Design Mom’s Favorite Christmas Books

The Best Christmas Books featured by top US lifestyle blog, Design Mom: image of a child reading How to Grinch Stole Christmas

Tis the season to read holiday books while snuggled up on the sofa. Here’s a list of our top family favorites — and a few new-to-us titles too. 

Some of these books are good for older readers (even grown ups) and some for the littlest listeners. Some are religious and sentimental, others are completely secular. But altogether, I think they make a really good collection.

For each title, I’m including links to — it’s an online option that supports local independent bookstores. I’ll also include an Amazon link for each title, because I know some of you have credit there you’d like to use.

A great book-related idea: My sister-in-law Erin wraps up 25 Christmas books and uses them as an advent calendar — her kids unwrap one each day and read it as a family. (If you don’t have 25 Christmas books, you could start with what you have and borrow some from the library.)

You’ll notice this list is focused on Christmas books — because that’s the holiday my family celebrates, and it’s the one I know best. But obviously, there are lots of winter holidays that are celebrated across the world, so if you have recommendations for non-Christmas holiday books, I’d love to learn about them. Feel free to add links or titles in the comments.

38 Awesome Gift Ideas for Teens

Top Gift Ideas for Teens featured by top life and style blog, Design Mom: image of wrapped holiday gifts

Your #1 most requested gift guide category? Teens! This gift guide includes 38 options — 18 of those are $20 or under. Lots of great stocking stuffers too.

My own teens were a huge help figuring out what to put on this list. There’s something here for every type of teen you can think of. I’ve got all the Breakfast Club stereotypes covered, and a whole bunch more as well.

Let’s get started. 

Holiday Prep Supplies

This is a great week to gather holiday supplies. I start by assessing my ribbon and wrapping and gift box stash, and filling in any gaps. (I stock up now for the whole year because prices are best this time of year.)

As for decor, we’ve been gathering it over 25 years of marriage, so in general, we have plenty. But I do notice that every year when we unpack the storage boxes, there’s an item or two that’s beyond repair or looking too shabby and needs to be replaced. So I like window shopping the holiday decor displays so that I know what’s out there, in case I need to pick something up.

Here are some of my very favorite sources for holiday prep:

Making Handmade Gifts — 15 Very Cool Projects

Gorgeous Handmade Gift Ideas featured by top US lifestyle blog, Design Mom: wooden spoons

Let’s talk handmade gifts. My tendency to focus on handmade gifting seems to wax and wane over the years. Sometimes I’m really into it — gathering ideas and supplies for weeks and then setting aside several days to work on the projects. Other times I’m perfectly content to buy something ready made.

For those of you who like to make gifts for the holidays, I’ve collected 15 really good ones that I think you’ll love. It’s a wide range of projects, and so many of them are great to make with kids. Especially 4, 5, 9 and 10.

Scotland Travel Advice From Readers

During Fall Break, while our kids had time off school, we spent three days in Scotland! We loved it so much. We spent time in Edinburgh, and spent a day on Isle of Skye doing three famous hikes — The Fairy Pools, Old Man of Storr, and The Quiraing (the image above is from The Quiraing hike). You can find a full report from our trip in the Instagram Highlights called Scotland and Scotland 2.

When we were planning the trip, we received so many helpful DMs with advice and recommendations, and I thought I would share them here for anyone else planning their own visit to Scotland. Note: Our trip was the first week of November, so the advice below may or many not apply depending on when your trip is scheduled.

Measuring the Impact of Ejaculate Responsibly

One of my big overarching goals with the Ejaculate Responsibly book, is to see it make a wide and deep impact. I understand it’s an ambitious goal, but I really want this book to help shift the unproductive conversations we’ve been having about abortion for decades, and focus them on something more concrete and practical. 

I know it takes time to truly and accurately measure impact, but I’m impatient, and I’m a visual learner, so I thought it would be really neat to try to visualize the impact the book is having, or is going to have. So I’ve come up with a few “impact measurement goals” that I’d love your help with.

Impact Goal Number One: The Supreme Court

My first goal is getting the book into the hands of every Supreme Court Justice, all nine of them. And not just one copy. I want them to receive a bunch of copies. I’m thinking about their staff, their interns, their clerks — and want all of them to receive copies too. I’m thinking that if a Justice’s office receives a lot of books, with a lot of personal notes from people impacted by the Supreme Court’s decisions, the Justices are more likely to pay attention to the book and more likely to read it. 

So, I kicked things off by ordering a book for the five justices who voted to overturn Roe: Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Coney-Barrett, and Thomas. And you’re invited to send books too!

Apple Votive DIY

Apple Votive DIY

Let’s make apple votives! This is the ideal fall project. It’s simple, it’s easy, and you probably have everything you need to make these in your house right this minute. They’re the first Martha Stewart project I ever tried (way back in 1997!). And they’re still one of my favorites.

Making apple votives is super easy and doesn’t take much time at all. The finished display is so pretty and festive it makes for a really satisfying project.

Living With Kids: Anne McGraw

There’s often a little internal struggle when all of our life’s dreams don’t look exactly like they did with our eyes closed. Even if the reality is just as wonderful and just as ideal, it takes a moment or two of growing pains to adjust! So I completely understand when Anne talks about her reticence to fully embrace suburban life for a while. Homes all on top of each other and neighbors knowing when you’re leaving and when you’re coming home wasn’t how she envisioned her life, but their location and all the lovely friends they’ve made in their neighborhood turned out to be a huge factor in the happiness levels of her family! Eyes closed or open, that is just heavenly.

Friends, I hope you enjoy the bright colors and bright ideas in this tour. I sure did! Welcome, McGraw family!

Recipe: Easy Meatball Stroganoff

Creamy, protein-filled sauce poured over noodles or rice? It’s a universal favorite at our house. And this is hands down the easiest version ever, because it’s made with frozen meatballs instead of stew meat or hamburger. Even your pickiest eaters will want to gobble this right up. (Even if there are a few mushrooms pushed to the side — you can’t win them all.) I’m confident you’ll declare this recipe a winner.

Usually stroganoff includes buttered noodles or homemade spaetzle or even rice. And a perfect side dish to pair it with is braised red cabbage — find the simple recipe in the notes below in case you want to make it too.

Okay, so let’s get into how easy it is to make this meatball stroganoff!

How to Make a Book Cover

How to Cover a Book tutorial featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Gabrielle of Design Mom

As a high-school student, covering my textbooks was always something I looked forward to, (so that I could fill the blank covers with I-heart-Morrissey). With a new school year, it’s the perfect time for a little refresher course on covering books, don’t you think?

Newsletter: Talking To Myself On Long Walks

For the last couple of weeks I’ve needed to get out some extra energy, and I’ve been taking long solo walks of an hour or more, usually in the evening after dinner. These are not fitness-focused walks — I’m not breaking a sweat or anything like that. I’m just walking, sort of wandering. I figured I would listen to a podcast or audiobook while I walk, and sometimes I do. But a lot of the time, I’m not listening to anything and instead, I’m just working out ideas and arguments in my head — or voicing aloud my thoughts as I talk to myself. I keep my headphones in, so maybe if someone sees me talking to myself, they’ll assume I’m on a phone call. : )

Click here to read the whole newsletter. It’s free!

Living With Kids: Alana Chernecki

Alana is agreeable and affable and just downright happy. She knows what she needs to achieve that happiness, including beautiful spaces that work for her family and inspire them to be great…and her sleeping arrangements. (You might not agree with those, but I am sure Alana would laugh and wave away your worries! She is no longer a sleep-deprived grump and wants to shout it from the rooftops!)

Come see Alana’s home. I love the story of her background, and I think you will, too. Welcome, Alana!

Dessert For Two: Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Peach Compote

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Peaches

Every time I sit down to write about a dessert, my inclination is to exclaim, “This is my favorite!” But I find that I’m saying that about every dessert. Ha! But I really do love, really LOVE, panna cotta. It’s an Italian dessert which translated means “cooked cream.” I’m not even sure when the first time was that I made panna cotta, but I do remember thinking to myself, “Okay, this is something special.”

It is a special kind of dessert, but it’s awfully simple to make. The thing that makes panna cotta exceptional is the texture. It should be light, creamy, and jiggly; but not too firm. Think: creme brulee without the eggs. It uses gelatin, but it should not be at all like jell-o. No. That would be a travesty. It’s silky and smooth, and practically melts on your tongue.

The ingredients are very simple as well: heavy cream, gelatin, and sugar. That’s it. Three ingredients. Then they can be flavored as desired. My very favorite variation uses part buttermilk and heavy cream, and is flavored with vanilla. The tang of the buttermilk with the creaminess of the heavy cream and the sweet vanilla essence is the stuff dreams are made of. This dessert is heavenly.

Panna cotta doesn’t need much of anything on top, but I think it’s splendid with fruit. Since I had some lovely peaches, I had to make a simple compote to pair with buttermilk panna cotta.

Fresh peaches are wonderful here, but if you can’t find any, you can substitute frozen and thawed peaches, or substitute your favorite fruit. Berries are magnificent with the tangy buttermilk. A little lemon juice helps brighten the flavors a bit and the brown sugar and cinnamon just kind of take it up another notch. To make the fruit a little more special, you could add a splash of bourbon or brandy, but that’s completely optional.

Last Chance to Join the Book Launch Group!

Last Chance to join the Book Launch Group for my new book, Ejaculate Responsibly! It’s totally free to join and lots of fun. The Book Launch Group is a private group and members get exclusive perks — weekly notes from me with behind-the-scenes info, discounts, a Zoom call just for group members, and the first look at book merch. 

If you want to join the Book Launch Group (with 900 other awesome people who already signed up!), send me your email address ( and I’ll send you an invite. I’m going to close down invitations this Friday (9/9), so if you want in, this is your last chance.

I’ve sent out a few notes to the Book Launch Group so far, including different color alternatives for the cover that we considered, and what it was like recording the audiobook.

I hope you’ll join the Book Launch Group! And feel free to tell your friends if you think they’d be interested.

Want more info about the Book Launch Group? You can read about it in my newsletter.

Make Mismatched Dishes into a Matching Set

Give a new life to secondhand mismatched dishes! Oh my goodness. I think I’m obsessed with this painted plate DIY. Quick: Get to your favorite secondhand shop (Goodwill, Salvation Army, D.I.) and grab all the mismatched white dinnerware you can find. Then use this super easy tutorial to create a brand new set of service for four. Or six. Or eight!

You can make as many place settings as you like, in whatever color scheme you like! The options are endless. Come see how easy it is.

Living With Kids: Kate Holbrook

[ Note from Design Mom: I am deeply saddened to report that Kate Holbrook died of a rare cancer of the eye, at age 50, on August 20th, 2022. Her home tour was originally published in November of 2019. We are republishing it today to share again Kate’s beautiful home and beautiful life as a memorial to her. If you’d like to learn more about the remarkable Kate, here are a few links:
-Thoughts on Kate’s life in The Salt Lake Tribune and in The Deseret News
-A sermon written by Kate from 2006
Kate’s obituary
-The video of Kate’s funeral
-An essay about KateWhat Kate Holbrook taught me about the love of God through food

My personal connection to Kate is through a close friend of mine and of Kate’s, Susan Hamilton. Once upon a time, maybe 16 or 17 years ago, Susan and I took a little roadtrip from New York to Boston and stayed the night at Kate’s house. That was my first time meeting her and I was immediately struck by how warm, smart, and interesting she was.

I think you’ll love this quote from Kate in the home tour below: When I feel frustrated, I try to remember the point of the house is to bring people together, not to harm relationships in search of house perfection. 

I send love and sympathy to Kate’s family and all those affected by her death. — Gabrielle ]

Kate has such a fascinating story and I’m so excited for you to meet her today. Her home is a traditional gem in a neighborhood in Salt Lake City. It’s warm and cozy and there are book cases and books around every corner — you can instantly tell this is a family full of readers. Kate also shares some of the life-altering challenges she’s gone through as well brilliant philosophies about cooking and eating as a family. Welcome, Kate!

French Onion Burgers Recipe

French Onion Burgers |

I love grilling at the end of summer and into the fall. These French Onion Burgers definitely have a fall feel to them. Each juicy burger is topped with slow-cooked caramelized onions and melted Gruyere cheese served up on a buttery toasted brioche bun with a thick slice of garden fresh tomato, a handful of arugula, and homemade herbed aioli. It sounds like something you’d order in a restaurant, right? So fancy! But it’s easy to put together and would be great to serve for a fall BBQ party or anytime you’re in the mood for a burger that will knock your socks off.

Talk Shop Live!

I’ll be going LIVE on Talk Shop Live this Friday, August 26th at 7:00pm ET. Please join me to talk about my new book, Ejaculate Responsibly, order an autographed copy, and commemorate Women’s Equality Day! I’ll be staying up late that night, because it will be 1:00am for me in France. So I hope you’ll join in, ask me questions, tell me I don’t look sleepy, and help me keep the energy up. : )

This is my first big marketing event for my book and I am so excited they invited me. Talk Shop Live hosts events for mega-celebrities — like Dolly Parton and Ringo Starr — and people get to interact with them and ask questions, and the celebrities get a chance to talk about what they’re working on. But it’s not just for celebrities! It’s for non-celebrities like me too. And it’s so much fun! Thanks in advance for helping me make this a really successful event.

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