Living With Kids: Shaleah Soliven

I find the coolest friends in the comment section! I always love where your words lead me, and this time my serendipitous clicking took me straight to Shaleah Soliven’s interior design site. I found her aesthetic flawless and so friendly and mighty intentional on many levels. Of course, I wondered if Shaleah’s personal design was half as spectacular as her professional work, and couldn’t wait to see how her young daughter, Sydney, fit into the surely-elegant Soliven home. You’ll be as pleased as I was to find that Sydney doesn’t fit in the space; she flows through it. Please enjoy the tour!

Newsletter: What If We Got Adoption All Wrong?

Most of the time our opinions change gradually, but once in awhile, we read something or learn something and have a MASSIVE shift in our thinking. I’m talking a full 180 degree shift. I’m not sure how often a huge, sudden shift in thinking happens for any one person, or even how often they recognize it’s happening, but I am very aware I’ve experienced one of those major shifts in thinking for two years in row. In 2020, my views on policing changed really quickly, and in a huge way. I went from assuming police were a necessary part of any society, to being fully on board with the abolish the police movement.

Then, in 2021, I experienced a huge shift in how I think and feel about adoption. I’ve shared tweets and links about this from time to time, and whenever I share tweets that don’t paint adoption in glowing terms (or are outright negative about adoption), I receive many messages from readers who are disturbed about what they just read. Who in the world doesn’t like adoption? What does that even mean? You want kids to live in orphanages? My best friend is adopted and she loves her adopted family. I want to adopt someday and reading this is stressful!

And hey. I get it. I had the exact same thoughts until about year ago.

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

The Best Sugar Cookie Frosting Ever

Have you ever hosted a cookie party? You bake a whole bunch of sugar cookies, gather all the different sprinkles, make several colors of frosting, and invite friends over to decorate a plate of cookies they can take home and share with their family. You can host a cookie party anytime of year (including Valentine’s Day!). Good, messy, creative, delicious fun.

This go-to sugar cookie frosting recipe has come from years of tinkering with a basic American buttercream. American buttercream = butter + powdered sugar frosting, as opposed to European buttercream recipes that include whole eggs, yolks, or whites, a sugar syrup, and loads of butter. (Totally fine to be a fan of both.)

For the perfect sugar cookies, you just have to go with a powdered sugar frosting, because when decorating with sugar cookie frosting, it should eventually set up or dry on the surface. Other types won’t do that. You also want a slightly stiffer frosting that can be piped, if desired, and hold its shape afterwards. American buttercream holds up in warm kitchens too.

There is a third type of sugar cookie frosting called Royal Icing. Royal Icing is made from egg whites and powdered sugar. It is ideal for intricate decorations. It can be thicker and stiffer for piping, and thinner to use as “flood icing.” You’ve probably seen those addictive cookie decorating videos where the design is piped out in thin lines and then the more liquid frosting is piped in and it floods to the piped border.

There’s nothing wrong with Royal Icing, but when it comes to sugar cookies, if you really want something to sink your teeth into, definitely go with buttercream sugar cookie frosting instead. Find a buttercream sugar cookie frosting recipe, a trusted sugar cookie recipe, and helpful notes below.

How To Wash Lingerie

The question of the day: How to Wash Lingerie. Bras and panties, slips, hosiery, camisoles, bustiers, nightgowns. Underthings. Unmentionables. They are often silky, satiny, lacy, and ornate. They are feminine and beautiful. Taking proper care of your underthings not only keeps them looking gorgeous, but it helps them last longer too.

So let’s talk about those silky, sexy unmentionables — we’ll cover how to wash lingerie, and the secrets to keeping your underthings looking lovely.

Easy Donut Valentines For Friends & Classmates

Easy Donut Valentines with Free Printable. Tags read: I like you a "hole" bunch. Donuts in glassine bags with red grosgrain ribbon. Tags attached with red and white baker's twine.

Need a last-minute classroom valentine? These easy donut valentines will be a big hit! This I think we can agree on: everyone loves donuts. So, if you want to win over your Valentine, the odds are in your favor that a ribbon-clad donut will do the trick. This might appear to be a very simple and easy valentine and happily, I can tell you it most definitely is. Bonus? A free printable of the tags!

I always appreciate a really good last-minute Valentine idea. Something you can whip up the night before, long after the craft store has closed. These easy donut valentines are perfect! It will work with a fresh batch of heavenly Krispy Kremes, but will be just as charming with a box of “donettes” from the grocery store (or the gas station!).

So grab a dozen donuts (plus some extras because for sustenance while you put these together), and let’s get started.

Living With Kids: Sarah Wallace

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

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

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

Guide to Patching & Mending Clothes

Clothes Patching Guide via DesignMom.com - 4 Secrets to Patching Clothes for a Well-Mended Wardrobe featured by popular lifestyle blogger, Design Mom

Sigh. It’s true. We live in a throw-away clothing culture. We pick up inexpensive pieces, fully aware that they’ll wear out and need to be replaced next season. But with new interest in slower, sustainable living, choosing clothes that last, and maintaining them so they’ll last even longer, is gaining momentum. Which means patches are back!

A Military Redirect

When I think about recent military news (obscene budgets, drones killing civilians, not caring for vets, etc.), I get super pissed off. So I tried to reframe my thinking. We’ve already allocated the military budget for 2022, we’re not getting that money back. What’s something good we could ask them to do. Something like this:

Americans: We urgently need to get the whole world vaccinated against Covid before there’s another variant. Until the world is vaccinated, our lives — and heck, our whole economy — won’t be safe. This is true for every other country as well.

US Military: Pick us! That’s something we could do quite readily. We’re actually designed and organized for massive campaigns like this.

Americans: Hmmm. This doesn’t seem like your area of expertise. Maybe stick with drones and stuff.

US Military: Not true! Our entire purpose for existing is to keep the country safe — from ANY threat. Covid is the current most dangerous threat. So this is 100% our area of expertise.

Americans: Okay. But how will you pay for it?

US Military: That’s the best part. We have more money than God. The government just gave us $768 billion just for 2022. And that was $24 billion more than we asked for. We’ve got the budget for this covered.

Are The Images Missing From Your Design Mom Emails?

Hello there! I’m writing this post especially for those of you who like to read Design Mom blog posts in your inbox. For about a decade, every time I publish a blog post, an email automatically goes out to anyone who signed up to get Design Mom via email. It’s NOT a newsletter, it’s just the exact same blog posts you see on the blog, but in an email format. If I blog that day, you get an email. If I don’t blog that day, you don’t get an email. If I blog 3 times in one day, you’ll get 1 email with 3 posts.

While it’s true that most people read Design Mom on the actual website, not via email, there are still thousands of you who are subscribed to the email service and (I assume) prefer to read my Design Mom blog posts in an email format.

The blog-posts-via-email come to you through a service called Feedburner, which is owned by Google. If you get Design Mom emails from this sender: noreply+feedproxy@google.com, then you are signed up for the Feedburner service.

At the very bottom of those Feedburner Design Mom emails, you’ll see a notice that says:

You are subscribed to email updates from Design Mom.
To stop receiving these emails, you may unsubscribe now.
Email delivery powered by Google
Google, 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, United States

Lately, I’ve heard from some of you who like to read Design Mom blog posts via email, and you’ve let me know the images aren’t showing up. You’ll get an email with a full house tour interview, but no photos at all! Which is super frustrating.

I looked into it, and the bummer news is that Google is no longer supporting the emails that are delivered through the Feedburner service. So the images are not coming back. And I can’t do anything about it. Further, I plan to stop the service altogether since it’s not delivering properly anymore. That means the Design Mom blog post emails you’re used to receiving, often daily, are going to stop coming to your inbox.

So what are your options? What if you want to keep seeing the Living With Kids home tours? Or getting updates about my family’s life in France? Here’s what I can suggest:

1) You can always go to DesignMom.com and you’ll see all the latest blog posts — home tours, recipes, updates, etc. The photos will all be there too! You can check daily — typically I publish a post 4 or 5 times each week (though when I’m busy, it happens less). Or you can check once a week and catch up on all the most recent posts at one time.

2) You can subscribe to my newsletter. I have a newsletter that is separate from the blog, but it often has links to recent blog posts on Design Mom. So if you get the newsletter in your inbox, even if the main topic of the newsletter isn’t interesting to you, you can still open it up and find helpful links to current Design Mom posts.

The newsletter is published about 3 times per month, and just like the Design Mom emails you’re used to receiving, it’s free for anyone to read. You can sign up for the newsletter here. (You can also choose a paid newsletter subscription if you’d like to support my work — paid subscriptions keep the newsletter ad and sponsor-free.)

Thank you so much for reading Design Mom in your inbox for all these years. I hope you’ll stick around.

kisses,
Gabrielle

Living With Kids: Kimberly Garner

Kimberly has been with us before, and I’ve loved watching her journey. She was in a rental on San Juan Islands in Washington, and when the rental became suddenly unavailable, she was faced with the tough task with finding a new place for her and her kids on a small island with limited properties available. Where she landed is truly beautiful and special. Kimberly really has a way of connecting to the emotion of a space and creating a place that she and her kids really needed after the tough couple of years we have all been through. Welcome back, Kimberly!

Recipe: Baked Cheesy Jalapeño Artichoke Dip

You already know that one of the all-time favorite dips is spinach artichoke dip, but why not mix it up a little bit? This jalapeño version is just the thing to add to any party table, to bring out on a night of board games with friends or family, to take to a get-together, or anytime, really. There’s something about the way goat cheese gets extra creamy when it’s baked, plus that undeniable tang. Oh, it’s so good!

Jalapeños really do shine in this dip. You leave the jalapeños in larger chunks so you know they’re there. And don’t remove the ribs and seeds because the spiciness gives it character. Or do remove them if you want it more on the mild side.

The artichokes kind of take on more of a supporting role. If you can find a jar of grilled marinated artichoke hearts, go for those. They have a tad more flavor, but any marinated artichoke hearts will work. (Note: the ones bottled in oil are less vinegary than the ones packed in water.) You can even use frozen ones in a pinch, but you’ll need to adjust the seasonings a bit by adding a little salt and some lemon juice.

For cheese, it’s a combo of Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack, with Parmesan. You get the ultra creaminess of Jack cheese plus the nutty flavor of Parm, and it is magic with the spicy jalapeños. If you are an artichoke dip fan, you’ll love this take, even without the spinach.

If you’ve got a cast-iron skillet, now’s the time to bring it out. It’s a fun way to present the dip, and the cast-iron keeps the dip hotter for longer — plus, it means one less dish needs to be washed because you use it for sautéing the veggies too.

You can serve this dip with everything from crackers to veggies to baguette slices to corn chips.

Newsletter & Friday Links

In mid-December, I shared some Instagram Stories about the process of installing built-in shelves in our living room. One of the story-panels was a time-lapse of me filling the newly-built, painted-and-dried, bookshelves. I’m wearing pajamas and it’s a dark winter morning — you can see the light from the window change as the time lapse progresses, and the sun begins to rise. After sharing, I received a whole lot of comments from people saying how glad they were I didn’t organize the bookshelves by color. This totally surprised me for two main reasons. 1) I honestly did not realize that some people had negative feelings about books being organized by color.

2) I realized a lot of people following along on Instagram these days are not familiar with my earlier homes (why would they be?), so they didn’t know I am actually a fan of organizing books by color. They didn’t know I wasn’t trying to make a statement about book organization when I filled my new shelves. I wasn’t trying to turn my nose up at a trend. I wasn’t trying to position myself as having strong opinions about book organization.

I felt like I had somehow mislead them into thinking I was on some sort of team that didn’t like styled bookshelves, or that I think that if you have styled shelves then you’re not actually a book reader. When really, if I’m on a bookshelf team at all, it’s this one: Having books in your house is awesome! Display/organize them however you wish.

Click here to read the full newsletter, make comments, and find my mini-link list.

A Guide to Tasting Chocolate

Tasting chocolate has become an art form, a lot like tasting wine and cheese. There are books, classes, and societies all devoted to the art of tasting chocolate. Learning to distinguish between candy chocolate and fine chocolate isn’t as hard as you might think, but it does involve all five senses, and by the time you’ve finished trying out the tips in this post, you’ll have developed a sixth sense for understanding, appreciating, and tasting chocolate.

Do you remember the first time you had a really good piece of chocolate? We mean the good stuff. The kind of chocolate that melts slowly on your tongue, and tastes like berries or citrus, maybe even with a hint of coffee at the end. Once you’ve tasted it and found your favorite, this is the chocolate you’ll secret away in a too-high cupboard. One square of the stuff will get you through the witching hour just before dinner, homework time, and all the deadlines looming before you. Maybe chocolate’s not that magical…but it is delicious.

So let’s forget everything we’ve heard about dark chocolate being bitter, let’s dream beyond a Mars bar, and get acquainted with the art of tasting chocolate. Real chocolate. This will be fun! (And, trust me. This is a very fine skill to have!)

Living With Kids: Eleanor Mayrhofer

Eleanor has such a fun and unique story. She was born in California, moved to Munich, Germany on a whim in her 20s and ended up marrying a German, having a child, and spending the next 20 years there. She makes big city living in a smaller apartment seem not only totally doable, but enviable. Parks within walking distance, electric bikes, social safety nets! It sounds so amazing and you’re going to love peeking around her apartment. Welcome, Eleanor!

Sheet Pan Dinner: Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Veggies

Here’s a super easy dinner option: Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Veggies. I know it sounds fancy, but don’t be fooled. This is simple as can be. It’s a one-sheet-pan recipe — so very little cleanup — and the pork loin comes pre-seasoned and ready to cook, which is a major short cut. You’ll basically chop some veggies put it all on a cookie sheet, and half an hour later you have a meal that looks and tastes like it took a ton of prep.

The root vegetables make it hearty and perfect for winter weather, and the simplicity makes it ideal for an ongoing pandemic that has us all exhausted as can be. I hope you try this! I’m confident it will become a family favorite.

Newsletter: If Content Is Free, How Do The Content Creators Make Money?

In today’s newsletter, I explain the 3 main methods for making money while sharing free content as a Content Creator or Influencer, I discuss how those methods are changing, and ponder on why we assume online content should be free, but don’t expect free work from other types of creators. Here’s an excerpt:

Hey there. I still suspect this topic is only going to be interesting to me. But when I brought it up in my most recent newsletter, it got lots of interest from readers. So I’m going to (nervously) share. This newsletter started as a revenue explainer and then drifted into a philosophical discussion about consuming free content. I hope you enjoy!

—-
I always cheer for an “exposure doesn’t pay the rent” tweet and retweeted this thread thread instantly. Click through to read all the examples of people who expected Jamie Mathias, a songwriter, to write songs for them for free.

Shortly after I retweeted the thread, I saw a note from a reader, it was a blog comment, casually asking me to create a post about a topic they are interested in. And of course, we can assume that if I create that post, that reader expects they will get to read that post for free. To be clear, just like this blog reader, I too have consumed free content online for many years. We all have.

The reader didn’t mean any harm by the request, and I wasn’t offended even a little bit. It was a positive comment and very supportive. Yet, if I fulfill their request, and create the requested blog post, it will take 25+ hours of work, and considerable out-of-pocket expense. It will require research, errands, writing, photography, editing (both words and images), up-to-date software knowledge, marketing expertise, social media expertise, and more.

It’s clear from their request that the reader will benefit by my work in creating the blog post. But something we rarely consider: What will the content creator get out of it? Why would I spend that time creating content that is consumed for free? Should I expect to be compensated for that work? If yes, how should I be compensated for that work?

I’ve been a Content Creator or Influencer since 2006, before the terms “content creator” and “influencer” existed. Heck, before the term “mommy blogger” existed. Which means, I’ve been making 100% FREE content for 16 years. Over 6000 blog posts. over 15,000 Instagram Story segments. Over 2400 Instagram Posts. Innumerable Tweets. Over 40 short films. Etc. ALL free for people who want to read or watch or consume what I create.

Starting around 2010, for about 8 years, I was able to make a good living from creating this free content. I’m nothing but grateful that I was able to make a career of this work for so many years. For those of you who wonder how the people you follow make money, here’s a 101 course. If you are offering free content, there are 3 main options to earn money: 

Click here to read the full newsletter or to comment on this topic.

New Year, New You, Newlane — Scholarship Giveaway!

Here’s something fun: I have 3 Newlane University Scholarships to give out!!! Let’s do a good-old-fashioned giveaway over on Instagram. Don’t need a scholarship? You should still enter to win! Because if you win, you can use the scholarship yourself, OR you can give it to somebody else who needs it — a friend, a family member, even a total stranger! I’ll bet you know someone awesome who really wants to earn a college degree.

There are 3 ways you can enter. Do one of the 3 options for one entry, or do all 3 options and you’ll be entered to win 3 times! Here are the 3 options to enter on my Instagram post: 1) Leave a comment and tag 2 people you think should know about Newlane. 2) Save this post by tapping the flag icon, and leave a comment about what major you want Newlane to introduce next. 3) Share this post — tap the paper airplane and share it to your stories or DM a friend.

If you win: You (or the person you give the scholarship to) can use it earn an Associate Degree, or if you already have your Associate Degree, you can use your scholarship to earn a Bachelors Degree in Philosophy. The 3 winners will be randomly picked on Tuesday, January 18th, 2022 and contacted via Instagram DM. Check out Instagram for more details, or keep reading.

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