and it wasn’t unusual for us to see one in our friends’ homes. Our landlords just preferred going old school, and didn’t keep one in their home.

Since we were embracing the full La Cressonnière life (and originally thought we’d only be there for a year), we decided we didn’t need a microwave either.

It took some getting used to. In fact, little June was only 9 months old when we moved to France, and I missed having a microwave to warm up tiny baby portions. But after a few weeks, we formed new habits and didn’t miss the microwave at all.

Then, when we moved here, though The Treehouse came furnished, the previous homeowners weren’t microwave users. So once again, we were in a microwave-less home. And since we were out of practice using them, it didn’t occur to us to buy one until recently.

This made me wonder: is there a “modern convenience” that you currently live without? I’m thinking of things like dishwashers, laundry machines, microwaves —maybe even Kitchen Aid mixers and toaster ovens. And if you had to choose, which one could you absolutely not live without?

For me, laundry in my home is essential! Second, would be the dishwasher. We’ve had a dishwasher in our home since we first moved to New York in 2001 — it would be hard to give it up. In fact, the dishwasher here at The Treehouse broke within a week of moving here (it was from the 80′s and on its very last leg), and we had it replaced within the month. We missed it too much!

As for other “modern conveniences”, I’m pretty flexible. I can live without a microwave. And I’ve never actually owned a stand mixer (what would Raleigh say if she knew? Hah!).

How about you?

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By Gabrielle.

I am utterly fascinated by high-rise family living. I think of all the little things, like getting groceries up 30 floors – which is an entirely different dilemma if the elevators aren’t running! Or, do dwellers in the sky ever miss having a backyard just outside the door? They probably have far less mud in their foyers. And how do you create that sense of indoor-outdoor childhood freedom when getting outside from the super-elevated inside involves a bit of planning? Today’s high up home shows us that it can be done.

Juliana‘s place in Hong Kong, with its endless views and unique space considerations, reminds me of a nest. I love the thought she put into creating a warm and workable family home in what was once a plain white box of an apartment. Friends, I know you’re going to enjoy this very different, very citified Living With Kids tour. Welcome, Juliana!

Q: Tell us all about this family living up high in Hong Kong!

A: We are myself, my husband Jeff, and our three year old daughter Ella. When we arrived eight years ago, I thought we’d be here three years max…but life plants roots even 30+ floors up in the sky!

Jeff is a teacher. He has his own football (soccer) charity for Down Syndrome children. He’s very passionate about life and definitely a giver. He’s a family man and our rock. I’m an Architect with a practice in HK doing both commercial and residential projects. I love designing and making things. It’s a part of my mind that doesn’t want to rest. Ella hasn’t started school yet, but she takes dance, does lots of art, loves exploring around HK, and of course plays football. She’s a really good mix of us.

Jeff loves to write and I’m very visual, so a few months ago we began a blog called The Guest Room in which we both contribute weekly blogs along with some friends about life in HK. It’s our way of bringing our worlds together targeting designers, parents, thinkers, and everything in between.

Beautiful views, inside and out, straight ahead!

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Donut Valentines

February 10, 2014

I Like You a "Hole" Bunch.  |  Donut Valentine's by Design Mom  #freeprintable

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.

Every year, I try to come up with a really good last-minute Valentine idea. Something you can whip up the night before, long after the craft store has closed. This donut valentine is perfect! It will work with a fresh batch of heavenly Krispy Kremes, but will be just as charming with a box of “donettes” from the grocery store (or the gas station!).

This I think we can agree on: everyone loves donuts. So, if you want to win over your Valentine, the odds are in your favor that a ribbon-clad donut will do the trick.

I Like You a "Hole" Bunch.  |  Donut Valentine's by Design Mom  #freeprintable

This might appear to be a very simple Valentine and happily, I can tell you it most definitely is. Bonus? A free printable of the tags!

I Like You a "Hole" Bunch.  |  Donut Valentine's by Design Mom  #freeprintable I Like You a "Hole" Bunch.  |  Donut Valentine's by Design Mom  #freeprintable

So grab a dozen donuts (plus some extras because I can’t resist), and let’s get started.

Click here for the full tutorial, plus the free printable.

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6 Books for Valentine's Day   |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

One of my favorite things to give on Valentine’s Day is books. You can find dozens of sweet and beautiful choices under $15 (often under $10!). A book is a treasure, but doesn’t feel extravagant, which I think is perfect — I don’t like to go over-the-top on Valentine’s Day.

These picks would be especially sweet for February 14th. Order one today and it will arrive in time — or stop by your nearest local shop.

1) You Know What I Love
We have a copy of this and June has requested it every night since it arrived. She knows it so well now that she “reads” it to us! About a doll and her girl.

2) Monday Hearts for Madalene.
Every Monday, Madalene would wake to find a heart created just for her. The sweetest token of true love.

3) Love Letters
200 letters from over the centuries. Some historical and some fictional. Who doesn’t enjoy a good love letter? For years, Ben Blair and I exchanged a hand-written love letter on Valentine’s Day, but at some point we stopped. Will this be the year we start it up again? I hope so. (Which reminds me, did any of you see the movie Her?)

4) Counting Kisses
Get this one as a board book for your toddler or baby, then read it at bedtime. “How many kisses does a tired baby need?”

5) Hearts
An offering from Toon Books, this is a good pick for a girl or a boy — and this is what Betty will be receiving this year. What happens when Penelope the Fox drops her heart into the sea? A beautiful adventure.

6) I Like You
I know. I know. I recommend this every year. But it’s still so good! I’m quite sure everyone should own a copy. A sweet gift for a teenage crush. A sweet gift for a favorite teacher. A sweet gift for a husband or wife. A sweet gift from a parent to a child. A sweet gift for a dear friend. It’s perfect every time.

Will you be giving any books for Valentine’s Day? Feel free to share your picks in the comments.

P.S. — Ten more Valentine’s Day book picks.

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A Few Things

February 7, 2014

Bradamant + Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. I’m writing to you from rainy Oakland — and grateful as can be for the rain! California has been experiencing a severe drought, so we’re welcoming as much rain as we can get.

Before I forget, I’ve been meaning to report back about the Bradamant bodysuit that I wrote about last month. I first wore it to Alt Summit, and I’ve worn it a bunch since — because it is awesome! The first time I wore it, I put it on in the morning and then had a fairly intense day with tons of movement. And I never had to adjust my clothes, or re-tuck, or think about my shirt at all! Plus, because of the loose way The Mogul drapes, I didn’t feel the need to wear spanx or suck in my tummy at all. I was comfortable all day long! I felt polished and professional too. That’s a shot of me in The Mogul at top. Here’s another shot (with the fabulous Garance Doré!).

In contrast, I brought 2 other silky shirts to the conference, non-bodysuits, and eventually ended up having to tuck them into my underwear because they were looking so sloppy as they moved around. Hah! (I know I’m not the only one who has resorted to that trick.) It’s a temporary fix at best. I much prefer the bodysuit.

As for bathroom breaks, admittedly I take less than average during the day, but I didn’t find the closure difficult to use — it’s identical to a bra clasp. Easy peasy. I know that’s a little random for a Friday post, but I didn’t want to forget! Have any of you tried one of their bodysuits yet? Feel free to report!

Other than that, I’m looking forward to a good weekend. We’ll be tuning in to the Winter Olympics, and I’ve got a carpenter looking at wood today to give me a bid on the reading loft cubbies/bookshelves. While I wait to hear from him, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- First world problems aren’t actually problems.

- The clothes store where everything is free.

- Attracting newcomers to the ballet. Thank you, Jennifer.

- Weaving connections.

- A magical fairytale nursery.

- My brother in law’s homecoming from Afghanistan was covered on the news. So good! Made me cry.

- The good news: the boots I wanted to splurge on last fall are on major sale at Nordstrom. The bad news: none in my size!

- Related: I spent a lovely evening last night searching out rain boots. This colorblock pair is at the top of my list. (Or is rainy season in Oakland going to be over in two seconds?)

- An essay about what a stay-at-home-mom actually does with her time.

- Children rescued from Nazi death camps reunited with their rescuer.

- This is how I talk my kids into keeping up their French. : ) Thanks, Kacy.

- Make a simple, special Valentine’s breakfast for your family (it’s one of our favorite traditions!). Here are 20 ideas for your menu.

- Also, when we set the table for Valentine’s breakfast, we like to leave a small gift — like these — on each plate.

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Felt Treat Boxes

February 7, 2014

DIY Felt Boxes for Valentine's Day — make cut outs in the top in any shape you like!   |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.

Let the countdown begin! Valentine’s Day is in one week. And I’ve got the perfect little project for you just in time. Present your Valentine with a handmade felt box, complete with a custom design cut out made just for them. Simple construction with a sophisticated look that can hide any number of sweet treats and gifts inside.

Make them for your kids, your honey, or even for classmates. In fact, Betty really wants to give these at her class party. We’ll see how ambitious we’re feeling!

DIY Felt Boxes for Valentine's Day — make cut outs in the top in any shape you like!   |   Design Mom

I should note, these little gift boxes aren’t just limited to the heart-filled holidays. They can be modified and styled for any time you need to give a gift. Think birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s Day or a random Wednesday when you feel extra kind.

DIY Felt Boxes for Valentine's Day — make cut outs in the top in any shape you like!   |   Design Mom

This project was adapted with custom lids from the excellent tutorial on How About Orange. I love how the top-cutouts add another dimension, more color options, and a whole different feeling to the boxes.

DIY Felt Boxes for Valentine's Day — make cut outs in the top in any shape you like!   |   Design Mom

The gift recipient of these will have so many reasons to love you. It’s a kind gesture, includes a thoughtful gift and is encased in a beautiful gift box. Win, win and win.

DIY Felt Boxes for Valentine's Day — make cut outs in the top in any shape you like!   |   Design Mom

Grab your scissors and glue gun and let’s get started.

Click here for the full tutorial.

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