designmom

A Few Things

December 19, 2014

hot cocoa bar mugs

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? I know we are right in the thick of holiday time and I wonder how everyone is holding up. Will you be lighting a Hanukkah candle tonight? Do you have your Christmas Tree decorated? Are you feeling festive? Or are you feeling overwhelmed by your task list? Any holiday can be an emotional minefield, but I feel like the December holidays are the trickiest, because it can be emotional + cold + dark.

For those of you who are feeling discouraged this week, I hope you’ll give yourself a break. I hope you’ll surround yourself by warmth and brightness — light some candles or plug in some twinkle lights. I hope you’ll eat something that feels like comfort food. And I hope that if this December isn’t your best, then you’ll let it go and remember you get a fresh start for 2015.

As for me, I’m feeling the happy sort of emotional, because all I can think about is that Ralph & Olive get home on Sunday!!!!! We’re all so excited we can hardly stand it.

I’m leaving my laptop early today, because I’m headed for a hair appointment (!), but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Give help or find help here.

- 15 amazing photographs from the Sony World Photography Awards. That monkey! Thanks, Becca.

- My brother’s super cool project, Metagramme, was covered on Wired this week.

- “Our children are facing it everyday, so when are we going to?” A heart-stopping video on lockdowns at our elementary schools two years after Newtown. Thanks, Kate.

- Hah! How to be Ultra Spiritual.

- Striking visual illustration of how much public space we have given to cars.

- Oh man. “Internet porn is an experiment in dehumanization.”

- The tiny human twig in the tree of life.

- This “Speechless” series of PSAs was so powerful to me. I watched every single one.

- What if your professor asked you to forgive him for having to give you final grades? An inspiring read about education today. Thanks, Kelley.

- Made me smile.

I hope you have a particularly wonderful weekend — I hope that like me, you get to hug the people you love! I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses.
Gabrielle

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DMgiveawayBanner

By Gabrielle.

Okay you guys. This is it! The final Design Mom giveaway of 2014. And it’s a good one. It’s sponsored by Cute Tape, and they’re offering a $100 store credit. Hooray!

Washi from Cute Tape - Hundreds of styles, patterns and colors.

Cute Tape offers a vast selection of washi tape — Japanese washi, and other kinds too. And you are welcome to use your prize to buy every color of washi tape under the sun. But Cute Tape also offers fantastic party supplies and craft supplies!

studiocalico-number-woodveneer nutcandycups

If I won, I would be tempted by the favor bags, and pillow boxes, plus hangtags and baker’s twine, and definitely rubber stamps and nut cups. I LOVE having my supply cupboards prepped with these sorts of things. They make it possible to turn any old day into a festive celebration. Plus, they are the trick to hosting last-minute parties, and giving last-minute gifts, that don’t feel last-minute.

I would also fill my shopping cart with washi tape!

modernfestive-cupcakelinersmini2 carnival-tickets-blank

Feel free to connect with Cute Tape on FacebookInstagram or Pinterest to be the first to know about new products and find about about discounts and sales.

Visit Cute Tape and leave a comment below to enter. The winner will be announced on Monday. Good luck!

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bobbi brown smokey nudes palette

By Gabrielle. Eyeshadow palette by Bobbi Brown.

When I mentioned I had an appointment to go blonde tomorrow, there were a few comments that talked about certain hair colors not fitting the coloring of certain people. Those comments totally put me on the path down memory lane! When I was in middle school and high school, I think I went to a dozen different parties where a make-up specialist or fashion stylist would determine whether we were a winter, a spring, a summer or a fall. Then, once we knew what season we were, we would then be told what colors we could wear, and which we should avoid. I usually ended up as a winter, and I remember that basically no season seemed to be allowed to wear yellow. Hah!

Did any one else do this? I assume it was happening across the country, but maybe it was just in my home town. (My town was very Mormon and very white, so many this was a Mormon thing? Or a white people thing?)

I haven’t thought about what “season” I am for maybe 15 years or more. And the realization made me wonder: how many of us avoid wearing certain colors because we were told at some point they didn’t look good on us?

That seems like such a silly thing to me now! I would say the cut and fit of clothing can make a much bigger difference in how we look in certain pieces than the color. And I would also say that colors come and go with trends, and whatever color is trendy magically seems to look good on the general populace. Over the years, I think I’ve worn every kind of color. If I decide I don’t like how I look in one item or another, it’s more likely to be because I don’t like the style, not because I think the color “doesn’t work for me”.

Beyond clothing, I would say makeup trends have completely changed as well. I remember at around age 13, being told that only blue-eyed people could wear blue eyeshadow successfully. But these days, I can’t imagine anyone giving that sort of restrictive beauty advice! I feel like over the last decade, I’ve seen every color of eyeshadow worn gorgeously on every color of person. And there are lots of articles like this one that share makeup colors that look good on all skin tones. Which of course, makes me conclude all the color advice from my youth was totally bizarre, or, that we’ve redefined what we think is beautiful.

The “coloring rules” for hair have also changed. The categories used to be black, brunette, red, and blonde, but now people sport hair color in every shade of the rainbow. Or, someone might have dyed blonde hair, but intentionally keep dark roots as a contrast to the blonde — meaning, she’s not trying to pretend she’s naturally blonde. Consider someone with blue hair. The whole idea of certain skin tones looking better or worse with blue hair seems odd to me. Who gets to say who looks good in blue hair? If the person with the blue hair likes the look, isn’t that enough?

Anyway, this is for sure on my mind because of my hair plans. Will I like how blonde hair looks on me? Will my skin look different? Will my eyebrows seem unusually dark? At first those seem like normal questions to me, but then they suddenly feel weird. Because among the billions of people on the earth, there is most certainly someone out there that has skin and eyes and eyebrows that match mine, and hair that is naturally the color I will end up tomorrow. And if I saw that person, would I think: geez, that hair color doesn’t look good with her coloring, or, she sure needs to lighten her eyebrows. Well, of course not. None of us would. Having never seen her any other way, we wouldn’t know the difference.

Related, if my hair was its current natural color, it would be almost completely silver — which is very different than the dark brown hair color I grew up with. Does that mean my coloring has changed to match the silver and I don’t know it? Or is my coloring the same, and the whole idea of hair color and skin color relating somehow totally wrong? Same for Ben Blair, he had very red hair when we married, but it has faded to a light brown. He was told not to wear red as a redhead, but I’ve always like him in red. So many questions!

That was long and rambling, and frankly, I don’t even know what my conclusions are. But I’d love to hear what your take on “seasons” is, and what you think of having hair that “looks good with your coloring”. Do you feel like there are certain colors you look best in? Were you ever told you didn’t look good in a certain color? Or maybe you feel very different than me. Have you had good luck following color advice you heard at some point? I’d love to hear!

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By Gabrielle. The sweetest calendar by Shanna Murray.

McKay Smith is a lovely storyteller, so I know you’re going to enjoy this recounting of her birth experience. The honesty with which she writes – even when she’s admitting weakness or impatience with her doctors! – is comforting, especially for those of us who may feel like we can’t give a voice to all those shattering emotions raging inside. Maybe we’re afraid of sounding bratty or maybe we’re afraid of sounding…afraid.

But it’s hard to get through a pregnancy without breaking every so often, don’t you think? And that’s when things are progressing according to our plans! Here’s a tale of twins, one with a potentially life threatening defect, and how their mom truthfully felt throughout her journey.

Please enjoy McKay’s words.

You’ll love this story!

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Jessica Kettle Photography.

I always love reading people who sound exactly the same on paper as they do in real life, which is why Alison’s tour today makes me grin so hard! I think I edited six hahas and a few triple exclamation points, but I left all her capitalized words for emphasis. Alison’s life has lots of emphasis! You’ll see!

I couldn’t wait to share her with you, especially now as the holidays are racing toward us. Her festive philosophy, as you’ll soon learn, is super timely. I know it will inspire you to do more with what you have this very minute, and open your arms wide to welcome every celebration in your path. (Even the ones you’d like to ignore!)

Welcome, Alison! And Happy Tuesday, Friends!

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

A: Hello! I’m Alison of The Alison Show and I live in this little 1920s house in Provo with my music-producer husband Eric, my tyrannical and adorable 4-year-old Ginger, and my precious overly coddled 1.5-year-old angel boy Rad.

Pure magic, straight ahead!

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A Random Monday Update

December 15, 2014

Christmas Tree & Bucket

Image and photo by Gabrielle.

I woke up today thinking of 3 things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Few Things

December 12, 2014

Santa and Gabrielle Stanley

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

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

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

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

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

- Carrot Clarinet.

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

- 25 Days of Christmas in Sweden.

- FREE e-book of Family Giving Ideas.

- Are you racist? This test can tell you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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

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Gingiber Giveaway

December 11, 2014

DMgiveawayBanner

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

Fox Tote Gingiber

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

Antler Tea Towels Gingiber Pig Pillow Gingiber

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

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

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DIY: Wooden Peg Doll Ornaments

December 10, 2014

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

By Gabrielle. Image by Amy Christie.

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

Find the full tutorial here.

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A Christmas Wish — plus 32 other Wonderful Holiday Books

Images and text by Gabrielle.

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

A Christmas Wish — plus 32 other Wonderful Holiday Books

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

A Christmas Wish — plus 32 other Wonderful Holiday Books

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

Click through for 32 of my favorites!

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New-to-Me Ghee

December 9, 2014

Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice4

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

——-

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

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

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

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

Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice1 Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice3

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

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

Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice5 Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice2

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

Blue Apron Shrimp & Rice7

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

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

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

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By Gabrielle.

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

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

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

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

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

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…

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Hour of Code

December 8, 2014

chris-bosh-poster

By Gabrielle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Few Things

December 5, 2014

Rainy Treehouse

Image and text by Gabrielle.

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

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

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

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

How to be an Ally.

The development and growth of the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite.

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

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

- A new way to look at the solar system.

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

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

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

- Cranberry wreath placecards.

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

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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scholarShare411

By Gabrielle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Sweet Muffin Giveaway

December 4, 2014

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By Gabrielle.

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

My Sweet Muffin is one of my long time sponsors and I always get a kick out of seeing their new collections. Shina, the owner, does a really wonderful job of seeking out the most interesting, unique, beautiful and quality gifts and toys. Her wares are perfect for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

My Sweet Muffin Holiday Toys 2014

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

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

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Sheri is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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

Question: do you have an opinion about pot?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s an interesting warning for the squeamish readers!

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By Gabrielle.

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

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

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

Adorable advent buckets, just ahead!

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Olive Juice Kids Giveaway

December 1, 2014

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By Gabrielle.

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

Pink Velvet Dress by Olive Juice

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

Red Velvet Dress by Olive Juice Corduroy Dress by Olive Juice

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

Olive Juice Holiday 2014-1

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

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

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Carolyn Mackie is the lucky winner. Thanks for playing!

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