designmom

A Few Things

June 24, 2016

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Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. Happy Friday! How are you? Did you have a good week? Mine has absolutely flown by. It always does when I’m in a happy place with my family. We’re just so delighted, and feeling so lucky, to be here! As we drove to town yesterday, we saw a sign for a Vide Grenier (it’s like a community tag sale) coming up in our old neighborhood. So we’ve decided that’s our big plan for the weekend. How about you? Anything fun you’re looking forward to?

I’ll keep this update super short (because our wifi hasn’t been restored yet), but I wanted to make sure I shared a few things with you before I sign off:

Xanadu! A few weeks ago I mentioned our dear friend, Chris Clark has been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gherig’s disease). Chris is an award-winning play director, and to support him and his family, the original cast of his legendary production of Xanadu is putting on new performances of the show this week and next. Magical! Plus, there’s a silent auction too! Find ticket info and donation info here.

Christo’s newest project. When we lived in New York, our family (along with millions of others) saw Christo’s Gates in Central Park. I love it so much. Have you ever had a chance to see his work? (NYT)

- Woah. I still stunned at this news. Feels like end of days. So awful.

- How to do unemployment right.

- How to fix feminism. (NYT)

- How to escape from a cult in the 21st century.

- Oh my word. So good! Did you see Maya Rudolph’s commercial for Seventh Generation? She’s the best.

- Why I Gave Up on Waiting.

Singing to the dying.

- On the myth of the catty woman. (NYT)

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

P.S. — We made the most of our 6-hour layover in Stockholm on Tuesday. You can see a photo at top. We took a train into the city and ate a big Swedish feast, then walked around Old Town, listening to live music and taking in the gorgeous city. Such a cool place!

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Normandy!

June 23, 2016

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Photo and text by Gabrielle.

We’re here! We made it! We are renting a lovely, light-filled home in the lower-region of Normandy — about 2 hours west of Paris. We arrived here yesterday afternoon, unpacked, filled the fridge and cupboards with all of our favorites, napped (darn jetlag!), took a long walk through the countryside in the evening, and stayed up way too late. It doesn’t get dark here until after 10:00 PM, so it didn’t feel that late, but it was.

Today, we drove by our cottage (but didn’t go in because we still need to pick up the keys), and we took the kids to school pickup so they could connect with old friends.

This is just a mini-update to say hello. I’m still processing everything so I can share it with you, but oh my goodness, I didn’t realize how much being here would feel like coming home.

P.S. — During the night, there was a big lighting storm that took out the wifi. Not sure when it will be back on, so I’ll be working at cafés and libraries until it does. Life in the countryside! And I don’t mind one bit.

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By Gabrielle. Limited edition print by Helen Dardick.

Despite a few momentous rough patches, Zoe’s story is a pure delight. I could not stop smiling all the way through, which is such a testament to her storytelling skills and also her inherent positivity.

What a wonderful bunch of words I get to share with you today! Welcome, Zoe.

Gorgeous story, straight ahead.

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By Gabrielle.

Do you ever go through fruit phases or obsessions? Sometimes, I seem to go weeks or months at a time only craving one sort of fruit. It’s like grapefruit for miles, and then I lose interest for a couple a years. Or kiwi for months, and then I don’t even notice them again unless the kids make a specific request.

Well, over the past few weeks, it’s been blueberries. I buy the big carton and eat the whole thing. I like them fresh, and small, and tart-sweet. Oh, and firm. If they’re even a tiny bit squishy, they are relegated to the “save for smoothies” pile and put in a freezer bag.

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So when Liz Berget told me she had a delicious, simple, blueberry syrup recipe, I asked her to send it over. She shares the easy recipe — and suggestions for what she eats it with — below. But before we jump into the details, I’d love to hear: what are your fruit cravings these days? And do your kids have any favorites? Blueberries bring strong opinions out of my kids. For example, Oscar adores them and always has. But Betty doesn’t like them at all. How about you?

Click here for the recipe and notes!

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By Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by Sleep Number®. 

For many years when we first became parents — especially the three-kids-age-4-and-under phase — we set early bedtimes for our children. Like really early. Like 5:30 PM early. 6:00 at the latest. It’s almost hard for me to imagine it now, because our life is so different these days, but at the time, nap schedules and bedtimes were a big deal for us.

Especially when they were little, my kids really soaked up their sleep. They would wake up, be busy, busy, busy, then zonk out for naps, then be busy, busy, busy until 5:00 dinner. After that it was baths and bedtime stories, and then they were out for the night. We’re talking 12 to 15 hours of sleep total (naps + night sleep) over a 24 hour period. Sleep is how they recharged for their very busy lives as two-year-olds. : )

At times, our regular sleep schedule made things awkward and was disruptive. We were fine doing social things after 7:00 PM — we’d get a sitter and feel confident that our kids would be asleep the whole time we were gone. But if there was a party or family gathering that took place during the 5:00 to 7:00 range, we would usually leave early, or decline to attend. I remember getting side-eye from other mothers, and even relatives, thinking we were ridiculous and that our sleep schedule was too strict. And maybe we were ridiculous.

But though it wasn’t always ideal, the strict sleep schedule offered huge benefits for us. From what I could determine, all that sleep made for happy, good-natured kids, or at least seemed to help in a big way! At some point I connected the dots that if my kids were acting out, they were probably tired. (I should have assumed this from the beginning, because I’m the same way. For me, exhaustion and bad manners are directly correlated.)

In addition to feeling like I was helping my kids be their best selves, I also LOVED having quiet evenings where I could work on my own projects. In fact, without early bedtimes, I don’t think I ever would have managed to start Design Mom.

So now I’m curious. What time do you put your kids to bed? Is it a specific hour? Or does it range depending on the evening? And have you ever instituted early bedtimes for your kids? If yes, did it work for your family? Why am I asking? Two reasons: First, I love conversations about sleep — since it’s a universal thing we experience as humans, everyone has an opinion or thought to share, and in the conversations, I seem to always learn another way of thinking, another point or view, or another way to approach life.

The second reason is because, as I mentioned in March, I’m delighted to be partnered with Sleep Number®. I’ll be hosting 4 sleep-centered discussions this year and today’s post is the second one. You may already know this, but Sleep Number is the leader in sleep innovation and was ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction with Mattresses” in 2015 by J.D. Power. They are dedicated to providing solutions that offer quality sleep.

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What kind of innovations? Lots! Here are three: 1) Sleep Number created a bed that allows couples to adjust the mattress firmness on each side of the bed. One person favors super firm, the other likes super soft? No problem! It’s no surprise the Sleep Number bed was named Best Bed for Couples by a leading consumer magazine.

2) Sleep Number beds are available with SleepIQ® technology — sensors inside the mattress measure average breathing rate, average heart rate, and movement to show you the quality of your sleep and help you make adjustments to make your sleep even better. Sleep IQ is super easy to use. Nothing to wear, nothing to turn on. All you have to do is sleep.

3) Sleep Number innovates for kids as well! They have a whole section of products focused on helping kids get better sleep — like their Sleep IQ Kids™ bed. It’s a smart bed that adjusts with your kids as they grow, and it has an optional head-tilt feature which is perfect for those nights when they have a stuffy nose.

Want to check out their innovations for yourself? You can find the nearest store here, and find out about new offers and promotions here.

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

These days, we still have set bedtimes but they are much later. 5:30 PM isn’t even an option for us any more, and that’s fine. Instead, the goal is just consistency. Keeping to a regular schedule as much as possible makes a big difference for us. There are still exceptions — nights were we don’t make it home until later — but we aim for a regular schedule and we mostly make it.

How about you? Have you found it harder to keep a set bedtime as your kids get older? Or maybe you have a baby or toddler who seems to be schedule-resistant? Also, if you had to rank the importance of diet, exercise and sleep on how they influence your health, what would you put first? (No surprise, I would put sleep first. I love my sleep!)

P.S. — Sleep Number did a survey about American Kids and sleep. Here are the results.

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By Gabrielle. Photos by Karen E. Photography.

Diane is a person who doesn’t like to waste time. I quite enjoy that quality in people, don’t you? And, in fact, Diane possesses a truckful of enviable qualities I could either list from one to one hundred — or you could just read the words she’s left here with us today.

If you’re feeling not-so-strong, I encourage you to stick around for Diane. If you’re feeling scared or alone or overwhelmed, please stay. This is one to read now and come back to later. I promise. Welcome, Diane. I am so glad you’re here.

My name is Diane and I don’t like to beat around the bush. Ha! How’s that for an introduction? Chit-chat makes me uncomfortable, I don’t have a poker face, and I am compelled to acknowledge the elephant in the room. He’s too distracting! I’m a 41-year-old stay-at-home mom who is a tomboy at heart yet loves a maxi dress on occasion. I can’t live without my running shoes and feel freest on the trails at sunrise.

I created this unbelievable family with my soft-spoken, brilliant husband, Will, who is wise beyond his years (which are three less than mine) and utterly unflappable. He can grow a five o’clock shadow well before noon, and I am lucky to have him as the captain of my pompom squad. Like any smart girl who was raised by a wonderfully supportive father, I looked for the boy who was most like him and then I married him.

When Will and I were engaged, I said, “I want to have two girls so we can give them each one of our sisters’ names.” It’s like I proclaimed it from that moment! Dylan Christine was the first and nothing makes me happier than the special bond she shares with my confidante and sister, Chrissy. Dylan has always been acutely observant and very emotionally intelligent. She thrives on social interaction and asked at two years old to go to school so she could “play with little boys and little girls.” Story time at the library simply wasn’t enough! Dylan truly smiles from her heart and I could stare into her blue-gray eyes for the rest of my life and be happy.

Taylor Camille is our little goof who giggles when she toots and then turns around and proclaims that she is never ever eating dinner again. I don’t know if my sister-in-law, Cami, wants to lay claim to either of these traits! But Taylor will hug and kiss you until you feel that everything is right with the world. She is immensely creative, innately funny, and she is going to blaze her own trails for sure. Taylor was simply born with a confidence that is written all over her face, and when she catches my eye and flashes a knowing wink, my heart melts every time.

Diane’s story, straight ahead. You won’t want to miss it.

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Flying to France

June 20, 2016

By Gabrielle.

Waving hello from the Oakland Airport! Our bags are checked. We’ve gone through security. Water bottles are filled. Snacks are at hand. We have about 30 minutes till our flight boards. Then it’s on to Paris, France!

But before we get to France, we have a longish layover in Stockholm, Sweden. Ben Blair and I spent a lovely week in Sweden two summers ago, but our kids have never been, so we’re hoping to take a little adventure while we’re there. Then, we have a short flight to Paris. Our flight arrives around 8:30 in the evening; we’ll rent a car and head straight to a hotel for the night (with a possible fieldtrip to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle). Then, the next morning, we’ll drive to Normandy — it’s about a 3 hour drive to our destination.

That’s a lot of different stops and transitions in a short time — I’ve tried to forewarn the kids that they are very likely going to feel crabby and impatient before we actually get to our destination. But it’s worth it: Two whole months of our family being together. Heaven!

We’re all super excited. Lots of reminiscing and anticipation going on — we’ve been going through our old travel photos and watching some of the Olive Us videos we filmed in France (like Betty in Paris).

Crossing our fingers for smooth travel! Feel free to follow along on Instagram.

P.S. — I did my first Facebook Live video cast just before we left the house today. I gave a little tour of our master bedroom and bath — it’s going to be transformed while we are away! So if you want a peek at the “before” you can check it out.

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A Few Things

June 17, 2016

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Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! How are you? How was your week? Ben Blair and the 5 oldest arrived home around late last night (delayed flight), exhausted but happy. Another terrific Cousins Week under their belts! They are sleeping in (as they should be), but when they wake up, we will be in full prep mode for our big summer trip to France.

While they sleep in, I’m heading to my stylist for a trim and a color (just my roots, nothing fancy). This is the last possible appointment I could get before the trip — my stylist put it on the calendar two months ago so that I wouldn’t forget. She knows me so well! We’re hoping my cut will last for the whole two months so I don’t have to worry about it while I’m there. And she’s sending me with some hair color so that I can touch up my roots myself. She’s the best!

The rest of the prep will mostly be laundry and packing and cleaning the house. Plus a handful of errands. And then a few tasks that I haven’t remembered yet. I’m feeling quite calm about the whole thing, but it’s very possible that I’m fooling myself and will panic sometimes between now and Monday afternoon. : )

I’m off to my appointment now, but before I go, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- This poem is beautiful and has me crying really hard.

- Read this for sure. I was never raped, but

Meet a Muslim.

- Cute! Grandma’s well-mannered searches.

- Turns out many brands that market exclusively to women have few or no women among their executives or on their boards.

- I’m pretty sure I’ve shared this before, but in case you haven’t seen it yet, this is a smart, fair, video discussing the complexities of the gun problem in America. One quote from near the end: ”Depression with a gun is more dangerous than depression without one. Likewise, fights, domestic disputes, road rage, drunkenness — all much more dangerous with a gun than without.”

- The Mediocre Mom’s Guide to Raising a Child With Down Syndrome.

- Do we ever make time to sit and think anymore? (NYT)

- Today’s teens smoke less, drink less, and have sex less than any teens on record.

- Marimekko! How it became a women design powerhouse.

- I know this wonderful couple (and their darling kids) from Alt Summit and I’m heartbroken about what they’re going through.

Aliens! (NYT)

- The Small Animal That’s Making a Big Difference for Women in the Developing World.

- Happy Friday!

I hope you have an amazing weekend. Happy Father’s Day to all the good men in our lives! As I’ve mentioned, we’re headed to France on Monday and I won’t be at my laptop, but I have some great stuff scheduled. So meet me back here next week. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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By Gabrielle.

I could listen to Jaime talk about her day job…well…all day. What is it about museums that seem so romantic? In addition to that career, she is also an artist and a mom. How does she balance it all? I’ll let her tell you.

Welcome, Jaime! We’re so happy you’re here.

Hey everyone! I’m Jaime. I’m an artist, museum professional, and working mama from Kansas City. I’m doing my best to juggle a growing creative career with my day job that pays the bills…and student loans. From my cubicle to yours, here’s what a day in my life looks like.

It begins when the baby monitor blinks on, usually around 7:15 am. My husband pops out of bed to get our daughter, Frances (16 months), and brings her into our room. We snuggle for a while, and and then I try to distract her with a book or something interesting in our room so I can get ready for the day. That transition from cuddling my baby to starting the day is always a struggle.

Tyler and I tag team, keeping an eye on Frances. She’s into everything these days. The morning always goes by quickly. Dress, teeth, diaper change, make bed. Check, check, check. Next we head downstairs to get the coffee going, feed the dog, and get our things together to head out the door.

Breakfast is quick and on the go. Today I make some peanut butter toast, and grab a banana and a greek yogurt to eat at work. At this point in our lives, we make food — not meals. We throw things together with simple ingredients. Cooking is not our favorite activity, but we love good food. We’d probably eat out for every meal if we could.

My mom arrives around 8:15 am to be with Frances for the day. We split the weekdays between my mom, Tyler, and I. We chat for a few minutes and then Tyler and I head out the door.

Her day job looks so cool! Come see!

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By Gabrielle. Photo by Katrina Davis.

Let’s talk about love! A couple weeks ago, I read an opinion piece in the New York Times called Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person. It was written by Alain de Botton and puts forth the idea that there isn’t a perfect person out there for us, and that choosing a partner is more about finding someone with whom you can tolerate each other’s differences. He writes, “Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.”

Did you get a chance to read it? What did you think? It’s a really practical, unromantic approach to “falling in love”, but I find this idea: “We need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them,” to ultimately be very loving. I feel like it allows us all to be human and make mistakes.

And then, I read another article, called “We Don’t Always End Up With The Loves Of Our Lives (And That’s Okay)” by Heidi Priebe. She believes in BIG LOVE, but she’s practical about it too. Her main idea is that even if we experience deep, intense love with someone, we may not end up with them. But she okay with that, because, “Some people can love you more in a year than others could love you in fifty. Some people can teach you more within a single day than others could teach you over the entire course of a lifetime.” Do you agree?

The articles made me wonder, where do you fall on the romantic scale? Is romance important to you? Do you believe in soulmates? Do you think everyone has a “love of their life”? And did you find yours, or marry yours? As for me, I can appreciate a good romantic movie or book now and again, but I don’t crave it a ton. I don’t know if romance is a love language, but if it is, I don’t think it’s my love language.

That said, I definitely consider myself in love with Ben Blair. Our marriage is the happiest thing in my life. Does that mean we were meant for each other? If I had married someone else, would I feel the same way? Do I just enjoy being married? Maybe so, but that’s almost too practical for me. It’s more appealing to me to feel like I got really lucky and found the best possible match for myself.

There’s another line in the first article that also got me thinking. He writes, “What matters in the marriage of feeling is that two people are drawn to each other by an overwhelming instinct and know in their hearts that it is right. Indeed, the more imprudent a marriage appears (perhaps it’s been only six months since they met; one of them has no job or both are barely out of their teens), the safer it can feel.”

I totally recognize that thinking in our culture! In fact, I’ve experienced it myself — Ben Blair and I married just a few short months after we starting dating. How about you? If you’ve ever been married, how soon was the engagement and wedding after you met your significant other? Any other good love articles you’ve read lately?

P.S. — Do you wear your wedding ring?

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By Gabrielle.

I’m committed to sharing delicious, easy, dinner recipes here on Design Mom to help us all through the summer. And I’ve got a great one for you today: Easy 30-Minute Fajita Bowls!

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Liz Berget, one of my go-to recipe geniuses, is expecting a baby, and has other little ones at home, too. So she’s a pro at simple dinner recipes that appeal to the whole family.

I especially love this recipe because it’s so easy for the kids (and me!) to customize. Oscar can skip the cheese, Betty can skip the limes, I can skip the cilantro.

Click here for the recipe and notes!

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By Gabrielle.

No matter which corner of Melinda’s home I gaze upon, I can’t help but feel a weighty sense of tranquility. A hush, a calmness, much like the early pages in The Napping House! Isn’t that funny? Do you ever look at a home and become overwhelmed by a first impression? Like, Maureen’s house prompted thoughts of adding way more color, ModFruGal’s tour had me turning chairs to face our gorgeous view outside, and Lynne Knowlton’s treehouse…well…I love a treehouse!

But what’s most interesting to me is how Melinda’s home truly matches her. Read her words. Soak up her thoughts. You’ll feel a hush, a calmness come over you. I honestly love when that happens. When a home so twins with its owners that it all feels right and meant to be.

Welcome, Melinda! I can’t wait to share you with everyone.

When I was ten, my parents moved my siblings and I to Northeast Ohio for my father’s job. My parents bought a house built in 1931 that comfortably had the living space for a family of six, but needed quite a bit of work to say the least. Throughout the years, there were kitchen renovations, bathroom remodels, landscaping projects, just to name a few, that were all done in such a way as to honor both our family and the home.

My mom and dad never stopped working on that house the 26 years they lived there. It didn’t matter, though. It was beautiful, warm, and home which is how my husband and I felt when we first stepped into our own home almost 16 years ago.

We were young, newly married, and looking for a starter home. We both had gotten jobs in central Ohio, my husband in sports management and myself a position as a first grade teacher. Neither one of us were that familiar with the area which explains why when our realtor asked about neighborhoods we would be interested in we mentioned one well out of our price range.

After a few discussions about what we were looking for and our budget, our realtor mentioned a neighborhood that had tree lined streets, old homes, and character. Those words were music to my ears. We spent a number of days looking at these old homes, but were disappointed by the updates many of them had seen over the years. Homes built in 1922 had additions added on over time that did not suit the time period or home itself.

After seeing quite a few houses, our realtor drove into what was to become our driveway. I can remember falling in love with the charm of the front of the house, the original oak floors, and the large backyard. There were definitely many projects to be done, like ripping out wall to wall — it literally went up a wall — brown shag carpet from the sunroom, but it felt like home. It felt like a place we could start a family.

This kitchen. Oh my. Come see!

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Random Thoughts

June 13, 2016

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Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Well, Hello. Welcome to June’s installment of my random thoughts. Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments.

- Like you, I woke up yesterday to the horrific news about the mass-murder in Orlando. Like you, I’m feeling all the feelings. I’m simply heartbroken for the victims and their families. I’m distressed and disturbed that in 2016 there is still so much hate directed at gay people, that coming out is a very dangerous thing, requiring more bravery than I will likely ever have to muster. I’m angry that there are still people in my life who aren’t willing to consider serious gun law reform. I’m sickened as I read the statistics showing plainly how much more gun violence there is in the U.S. compared to the rest of the world.

Like you, I want to take action, but feel daunted and somewhat helpless. What can I do? I talked my kids and wore my rainbow dress yesterday, I made calls to several senators on this list today, I’m looking up local blood drives to see where I can donate this week. Of course, none of it feels like it will ever be enough. What about you? How are you holding up? What do you do when you feel powerless in the face of tragedy?

I know this is a heavy way to start the post. The rest of my random thoughts are much lighter.

- Yesterday, I took Ben Blair and the 5 oldest kids to the airport. They flew to St. George for our annual Cousins Week. I’ve mentioned it before, but basically, any cousins 8 or older are invited to my sister Sara’s house in St. George for a camp of sorts. It’s a week(ish) of unlimited popsicles, movies whenever you’d like, swimming, sugar cereal, staying up late and bonding with cousins. Each day, some structure is built in with outings, crafts or activities. Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents help out with the structured parts and Sara takes care of the rest. Sara has been hosting Cousins Week since 2009.

Something fun this year: There are four new 8-year-olds joining the group!

- Our whole crew will arrive home from Cousins Week late Thursday night. Till then, June and I are the only ones home. It feels so strange. The house is super quiet and of course, June is missing her best friends. Things I promised June we would do this week in an attempt to relieve her broken heart at not being old enough for cousins week: get mani-pedis, buy a box of Frosted Flakes (her favorite sugar cereal), and shop for a “Chinese dress” (I’m not sure what this is, but she saw something in a window in Chinatown last time we were there and has begged for a “Chinese dress” ever since).

I rarely get extended alone time with one of my kids, so I’m really looking forward to our week together, just me and June.

- We leave to France on Monday. That’s right: 1 week to go! I’m a little overwhelmed by the task list ahead of me this week (and by little, I mean very much so), but I have high hopes it’s all doable — especially since most of the family is out of town. It sure makes a big difference. I have literally zero kid events, kid pick up times, or mandatory kid errands till Friday. That opens up a lot of time!

We’re not staying in La Cressonniere while we’re there, but we’ve found a couple of gorgeous places to rent that are in the same general vicinity — and not too far from our cottage.

- Speaking of which, I’m super, super, super excited to work on The Cottage once we get to France. Last week, we got in touch with our architect in France. We’ll meet with him soon after we arrive and see what we can accomplish over the summer. But I have to keep reminding myself not to get my expectations too high — everything takes longer than I think it will. Hah!

As I’ve mentioned, my daydream when 2016 started was that we would have tons of work on the cottage done from January through June. And then, when we arrived this summer, the hope was that we would use our time for finishing work — painting, choosing a fridge and stove, shopping for beds, etc..

Did that happen? Not even close! Oh well. We’ll see what we can manage this summer. One thing I know for sure: It’s always easier to put things in motion when we’re actually on site. And even with the much slower timeline, I still can’t wipe the grin from my face when I think about making improvement to our little piece of French countryside.

- My sister Jordan is about to have her baby, and I won’t be here to help. It is killing me! I’ve never lived close enough to watch the kids or bring dinner before, and now I do, but I’ll be out of the country. Unfortunate travel timing on my part! Do you live near any of your siblings? Have you ever been able to help them when a baby arrived?

- Tomorrow is my birthday. It will be a celebration for two — just me and June. I generally prefer a very low-key birthday, so that’s fine with me. I’m thinking we’ll get the promised mani-pedi.

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I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.

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A Few Things

June 10, 2016

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Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends! Happy Friday! Today is the first day of summer vacation, and every single member of the family slept in. It was heavenly.

It’s been an epic week. Ralph hit some major, major deadlines, had two full days of shooting, and lots of driving lessons — he’s committed to getting his license before we go to France. Maude finished her classes and student council responsibilities — with exams right through yesterday. She’s feeling emotional about saying goodbye to her senior friends. She herself will be a senior next year and we can hardly believe it.

Olive had an 8th grade promotion ceremony — during the program she gave an introduction in French and sang in the choir. (And did a fantastic job at both!) She’s headed to high school next year and is feeling teary-eyed about the big change. Oscar had a fifth grade promotion ceremony where he gave an excellent speech and had the whole audience in stitches. He heads to middle school next year and is feeling nostalgic and a little melancholy because he can feel how quickly he’s growing up.

Though she was allowed to leave school early yesterday, Betty wanted to stay until the final bell rang. She loves school much more than summer break. Saying goodbye to her friends for the summer just about kills her. June had a kindergarten promotion ceremony. It was adorable (as all kindergarten activities are), and I’m trying to wrap my brain around the fact that our family is done with kindergarten. Unfathomable.

Oh. And Alt Summit registration opened up yesterday, and then sold out by the end of the day!

And now, my attention is turning to our summer in France. We head out so soon! Today I want to work on a basic itinerary, confirm our accommodations and car rentals, and make a list of goals for our time there. But before I get started, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- Are you okay with other adults telling your kids what to do?

- Hah! How to make toast for a toddler.

- My life as a sex object.

- John Oliver buys and forgives $15 million worth of medical debt. Super eye-opening.

- Why 70% of kids quit sports by age 13.

- A period ad that positions blood as a strength not a weakness. Thanks, Alison.

- Silly, but made me laugh – the real reason your food takes so long at restaurants. (Some cussing in this one.)

- Why talented Black and Hispanic students can go undiscovered. (NYT)

- Whaaaa!? These Japanese students hatched chicks outside their eggs.

- Your fat friend doesn’t need your health concern.

- LA is turning old hotels into apartments for homeless vets.

- A little dose of nostalgia for anyone in my age range.

I hope you have an excellent weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.

kisses,
Gabrielle

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Saguaro_Hotel_500px

By Gabrielle. Hotel photo by Jordan Ferney.

[UPDATE: The conference sold the same day! Email registration@altitudesummit.com to be added to the waitlist.]

The past few weeks, my extra attention has been directed to Alt Summit. I’m taking on a broader role with the conference and it’s been so much fun! I’ve been helping make arrangements with the hotel, writing newsletters, and updating the website — all to get ready for today: Registration for the next Alt Summit conference is officially open!

The conference is happening Tuesday, January 31st to Friday, February 3rd, 2017 in Palm Springs, California. It’s taking place at the super-cool, totally modern, incredibly colorful Saguaro Hotel.

Alt Summit has historically sold out very quickly. And today, we’re offering the lowest ticket prices we’ve had in years. Combine that fact with the affordable room rates at the Saguaro, and all signs point to selling out even faster than usual. So if you’re hoping for a ticket, you should definitely grab one today.

My dear friend, the insanely talented Rachel Faucett of Handmade Charlotte told me she will, “100% not miss Alt Summit”. In fact, she attributes 90 percent of her incredibly profitable opportunities to the conference. You read that right: 90%!

The Handmade Charlotte collections for Anthropologie and Pottery Barn led to Pinterest, To The Market, and United Nations ambassadorships. Along came the tidal wave of gigantic product-centric programs placing Handmade Charlotte products in Paper Source, Michaels Stores, JoAnn Stores, Faber Castel, Walmart, Hobby Lobby, and AC Moore.

Hundreds of sponsored campaigns later with LG, HP, Ford, IKEA, Home Depot, Coke, Cannon, Twitter, Keurig, Target, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures, Plaid, Nestle, General Mills, P&G, and Similac earned Handmade Charlotte commercials! McDonald’s, Levi’s, Miracle Gro, Lysol, Subaru, and Ford featured the farm-living family of seven. If that weren’t enough this super publisher went to Africa last year twice with Kate Spade and ONE.org and launched Handmade With Love during the January 2016 Alt Summit keynote.

This is what Rachel said when I asked about her game changing Alt experiences:

GB: Your years attending and speaking at Alt have really paid off! Can you tell us a little bit about how you turn a friendly encounter at the mini parties into closing extremely lucrative long term contracts?

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RF: I’ve heard my father in law say “In the Room in the Deal” a million times. Nothing beats a personal encounter. Alt is super intimate and without a doubt you will get the chance to meet everyone you were drooling over on the speaker list, plus totally unexpected bonus BFFs. After the friendly encounter, follow up the very day by connecting on social channels. Then, follow up again with a short but sweet actionable plan, so that the recipient can easily get a contract in place…..fast. Strike when it’s hot — and Alt Summit is smoking hot!

GB: 90% of your success you attribute to Alt Summit? Come on??

RF: Oh my goodness YES! Alt disengaged our parking break on a very steep slope. Each time I attend, the momentum the conference fuels is multiplied by 10 throughout the year and simply can’t be ignored. Our Alt Summit investment far outweighs the expense. Alt Is For Like Real!

GB: Any last sentiments? We know you’re crazy busy.

RF: I can’t wait to see + meet everybody in California! Peace!

——

I love Rachel’s enthusiasm so much. It’s totally infectious. And I swear, it’s worth coming to Alt Summit just for the opportunity to meet her, and so many other smart, creative, ambitious women.

Have you ever been to an Alt Summit conference? Will I see you there in Palm Springs?

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Love & Friendship

June 9, 2016

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By Gabrielle.

Ben Blair and I caught a late night showing of the new movie Love & Friendship. Have you seen it? It’s based on a Jane Austin story called Lady Susan, which I’ve never read. In fact, I’m embarrassed to say I had never even heard of it until I watched this movie. But the movie was great — so super funny! — and now the book is on my summer reading list.

Here’s the trailer to give you a good mid-week laugh:

I feel like I’m pretty familiar with the writings of Jane Austen, but somehow missed this one. And now I’m wondering what other gems of hers I may have missed. Do you have any favorites among her lesser known works? I’d love your recommendations.

I’m also curious: Is there a book you love, old or new, that you wish someone would make a movie of? Our family loves The Great Brain series, and when I was in Arkansas, I met a man who has the movie rights for the books and is developing the screenplay. I just about died I was so excited! What about you? Any someday movies you dream of?

And lastly, now that summer movie season has hit, is there anything you’re looking forward to seeing? The next movie on our date night list is the The Lobster. Have you heard of it? The preview looks amazing.

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Summer with The Goods

June 8, 2016

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By Gabrielle

Tomorrow is the last day of school. Which means: It’s summertime! Which means: Bored kids! Are you ready?

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, don’t despair. Amy Christie, a long-time Design Mom crafter, just sent me the link to a new subscription service she launched called The Goods. And it seems like the perfect antidote to summer vacation boredom! Oh. And you can try it for free!

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Amy told me she thinks summertime is magical. The weather, the flowers. Schedules are lax and moods are laid back. But as the mother of 3 very young kids, she also knows that summer poses a challenge for parents and caregivers of children: how do we fill all that time and prep all those meals?

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So Amy created The Goods hoping it would be a way to help. She’s put together several subscription options that offer support for summer break, including these two:

1) Summer Making is a 10-week email subscription of projects children can do. Each email delivers four projects, printable, illustrated directions, a printable materials list and links to materials for purchase. When the emails arrive, decide what you and yours want to make and do it! The Goods offer subscriptions for two age groups: 2-5 years and 6-12 years.

2) Summer Lunching is a 10-week email series to help with lunch menu planning. Combining the favorite recipes of your home with two new recipes each week, no one will go hungry. Subscribers receive printable recipe cards, a printable menu planner and printable pantry/grocery checklists.

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Sounds awesome, right? Want to try it for free? Follow this link and sign up to receive one set of projects at no cost, sent directly to your inbox. Four projects with printable, illustrated directions, a printable materials checklist and links to materials.

I love this idea so much! Sometimes, the best gift is when someone else does the thinking for you. You know what I mean? If you are stressing about summertime, or you’re just looking for something fun to do with your kids, check out The Goods!

Photo credits: The Goods

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By Gabrielle.

Ana first sent me a video tour of her home, with her guiding the way through it. Her voice could melt butter, her eyes are so kind, and I seriously wrote back, “WE WOULD BE GREAT FRIENDS.” The other day, she sent me updated shots of her kitchen, smack in the middle of cooking a Mexican feast as a thank you to her circle of moms. Again, I thought, “Wow. We would be really great friends.”

I love virtually meeting people whose first impressions hit you like that, don’t you? I really hope you enjoy this interview and tour. Who knows? Maybe Ana will invite us over for a Mexican feast someday!

Welcome, Ana!

We are the Bianchi family: Alberto, Ana, our six-year-old daughter Florencia, and our dog, Pepa Pug, named in honor of Peppa Pig since they both snore just the same. I am originally from Mexico and my family was from Spain. I always say I have 100% Spanish blood but a Mexican heart pumping it.

My husband is a more of a mutt, born in Argentina of a Californian-Scottish mom and Italian paternal grandparents. Needless to say, food in our home is a combo of Italian, Spanish, Mexican deliciousness mixed with healthy American farm-to-table.

Alberto and I met on a blind date on his birthday 12 years ago — nice gift! Since day one we knew this was it. We got married three times: downtown in City Hall (white dress), then in a church (I wore yellow), and a month later we had our “pagan” wedding at a beach in Mexico (blue dress that time!).

How many tomatoes are on your kitchen floor? Ha!

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Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad-2

By Gabrielle. Photos by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.

It’s the last week of school at our house and I seem to have lost all interest in cooking dinner. So I asked Lindsey for a salad recipe that would feel like a meal. She suggested Cobb Salad, and I was like, “Cobb Salad? I always forget about Cobb Salad! But that sounds amazing.” Lindsey agreed. Here’s what she says:

Grilled Chicken Cobb Salad-4

It’s easy to overlook Cobb Salad. I mean, it seems like it’s everywhere from restaurant menus to cold cases at grocery and convenience stores, to cookbooks and cooking shows. Why is this salad so popular? I think that the answer is simple: it’s incredibly delicious and makes good use of ingredients that are easy to find. Cobb Salad is the quintessential crowd pleaser.

The origin of this salad aren’t 100% clear, but it can be traced back to the 1930s. Cobb Salad is really nothing more than colorful rows of perfectly diced and chopped ingredients over a bed of lettuce, and the story about its creation being one that used up odds and ends from a restaurant or hotel kitchen seems to make sense.

Ingredients for Chicken Cobb Salad-3

Traditionally Cobb salad would be served with a vinaigrette, but I am a huge fan of homemade Creamy Herb Dressing, a.k.a. Ranch. So I’m mixing things up a little and keep the classic salad ingredients but use my own dressing. And I think it goes really well with this salad. Of course, if it’s not your thing, totally use a vinaigrette made with balsamic or red wine vinegar.

Ingredients for Chicken Cobb Salad

Now, the key to a really good Cobb Salad is to use the best, freshest ingredients you can find. (Or use up some odds and ends from your refrigerator.)

Click here for the recipe and notes!

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A Few Things

June 3, 2016

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By Gabrielle. Photo by David Miller.

Hello, Friends! How are you? Was it a good week? I know it was a short work and school week because of the Monday holiday, but somehow it felt sooooo long to me. Like I woke up on Tuesday feeling like it should be Friday. So strange.

On our schedule for the weekend: a scout overnighter for Oscar and Ben Blair, a birthday party for a friend, a fifth grade pool party, and a dozen or so errands. How about you? Anything you’re looking forward to?

But before the weekend festivities start, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- Hah! A new Saved By the Bell diner in Chicago.

- It’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. As I’ve mentioned before, eating disorders have had an enormous impact on the Blair family. Take a look at these Nine Truths about Eating Disorders. And watch this video to get up to date on the subject.

- A balanced school needs a balance of volunteers. (NYT) Thanks, Cori.

- Have a baby? You can upload a cry to this worldwide data base.

- I don’t follow celebrity news much, but I read this essay on Amber Heard and I’m still thinking about it.

- A map of the hourly wage needed to rent a 2-bedroom apartment.

- “It’s MY responsibility, as a female, to not “provoke” you. But then you get to knight-in-shining-armor your way through life for those in your protected categories and I am expected to applaud you. Why the outrage now over bathrooms? Why aren’t you outraged every single day?

- This is new: Expectantly rents high-end baby gear to new parents. (It’s only available in the Bay Area at the moment.)

- Poverty is not a crime, and the impoverished are not criminals. Mississippi’s leaders thought welfare recipients were on drugs. They were wrong.

- What it’s like to grow up in the age of likes and lols.

Listen to the whisper.

- The damaging affects of shame-based sex education.

- Hah! Are you sure there isn’t something else I can do before the end of the school year? (Only one more week to go!)

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

kisses,
Gabrielle

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