designmom

By Gabrielle.

Birth photography sounds like it would be one of the most interesting careers, doesn’t it? At the same time, it also must be wildly unpredictable and crazy emotional! Add in the ability to blend seamlessly in an intimate, high-pressure environment, and — yes — birth photography would take some interesting skill sets!

So I am excited that Ashley offered to tell us more about it all. And let me warn you: I teared up at least three times when I read her thoughts. Be prepared. Whether you’ve had one baby or a few, or whether you’re still dreaming about it, or even if that’s nowhere near your goals, you’ll be moved at the artistry at Ashley’s experiences. Welcome, Ashley!

Q: Tell us about yourself and your family.

A: My family and I live on a pocket vest sized farm in Southwestern Vermont that my college beau, James and I have aptly named Cartwheel Farm. We use and abuse any opportunity to get punny with our last name CART – thus Cartwheel Farm and Blog a la Cart. There may be a “borrowed” grocery sign or two that’s found its way into our home – think “Please Return Your Cart Here” – welcoming you in our entryway. Together we parent our two daughters, Addison (Sunny), age five, and Courtland (Kaki) age two and a half, a super mutt Hanna, a new puppy, Gladdy who we welcomed into our family this fall after losing our beloved 3-legged dog Ursa to cancer, a potbelly pig aptly named Penelope and a flock of chickens. I am itching to add alpacas to our current brood of animals as I am a knitting addict and would love to learn to make my own stash of yarn…and James would love to save our bank account from the effects of this current addiction with some homemade yarn.

We were living in Los Angeles when our eldest daughter was born, and shortly after her birth decided to simplify and move back east closer to both of our families. Admittedly, we’re both thoroughly smitten with rural life and miss the freeways of L.A. not in the least, though I do miss the ocean desperately and the ability to nosh a #2 Animal Style at will. I turned 30 last year, and had you told my 20-year old self that my big “goals” in ten years would include mastering the art of tomato growing and learning to bake the most authentic loaf of French bread in my own kitchen, I would have called you crazy. And yet, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Much more beauty, just ahead.

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Easy & Pretty! Make an Etched Soap Pump for Child's Teacher   |   #teacherschangelives

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.  //  This post is brought to you by Office Depot’s #TeachersChangeLives program. Register your child’s classroom, so the students have the school supplies they need to succeed.

The end of the school year is approaching fast and I know you’re  thinking about something nice you can do for your child’s teacher. As you may remember, a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about teachers having to buy supplies for their classrooms out of their own pockets (you guys left the best comments!), so it won’t surprise you to hear that I think the best gift would be a donation for classroom supplies using Adopt A Classroom + Office Depot!

Final Infographic (new colors)

Teachers buy so many things for their students — from basic food, to warm coats, to field trips — and there are so many good, straight out of the box, practical items that would make great gifts. But I know sometimes it feels special to give a handmade gift, so I thought it would be fun to come up with something that would work at school or at home, and that could be personalized too.

Etched soap pumps fit the bill wonderfully! They’re easy to make, they look great, and you can pair them with a classroom donation, or give them as a stand alone gift.

Easy & Pretty! Make an Etched Soap Pump for Child's Teacher   |   #teacherschangelives

This is a smart, usable gift for teachers, but really, it will work for anyone on your list at any time of the year — a housewarming gift, a hostess gift, a neighbor gift at the holidays — or make some for your own house.

Easy & Pretty! Make an Etched Soap Pump for Child's Teacher   |   #teacherschangelives

The etching is so fun to do, you’ll want to etch every piece of glassware you have. Gather friends and have an etching party!

Easy & Pretty! Make an Etched Soap Pump for Child's Teacher   |   #teacherschangelives

Come and check out this simple project.

Click here for the full tutorial.

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Twin Cities

April 22, 2014

Gabrielle Stanley Blair at HOBY

By Gabrielle.

I’ve got an adventure today: I’m headed to Minneapolis this afternoon! Remember the Mrs. Meyers Clean Day #GetMessyContest I wrote about? Well. The winner was chosen! I’m headed to her house, near the Twin Cities, to host a big craft party tomorrow night. I can’t wait. It’s going to be awesome! And no doubt I’ll be instagramming up a storm if you’d like to follow along.

I’m feeling quite nostalgic because I haven’t been to Minneapolis since the summer I turned 16 years old. That’s teenage me above — with big earrings and even bigger hair — pictured with actor, Hugh O’Brian. The photo was taken on that Minnesota trip of long ago.

Sixteen-year-old me was there for a HOBY Leadership Conference (HOBY stands for Hugh OBrian Youth Foundation). I’m not sure if it still works the same way, but at the time, each state hosted a leadership conference for 15 year olds — I think it’s typically one kid per high school in attendance. Then two delegates from each of those state conferences go to a Worldwide Conference where those state delegates, plus kids from all over the world, spend a week together taking classes and hearing speakers and getting inspired to make the world a better place.

Oh, I wanted to be one of the delegates so bad! I went through interview after interview about politics and current events and pretended I knew what I was talking about. I would reference Orwell’s Animal Farm — it always seemed to impress the adults. Hah!

And it worked! I got to go!

Click to read some of my favorite memories from that teenage trip — including the briefest of romances with a boy from Ireland!

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By Gabrielle.

[ Note: House Tour are always, always posted on Tuesday. Except this time. It's an odd week at my house, which makes for an odd posting schedule. : ) ]

Imagine relocating from Brooklyn to Austin. The different paces of life and even language would shock even the best of us, right? But a drastic move was exactly what Jessica and her kids needed after a devastating loss. When she told me her story, I lost my words for more than a few moments, but when I found them again all I could think was “Jessica, you are brave, brave, brave.” And that didn’t even begin to cover it.

I know you’ll be inspired by Jessica’s hunt for happiness, and join me in hoping for an easier life for her in the sunshine days to come. Please, enjoy this tour. Welcome, Jessica!

Q: Please tell us all about your East Coast family living in the heart of Texas!

A: It’s been an adjustment for sure! The first couple weeks I was here, when I talked to people they would ask me to slow down! The driving thing has been rough, too, but we’ve adjusted nicely.

Most of the reason we picked Austin was that it’s pretty hip! They have a great recycling program, farmers markets, our lovely food coop Wheatsville, and we can even find a decent baguette!

I’m an active tennis loving, book reading, know-it-all with a propensity towards over-friendliness. After nine years in various marketing positions, I started my own business! I’m a ENTJ and – according to The Tipping Point – a connector. I really love putting people in touch with great products and services, so running an expectant parent expo and parents group have been perfect avenues for my personality.

Emilia Emanuele, my nearly five year old princess, only wears pink and purple, loves My Little Pony and Littlest Pet Shop, but has no issue with stripping down to play in a mud puddle at the drop of a hat. She’s insanely smart. Not much is lost on her, a trait she gets from her dad. She walked just before she turned nine months, and I’ll forever associate her with that fierce determination she had on her face as she got up and walked to me.

Lucien Michel wasn’t supposed to have a very French name at all but somehow does! Lulu, as we call him, is our little oddity. Despite being half-French, he doesn’t kiss anyone. He only licks people! But he’s so kind and sweet to his core. He loves anything with wheels.

So much wonderful plus a necessary reminder for all of us! Straight ahead…

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A Few Things

April 18, 2014

Lake Tahoe

Image and text by Gabrielle — we loved our Spring Break trip to Lake Tahoe!

Hello, Friends. How are you? Will you be thinking about Easter or Passover this weekend? We have a French student named Victor arriving today, and my mom is coming to town tomorrow! We’re planning an egg hunt on Sunday afternoon here in the wild yard of The Treehouse, followed by a casual family dinner with cousins — The Stanleys and Ferneys. I’m really looking forward to it!

But before all of that, my big event is that my permanent retainer — put onto my lower teeth 20 years ago — is coming off today! I head to the orthodontist in a few minutes. And then, I’m sure I’ll be running my tongue across my bottom teeth nonstop for the next 24 hours. : )

How about you — any fun plans for the weekend? While I prep for the ortho, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Baby’s Breath Crown.

- Is gentrification a form of violence?

- Baby chicks!

- An NPR story on Why Babies Cry at Night. What do think about it?

- Closing the word gap with Thirty Million Words.

- A Montessori-style playroom at home.

- A moonlight Easter-egg hunt for teens or adults.

- This is long — but I think worth it. It’s a comedy routine by Dimitri Martin, but it’s unlike any comedy routine I’ve ever seen — and I’ve seen Dimitri live! So I’m familiar with his style. But this is different. So honest. (FYI: he’s crude sometimes.)

- Genius DIY confetti wrap.

- A tour of the British Isles in accents.

- Do you have any Minted artwork hanging in your home? I want to see! Snap a photo and send it to me, and I may feature it in an upcoming post.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend — with lots of chocolate and Peeps, too! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — Our kids are missing some of the Easter candy from France.

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Geometric Wire Bunny

April 18, 2014

DIY Wire Geometric Bunnies. Oversize and Mini. Perfect for Easter!    |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.

Okay you guys, can you handle one more fun little project before Easter is officially here? (Please say yes!) Today, let’s make modern geometric bunnies. It’s a simple idea — wire formed to make the shape of a bunny — but it can be used in so many fun ways!

It was a little bit of a challenge to find the right wire but now that the leg work is done, it won’t be as tough for you. Plus, there’s a free downloadable template to help you out. There are two bunny versions in the photos. One is small and simple — you could make a dozen of these fairly quickly. The other version is oversize. As in 3 feet wide! It’s a little more challenging, but still totally doable.

DIY Wire Geometric Bunnies. Oversize and Mini. Perfect for Easter!    |   Design Mom

The smaller one is pictured here as a napkin ring, but it would also be adorable as an accent on a gift. Or you could hang one sweetly from an Easter basket. Or you could attach a long ribbon and use it as a springtime bookmark!

The larger one is oversize and quite dramatic. Hang it on your door in place of a wreath. Or display it on the wall above the sofa. It looks good as both interior and exterior decoration — and you can customize the color with ribbons!

DIY Wire Geometric Bunnies. Oversize and Mini. Perfect for Easter!    |   Design Mom

Get ready to flex those muscles, the directions are below.

Click here for the full tutorial.

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Boden Giveaway

April 17, 2014

DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

Yay! I have a giveaway today that I’ve been really looking forward to. I know you’ll absolutley love it. It’s sponsored by the fabulous clothing line Boden, and the prize is a very generous $250 gift certificate!

Boden Boys Spring 2014

The reason I’ve been looking forward to this particular giveaway is that I’ve been a huge fan of Boden for many, many years (I first started receiving their catalog ages ago when we lived in New York), but this is the first time I’ve worked with Boden here on Design Mom. It’s always fun to connect with a brand I love!

If Boden is new to you, I’m delighted to make an introduction. Boden is all about great British style and they have an extensive line for everyone in the family. For babies age 0-3, and kids up to 12 years, check out Mini-Boden. For teens and tweens age 9 to 16, there’s Johnnie B. And they also carry an equally extensive line for women and men.

In this post, I’m going to tell you a little bit about the Mini Boden line, but Best News Ever: the gift certificate works across the entire Boden USA site, so if you win, you can use it for anyone you like! (Speaking of which, if I won I would personally be tempted to buy every one of their skirts for myself — so many fresh designs and perfect lengths.)

Boden Girls Spring 2014

But back to Mini Boden for a bit. Their line for kids focuses on unique designs in quality clothes that make children happy. Their products last wash after wash, and are built so well, you’ll hand them down from sibling to sibling. Mini-Boden clothes are also built for comfort — they use super-soft fabrics and realistic fits so children can have fun in their clothes. But my favorite part is that the clothes are so stylish!

Two bits of Extra Fun: 1) Use code X8W4 to get 15% off plus free shipping until Saturday, April 19th. And 2) Starting Monday, April 21 and lasting through the week, Boden is offering 25% off daily favorites — use the code X6K7 for free shipping and free returns!

This giveaway is open to anyone, but you must have access to a US-based shipping address because the gift card will only be valid on the BodenUSA.com site. Visit Boden and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to hear if you’re shopping for you or for your kids these days. : ) The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

P.S. — Products pictured here: Classic swim trunks. Sailing jacket. Metallic leather sandals. Hip floral jumpsuit. Pretty printed tea dress. Striped polo romper. Chino shorts in great colors. Summer shirt button up. Spotty ruffle skirt. Floral printed swimsuit.

——

Meg S is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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Oil Pulling Update

April 16, 2014

oil pulling

Image and text by Gabrielle.

In January, I wrote a post about oil-pulling and confessed that I hadn’t brushed my teeth since the first week of December. It’s been a few months and I thought I would give a little update.

It’s a short update! Basically, I’m still at it. I still oil pull every morning for 20 minutes — even when I’m traveling. I still love it. I still see benefits. I still use this coconut oil. I still haven’t seen the dentist (I know. I know. I need to go!), but I have been to the orthodontist, who took full x-rays. He doesn’t know I’m oil-pulling, but commented that my oral hygiene was (and I quote) “impeccable”. That’s good news! Especially considering my teeth haven’t been professionally cleaned since July 2013.

Most of all, I still think it’s quite crazy that I don’t brush or floss or use toothpaste or mouthwash. And I haven’t for almost 5 months now. Hah!

I promise, I’m not offended at all if you feel like it’s quackery. This is not something I feel like a passionate advocate for — I haven’t asked anyone to try it, even my kids. And I get that other people might try it and decide they don’t like it at all. For me, it’s a pretty straightforward thing and doesn’t involve much mystery — I can see and feel that my teeth are cleaner after oil pulling, I can tell that my breath is better, I can see that my teeth are whiter. If I didn’t experience physical differences after the oil pulling, I’m sure I would have given it up. But for now, I plan to stick with it until I don’t enjoy it anymore.

I’d love to hear what your thoughts are. Have you tried oil pulling? Did you like it? Did you find it impossible to swish for 20 minutes? Have you tried different oils? Does the whole idea make you roll your eyes? Chime in!

P.S. — If you have no idea what I’m talking about when I say oil pulling, start with this post, where I explain what I know about oil pulling and link to more sources on the subject.

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Slow Cooker Recipe: Overnight Steel Cut Oats   |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Images by Lindsey of Café Johnsonia.

It’s time for another recipe in my Slow Cooker Series — and this time it’s a breakfast option. Did you know how easy it is to make steel cut oats in a slow cooker? So easy!

Put them in before bed and when you wake, they’re warm and ready to dish up. Normally steel cut oats take nearly an hour to cook, which can be tough on a school morning. Using a slow cooker bypasses that hour on the stove, so there’s no active cooking time and it’s ready to go when everyone is getting up and going. It feels good to send the kids off to school with a wholesome warm breakfast in their tummies, and anything that frees up time on busy mornings is a plus!

Slow Cooker Recipe: Overnight Steel Cut Oats   |   Design Mom

This recipe makes quite a bit — 8 servings or so depending on how big the servings (or the appetites) are. And one of the best parts is that you can add your choice of toppings, so you can vary the options endlessly. You could even host a family oatmeal buffet!

Have you ever tried steel cut oats? If you’ve been meaning to, try this recipe first.

Click for the recipe and tips!

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Eagle Falls Lake Tahoe

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello! I’m waving from Lake Tahoe. The shot above was taken at Eagle Falls on the south side of the lake — it is gorgeous here! And I’ve been instagramming up a storm.

Oh you guys. I’ve got such fun things coming up! At the end of this month, I’ll be hosting a big sale for Joss & Main — and the whole sale is inspired by my living room. In fact, I’ll be sharing a full photo tour of the living room on the day the sale launches. I’m so excited about it! And so pleased with how the room has come together.

I was supposed to shoot the living room last week, but the shoot was pushed to this week because we were waiting on a delivery. So as soon as we get home from Lake Tahoe, I’ll be putting on my stylist hat and whipping the living room details into shape.

It feels really good to get some of the spaces in the house finished. I think having photo shoots on the schedule works really well for me, because it creates a deadline so that I “finish” each room. It can be easy for me to procrastinate certain design decisions, but having a due date forces me to get into gear. Obviously, the room can and will change after the photo shoot, but it’s a great opportunity to get the details of the room in place, and then mark the space off my mental checklist and turn my attention to other projects.

For those of you who are curious, I thought it would be fun to share a little preview of what you’ll find in the upcoming sale. It’s still a couple of weeks away, so none of this is guaranteed — availability can change overnight! But this will still give you a good idea of what to expect. Take a look:

joss and main preview2

What do you think? Does anything here catch your eye? And how do you know when a room in your house is “finished”? Or is the design of your home an endless and ongoing process?

Mark your calendars! The Design Mom Sale for Joss & Main will launch on April 29th. Can’t wait!

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By Gabrielle.

Wouldn’t it be neat to live in an arty loft? No walls to obstruct views, maybe some exposed ductwork and a few brick walls, with city lights twinkling all around. Oh, it seems to me like the design possibilities in one would be as endless as the ceiling height! But then reality sets in, and I wonder how I would divide space for six kids and one Ben Blair and also one me! It would have to be a pretty long loft, wouldn’t it?

Katie, however, is living the loft dream. What began as her husband’s super cool bachelor pad and spent many years being thought of as the wrong sort of house for the Gnau family, suddenly turned into the perfect home for one daughter and one Tony and also one Katie. Isn’t it funny how a simple change of mindset can make all the difference in how well you’re living? Friends, please join me in welcoming this loft-loving Chicago family!

Q: Please tell us all about your family!

A: Our family includes my husband Tony, our two year old daughter B, our two cats Maggie and Hermione, and countless dolls and stuffed animals.

Tony is an Emmy-award winning journalist and writer who runs our family business, T60 Productions. Lucky for B and I, he also uses his creative talent to document much of our personal life; our home videos are amazing! He’s athletic, creative, kind, successful, and good looking. I still feel like I hit the jackpot every time I remember I’m actually married to him.

B is often described as pragmatic. She’s an aspiring ballerina who loves the color pink. She loves to bury herself in a pile of books. She has the gift of gab, and can entertain herself all day long playing with dolls and stuffed animals.

More loft living to inspire you, just ahead!

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Easy Cabbage Dyed Eggs

April 14, 2014

Dye Eggs with Red Cabbage for a Ombre Look. Easy and totally natural.   |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.

I love the look of eggs dyed with plants and flowers, but every time I’ve planned on attempting it in years past, I get intimidated sourcing dye ingredients and stop myself up. So instead of gathering a dozen different materials and spending too many hours experimenting, I decided that this year, I would focus on one easy to find plant and see what it could do.

The plant? Common red cabbage. Available in every produce department of every grocery store in the country. Yes, it looks purple or sometimes red, but did you know it makes a great blue dye? It’s one of those things that’s hard to believe until you try it yourself.

Dye Eggs with Red Cabbage for Gorgeous, Natural Look   |   Design Mom

I love how they turned out so much I even want to keep the broken shells.

Dye Eggs with Red Cabbage for Gorgeous, Natural Look   |   Design Mom

I felt so much happy anticipation checking and rechecking them to see how the colors were changing. I could hardly wait to see the final results.

Dye Eggs with Red Cabbage for Gorgeous, Natural Look   |   Design Mom

Get the details below!

Click here for the full tutorial.

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Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle. A huge thank you to Serena & Lily for partnering with me on this space.

Oh man. I am so excited to share this photo tour with you! This was months and months in the making. When we first moved into The Treehouse, and explored the house for the first time, we imagined this space as a reading loft right away. In my head, it was going to be weekend project — throw down some flooring, paint it up, add comfy chair. Done and done. But as I actually started working on the space, I found that I wanted to take my time with decisions and really put thought into what would work best.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

Back in September, I thought I wanted wall to wall carpet in the loft. Then, I decided to experiment with a concrete overlay on the floors (which has held up wonderfully by the way). Then, I spent weeks and weeks figuring out what I wanted to do for shelves, and eventually decided on a DIY approach (tutorial coming!). Then, I ordered a chair with custom upholstery — which is a 6 week wait. Then, the room was 95% finished, and I realized I wanted one wall to be blue.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

It’s a tiny space, only 7 x 9.5 feet, but I really wanted to make the most of it, and to make it completely inviting and appealing for all the kids, both little and big. It took me quite awhile to get it just right.

So let’s get to the tour!

Click here for the full tour.

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A Few Things

April 11, 2014

Ukrainian Easter Eggs

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How’s it going? Are you making fun plans for the weekend? Our schools are on Spring Break next week, so we’re going to take advantage of the break in the schedule and head to Lake Tahoe for a few days. I’ve only driven through before, so I’m really excited to see what it’s like. We’ll be back on Wednesday to prep for a big photo shoot, and on Friday, we have a French Student (one of Ralph’s friends) coming to stay with us! It’s shaping up to be a very exciting week. : )

And I must tell you about those eggs above! Last weekend, we were invited to make Ukrainian Easter Eggs at a friend’s home. Aren’t they stunning?! She created all the eggs above and you can see more on my Instagram feed — including the first one Maude made.

We met this friend standing in line at Charles de Gaulle Airport on the day we moved back to the U.S.. She’s French, but has raised her family in the Bay Area, and she happens to have been born in the tiny town where we filmed How To Visit A French Bakery! Which is such a rarity, because it’s the tiniest town. Then, the first week we were here, we were at a Pinterest party and happened to meet her daughter, who works for Pinterest! So many fun coincidences!

We loved being at her home and learning a new craft — and extra fun, she served a traditional French Gouter in the afternoon, which brought smiles to everyone’s faces and got the kids reminiscing about favorite French food. It was such a good weekend! Makes me happy to think of it.

While I finish things up for the week and get packing, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Seth Meyers interviewing the creator of Stefon. “I live on the lower, lower Eastside.”

- Let go of perfection. Try practice, instead.

- Turn any bag into a diaper bag.

- Completely stunning aerial photos of Dutch tulip fields. We were there at this time last year to make this videoThanks, Mary Ann.

- What are thinking of for summer sandals? This simple pair from Anthropologie just made my wishlist.

- If Anne of Green Gables were to make Easter eggs.

- Turn any speaker into a wireless device.

- Let It Go in 25 languages (Am I the last to see this?).

- A polka dot wall with tiny dots that surprised me.

- Incubators can be life-saving for babies, but for newborns without access, there’s Embrace. For 1% of the cost of a standard incubator, it’s already saved over 50,000 babies from hypothermia. Made by one of my long-time readers (and Oakland resident!), Embrace is currently running a Mother’s Day campaign — make a donation in honor of mom, save another mom’s new baby. Thanks, Erin.

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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Tea Collection Giveaway

April 10, 2014

DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

Easter and Passover are just around the corner! For those of you who celebrate, I’m guessing that you’d love to find something sweet and spring-like for your kids to wear to holiday gatherings — or maybe even for family photos. So this giveaway is perfect. It’s sponsored by Tea Collection, and the prize is a $150 gift certificate!

Holiday Opener

Tea Collection always creates wonderful clothing — fresh designs that take inspiration from all over the world, and made with an eye for quality. But I have to say, their Spring 2014 line is especially good! You’ll love the offerings, I’m sure of it. For holiday dressing, you can find options for girls here, and options for boys here.

The pieces that have caught my eye are the Nabila Embroidered Dress, the Blooming Lily Dress, the Boise Necktie, and the Cocomo Porkpie Hat.

Tea Collection Easter 2014

Visit Tea Collection and leave a comment below to enter — I’d love to hear if there’s a holiday or event your family is shopping for this season. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

——-

Beatriz is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

Nabila Embroidered

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Text and images by Gabrielle.

It’s such a lovely Spring day here in Oakland that I think this Olive Us episode, featuring a Picnic at the Eiffel Tower, fits right in!

IMG_5141

As you can imagine, shooting this episode was such a treat. Any excuse to hang out on the Champ de Mars (the huge park next to the Eiffel Tower) is a good one. The food was delicious, the croquet was fun, the kids looked adorable in bright, fresh colors, the sun was out — such a good day!

I hope it brings some sunshine to your own day — and maybe gives you the travel bug as well. : )

P.S. — Would you like to know more about Olive Us? Here you go:

- Olive Us has a really charming Instagram stream. You should totally subscribe!
- Find the official Olive Us website here, and subscribe to the Olive Us Newsletter here.

- Find all the posts I’ve written about Olive Us — including every episode — here.
- We’ve made 44 episodes so far and collaborated with ulive on 20 of them! You can find the Olive Us page on ulive here.

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Dell’s Heart

April 9, 2014

Dell the Missionary

By Gabrielle. The photo above shows Dell (at center) as a missionary in Ecuador — rocking that scarf! The photo below is Dell playing water polo at university.

A week ago, in the earliest hours of the day while we were still fast asleep, we were awakened by one of those terrifying phone calls — Ben Blair’s brother, Dell, had had a heart attack while doing his morning swim laps, and was in a coma in the ICU. This wasn’t the first time we’ve had a stomach dropping phone call like that, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. No doubt many, or all of you, have had a similar call.

For a little while, things got worse, but happily the tables turned and the situation got much better. The next call we received reported that Dell was more stable. And the third phone call told us he would be out of the ICU soon. And on Monday he was! The best case scenario for sure! (We are very aware this could have gone the other way. My own father died at 52 after a massive heart attack.)

Ben’s sister Jenette is a nurse and this is what she wrote about the man who did the exhausting work of keeping Dell alive until paramedics arrived. Exhausting and difficult — he had to break Dell’s ribs to do the CPR properly, and I know Dell vomited as well. Mike thought Dell would die. I’m sure he felt like his efforts were futile.:

I want to honor and thank Mike Reed RN, who works on North star. On Wednesday, April 2 my brother had a full cardiac arrest at Steiner Aquatic pool (on Guardsman). Mike Reed saw him go down and immediately initiated CPR which he continued until the paramedics arrived (about 15 min). Dell (my brother) had to be defibrillated several times with the paramedics and in the ICU. Remarkably he is expected to make a full recovery and there appears to be no brain injury. We were informed by the staff at the U that in no uncertain terms, my brother would have died were it not for the expert, quick and excellent care he was given by Mike Reed. Del is 57 years old, a wonderful brother and one of the most generous and kind people I know. I am so grateful to Mike for his efforts and wanted to acknowledge him to all that I can. I was able to meet him this morning and he told me that he had just recertified in CPR last week. Thank you, thank you, thank you Mike Reed. Our family will be forever in your debt. — With Gratitude, Jenette Lambert RN CM OPMH.

Of course, though we’ve been going through our days, business as usual, all we’ve been able to think of over the last week is Dell. We’ve been thinking about the hero Mike Reed. We’ve been thinking about the nurses and doctors who are taking such good care of Dell. We’ve been thinking of Dell’s wife, Kathleen, and their 3 grown-up children.

Dell Water Polo

And one of the things we’ve been talking about most is the role genetics played in this experience. Dell is 57, lives a healthy life and keeps in great shape — as I mentioned, the heart attack happened while he was doing his morning laps! — and yet, genetics ruled his heart unhealthy. I say genetics because Ben’s grandfather died in his forties from heart problems, and his aunt died at a young 47 from heart problems as well.

In fact, when I married into the Blair family, I was told about the Blair heart problems right away. But it’s easy to forget, because this is the first time in the 18 years I’ve been a Blair that a new heart problem has showed up. Among Ben’s 8 siblings, Dell is the first to have a heart attack. And all of a sudden, the family history becomes a vital subject. When decades go by and no major heart issues come up, it’s easy to push the history to the back.

Dell ultimately had 3 full cardiac arrests that day, and a few days ago he had bipass surgery, and we understand he’ll also need a pacemaker going forward. As Jen mentioned above, full recovery is expected. He’s doing great! (I’m sure that’s why I feel comfortable now writing about this.) But as you can imagine, the whole family is wondering about the status of the rest of the Blair hearts. Wondering if there’s a test we should take, or preventative measures. Praising Mike Reed, and crossing our fingers that an angel just like him will be there if/when future heart problems manifest.

Are family genetics a conversation at your house? Is there a family history of certain health problems, or is there a disease or problem you’re almost expecting to inherit? Diabetes or alzheimers or alcoholism or even depression? Does your family talk openly about it and take precautions, or is it treated like a big secret? And for those of you who are adopted, were you able to get a health history of your birth parents? Or do you feel like you’re flying a bit blind as far as family genetics go?

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Project Kid & Wise Craft

April 8, 2014

Craft Books05

Images and text by Gabrielle.

I’ve got two really cool books to share with you. Both are craft books — one for kids, and one for grownups. Oakland has been a rain fest over the last couple of weeks so I’ve been pulling out the craft books for rainy day ideas, and I can heartily recommend both of these volumes. They are chock full of solid, creative ideas!

First up, a book for the little ones called Project Kid. It just came out today so it’s fresh as can be! The author, Amanda Kingloff, was the Lifestyle Director at Parents Magazine for ages and she comes up with the happiest things for kids to make. All the projects are really doable, and they focus on materials that are easily accessible — and that you probably already have at home.

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I think these needlepoint fly swatters are genius — I love crafts that have a practical application!

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And I think these silhouette pennants look so good. You can find more about the book, book related events, plus a cute intro video, at the Project Kid website.

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The second book is called Wise Craft. It’s full of truly useable projects that look chic and handmade in the best possible way. The clever creator, Blair Stocker, focuses on scraps, found materials and thrift store finds for her projects, which means you can make these idea without emptying your pocketbook.

These are more sophisticated projects you’ll enjoy making yourself, and you’ll enjoy keeping around the house for as long as possible.

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Like these handsome felt panhandle covers.

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Or these charming trinket bowls — I want a stack of them!

Tell me, Friends. What’s the crafting situation at your house? At our house, everyone likes to create — whether it’s writing stories, making movies, building forts, or baking cupcakes — but I would say Betty and Oscar are currently the most likely to get crafting (and they LOVE getting inspiration from the Project Kid book, by the way). As for me, my craft-making urges come in waves, and I find myself using holidays as an excuse to get out my scissors and glitter and glue. I can totally see myself using the Wise Craft book for gift giving inspiration.

What about you? Do your kids like to make things? Do you?

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By Gabrielle.

You’re going to giggle here and there throughout this tour, especially when Kathryn describes her family’s home, pre-remodel. She’s got a great sense of humor, a trait that carries over throughout her home design. On top of that, her authenticity is refreshing. If you’re already participating in her Instagram project called #myrealhouse, you knew this already!

Would you like one more reason to adore Kathryn? Okay, then. Just look at her kitchen, which looks like the absolute sparkliest place to make meals, doesn’t it? I thought so, too. Friends, please enjoy this lovely, lovely Chicago home!

Q: Please tell us about you and yours.

A: By day I’m the Director of Youth, Education & Community Programs for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. In the evening I move furniture around and plot home improvement projects. My husband and I have been married for 14 years and have two children: a daughter, age 11, and a son, age seven.

Emm is in traditional public middle school, and we home school Roan. They are both constantly creating new projects; Emm usually by writing, sewing, felting, and painting. Roan is a little engineer, building new robots all the time. He’s promised a house cleaning robot someday. I imagine by then my house will look much like the one in Wallace and Grommit. Neither of them ever uses materials or toys as expected, so it’s always interesting to see what they’ve decided to do with things they find in the house. They’re going downstairs right now with a sheet of aluminum foil, plastic baggies, and sunglasses…

More goodness, just ahead!

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Teachers Change Lives

April 7, 2014

Teachers Change Lives

By Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Office Depot’s #TeachersChangeLives program. Register your child’s classroom, so the students have the school supplies they need to succeed.

Can we talk some more about public schools today? They’re on my mind. Last month a vacuum was unexpectedly delivered to my house (long story, I’ll tell you about it another time). While it’s always fun to get a surprise in the mail, the vacuum sat unopened in a box for many days while I figured out what to do with it. Why? Because we don’t need a new vacuum — the one we had when we lived in Colorado still works just fine.

Happily, Betty brought home a class newsletter that mentioned her teacher was looking for a vacuum for their classroom. Bingo! I dropped the brand new vacuum off at her classroom the next day, glad it could benefit dozens of kids for many years to come.

But the experience had me thinking. If I hadn’t had that vacuum sitting in a box by the front door, would I have even noticed that request on the newsletter? (Answer: I highly doubt it.)

At the start of the year, our teachers in New York, Colorado, France and now California, had students bring in school supplies, plus some general classroom supplies too — like tissue boxes and hand soap. I think this is pretty typical and I imagine that if you have school age kids you have experienced the same thing.

In New York and Colorado, that was basically it as far as school supplies went. We never really had further requests from teachers. I’m not talking about class parties or special events, I’m referring to the everyday school supplies — folders, pencils, markers, erasers, paper, etc..

But here in Oakland, it’s been a little different. Some teachers have sent home additional requests throughout the year via class newsletters or emails. Things like sticky notes, permanent markers, more tissue boxes, more pencils. Of course, we try to keep an eye out for the requests and try to remember to send materials in — and I know many families at our school try to as well. But sometimes I forget. Or sometimes I assume another family has taken care of it. Or sometimes I just don’t make time.

AAC Infographic-3

And the reality is, even if I don’t want to face it, that many of those school supply requests aren’t met. And that means teachers often end up spending from their own pockets. Which should not be happening! But surveys tell us this is so common that at this point, it’s almost ridiculous. For those of you who like stats and numbers, try these on:

- Teachers spend as much as $1000 out of their own pockets on materials for their classrooms, every year.
- 75% of all classroom supplies are bought by teachers.
- Nationally, teachers spend a total of $1.3 billion a year on classroom supplies.
- 15 Million school children come from improvised families that cannot even provide basic supplies that children need to succeed in school.

Shocking, right? So I’ve been wondering how I could be more helpful. Or somehow make it more straightforward. Then Office Depot sent me an email about their Teachers Change Lives program and a I had another Bingo! moment. Clearly, I’m not the first person who noticed this problem. There’s a great program already in place! Public schools across America are having a hard time. Funding for supplies has been cut. And teachers often make up the difference from their own pockets. So Office Depot has partnered with Adopt a Classroom, and they are helping teachers across the country.

It’s a super smart program. Basically, your child’s teacher can register his or her classroom, then the community (parents of students, aunts & uncles, even grandparents who live out of state) funds the classroom, and those who donate receive updates on their impact!

To highlight this program Office Depot & Adopt a Classroom are featuring the stories of educators throughout the U.S. that go above and beyond in the classroom. These stories range from teachers in underprivileged and underfunded schools, to teachers that take innovation in the classroom to the next level, and everything in between. With teachers already doing so much with so little, think how much more they could do with support from the community. Go here and scroll down to see all the videos — they’re really well done, they had me in tears!

Did you watch that? I mean come one. Mary Kurt-Mason should not have to pay for school supplies from her own pocket! You can make a difference by visiting the Teachers Change Lives page. In fact, all of the teachers shown in the videos are registered with Adopt A Classroom. So you can donate to their classroom, or you can donate to a teacher in your own life, or even to the cause as a whole.

And now I’d love to hear, what’s it like at your school? Do teachers make school supply requests of parents? Do you feel like the statistics I listed above are accurate for your community? Have you ever heard of Adopt-A-Classroom? Is your child’s classroom registered? And if you’re a teacher, let us know how often, if ever, you find yourself buying school supplies for your classroom.

P.S. — I care a lot about this topic (maybe because my dad was a public school teacher) and want to encourage conversation and awareness about it, so here’s some extra motivation: add to the conversation below, and I’ll randomly pick one commenter and personally make a $150 donation to their child’s classroom!

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