Donating Your Hair

Three Decembers ago, Mimi had her hair cut off and donated to make a wig for a child with cancer. It was a really positive experience — the sort of thing that stays with you. So once again, her hair has grown out (see above), and she’s been considering another donation. That long ago gift was such a real, tangible way for Maude to do service. And it was also the ideal opportunity to sit down as a family and talk about how to fight cancer, and things we can do to support cancer victims. Since not every child can donate their hair, I’d love to hear some other ideas. Have you talked to your kids about cancer? Or had to explain about a suddenly bald head among the relatives? Have your kids offered support or service to a cancer victim? What has worked in your family? P.S. — If you know a mother of young children who has lost all her hair to cancer, this book might help.

Barcelona

[imagebrowser id=21] [nggallery template=’carousel’ id=’21’]   Oh my goodness! I didn’t realize it until I started editing them down, but I took approximately 1 billion photos in Barcelona. Holy moly! Above are 27 of my favorites. Sorry if that’s too many! : ) I have to say we LOVED Barcelona. Such a cool city. And such a fun place for a family to visit. Lots of great outdoor spaces and walking districts, which made it super easy to explore! …

Living With Kids: Jenifer Altman

No matter where Jenifer Altman lives, whether in the Midwest, Brooklyn, or her newest home in Asheville, you can be sure her space will be photograph-worthy. Good thing for us she’s a brilliant photographer! But that’s just the tip of her professional iceberg; she’s also a sublime cook who shares her skills with gusto, a writer whose words rival the beauty found in her Polaroids, a wife to Den, and the mother of three little ladies who seem to be grooving happily in her creative footsteps (Exhibits A and A, if you please.). Also, as you’ll discover in about three seconds, she’s an inspired interior decorator deep down who’s found the formula to creating an acutely artistic yet entirely livable home. Enjoy this first peek at Jen’s newest space! It’s a beauty. …

Sex Ed

Fun fact: I didn’t know what the basic mechanics of sex were until I was a senior in high school. (That didn’t stop me from lots of making out. : ) My kids on the other hand, they know more facts and terms associated with sex than I did at 20 years old! …

Sagrada Familia

[imagebrowser id=20] [nggallery template=’carousel’ id=’20’]   I loved pretty much everything about our trip to Barcelona. But I think my very favorite part was our visit to Sagrada Familia. Have you heard of it? It’s a cathedral designed by Gaudi and it’s unlike any other building I’ve ever been in. We were walking around the interior, and snapping photos like crazy, and I whispered to Ben Blair, “It’s hard to be here and not feel like it’s the most important piece of architecture in the world.” It is amazing! I found myself envious of anyone who actually gets to attend church there. What a wonderful place to worship and inspire elevated thoughts! It made me want to message everyone I know and tell them to get on a plane (right now!) and come see this place. : ) I’m so curious! Do you have a building you’re dying to see in person? What’s the coolest architecture you’ve ever visited? P.S. — Tomorrow, I’ll share more of my photos from Barcelona and tell you about the cool apartment we stayed in.

Gifting for Wee Ones

Another sibling gift idea we enjoyed, before we started the making tradition, was to take each of the kids shopping and let them pick out small, sort of silly, sort of practical gifts for each other. Ralph might pick out a box of band aids for each sibling (the special kind with Spiderman or the CareBears). Maude might pick out a new toothbrush for each brother or sister. The gifts would be carefully wrapped and placed under the tree with great excitement. We still do this when the kids are too little for making. I think it’s a good first exercise in considering someone else. The 2 year old will be in the aisle at Target, carefully considering which bandaids a particular sister would want the most. And since the concept of giving is tricky at that age, we let them pick a box out for themselves as well. Last year was June’s first Christmas and she enjoyed playing with the wrapping. This year I think she’ll get a kick out of being the unwrapper. And next year, she’ll be two, and she’ll get her turn to pick out little gifts. I think she’ll love it! At what age do you introduce gift giving at your house? Any ideas that have worked well for your littlest ones?

What Gifts Are From Santa? What Gift Are From Parents?

christmas ornaments
Question: I’m stressed out thinking about Christmas gifts. How do you figure out what gifts are from Santa and what gifts are from the parents? I want Christmas morning to be so magical that I’m afraid I’m buying too much and it will backfire. You have so many kids that I figure you’ll have some advice. Can you help? — Abby christmas ornaments Answer: Great question, Abby! Every year around this time, I get similar questions, so I know this is something that many parents think about. I’ll answer in 3 parts. 1) As for buying too much, here’s what has worked for our family. I use a guideline I learned from my sister-in-law: Santa Claus brings something to read, something to wear and something to play with for each child. Just three things. They end up with other gifts too — from siblings and grandparents or other relatives, but Santa only leaves 3 under the tree. Having a guideline in place makes it much easier to curb the amount of stuff coming into our house and to keep our holiday budget in check. …

Pear Pie

I’ve got a few announcements I don’t want you to miss. First: We have a really cool promotion happening on Kirtsy this week. We’re giving away 2 copies of Deborah Needleman’s new book, The Perfectly Imperfect Home, every single day! Do you know Deborah? She was the editor of Domino. She’s rad. Enter to win a copy here. Second: I’m looking for DIY contributors for Design Mom. Yay! Do you love making cool projects? Do you have a DSLR camera so you can take really clear pictures? Do you know how to blog? Then I’d love to hear from you! Shoot me an email and include a link to one or more of the projects you’ve made. Third: This one’s for business owners. There are a couple more spots available for sponsors in the great big Design Mom Holiday Giveaway week. If you’ve got a prize to offer up that you know Design Mom Readers will love (min. $200), send an email to designmomads@gmail.com. Fourth: We’ve been picking the pears in our yard. We were told these particular pears aren’t great for eating raw — that they’re only good cooked down into a sauce. I wonder how they’d bake up in a pie? Have you ever made pear pie? I hope you’re having a lovely day!

8 Tips for Doing Arts & Crafts With Kids

Hello, Friends! I posted this advice back in 2008, but I read it again recently and thought: I have more kids now, and they’ve grown since 2008, but I still agree with what I wrote. Hah! So here are my tips again, for those of you who are getting ready to get your holiday crafting on and hope to involve your kids. : ) ——- Design Mom’s 8 Tips for Doing Crafts or Art Projects with Your Kids 1) Admit to yourself it’s going to be messy. If that stresses you out, cover surfaces with newsprint or butcher paper to catch bits of paper and glitter and drops of glue. Use materials (adhesive, markers, etc.) that are washable. Then relax. If you get paint on your hands, it’s okay. If your child gets marker on her shirt, it will wash. When you’re finished, roll up the newsprint and discard the mess easily. …

Gift Giving Traditions

I thought it might be nice to re-share our sibling gift tradition, in case any new readers are curious. Since I have an artsy-craftsy bunch at my house, in 2006 we decided to come up with gifts my kids could make for each other. Things like sculpey bead bracelets and recycled crayons. It was adorable! And they loved the whole process: brainstorming the ideas, sneakily making the gifts, and watching their siblings open the surprise. So we’ve continued the tradition ever since. We try to come up with toys or items that will really be used (like the monogrammed mugs pictured), versus drawings or items that are purely decorative. But we definitely make exceptions. When we come up with a tradition like this, I try not to think of it as a hard and fast rule. This year, the 3 oldest kids have some money saved and are thinking about buying some gifts and making others. That’s absolutely fine with me. I’ve tried to keep the spirit of flexibility I started with. : ) …

Living With Kids: Kimberly Sly

I love how each room in Kim Sly’s home holds a dedicated space for her two young sons; inclusion is a grand part of good design, don’t you think? But, friends, I really love her studio. I am admittedly an art room junkie – there’s just something so galvanizing about seeing the space where something artistic originates – but this one looks like it’s used happily, doesn’t it? The proof sits virtually in Kim’s Etsy shop; an abundance of crisp graphic work and some pretty magical city prints perfect for those of us with a healthy case of wanderlust. Her shop motto is to create fun and personal design for all ages, and she’s achieved the same result in the Portland, Oregon home she shares with her husband and two sons. You’ll see! …

Ancient Cave Paintings

Last year, when we were making our plans to move to France, reading books and doing research, I told Ben Blair that the number one thing I wanted to see was the prehistoric cave paintings in the Dordogne region. The most famous are the Lascaux cave paintings. I studied them in college and fell in love with the whole idea of them immediately, because they’re dated at 20,000(!) years old, but there’s nothing primitive about them. The lines of the drawings are sophisticated and elegant. They were drawn over thousands of years by teams of artists who clearly studied a specific technique. They’re gorgeous. When I learned about them,  I remember thinking: I know it was 20,000 years ago, but anyone whose brain could create something like those drawings, couldn’t have been very different from me. Anyway. I’ve wanted to see them for so long, and on our drive to Barcelona, we were able to. (Chills just thinking about it!) …

The Kids Table

Hello, Friends! I’m working with T-Mobile on a series of budget conscious posts (find post #1 here). Today’s topic: The Thanksgiving Kids Table. Yes, the ingredients for a full-on Turkey dinner can wipe out a budget, but there’s no need to spend a bundle to keep the kiddos entertained while you concentrate on the stuffing. So I scoured the web and spotted the 3 most adorable activities your kids (and wallet) will love. Corn Necklaces & Garlands First up, a simple idea I spotted on Paisley and Lace. String dried corn kernels to make a necklace or garland! Dried corn kernels are hard. So prep them for stringing by using a drill. If you prefer, you can also soak them and then poke a hole through the softened kernels with a big needle. Once they’re prepped, older kids can use embroidery floss and a needle to string them. For younger kids, avoid the needles by using a stiff waxed kitchen twine or stiffen the ends of embroidery floss by soaking it in glue and letting it dry. Your little ones can make bracelets for the honored guests, or a garland to hang from the chandelier. …

Living With Kids: Natasha Golota

Sweden seems like a lovely place to live, doesn’t it? It tops nearly every list of the best countries in which to raise children because of its generous health care policies, enviable maternity and paternity leaves, and stroller access pretty much everywhere. And we can’t forget about IKEA! Talented photographer, blogger, and mom Natasha Golota agrees. She and her partner are celebrating their first year in their sunny, open home with their two young boys, and she wouldn’t live anywhere else. Unless, perhaps, it’s New York! Please enjoy this small taste of Sweden. Q: I love the bursts of purple throughout your living space! Are you always so bold with your color choices? A: I usually like very basic natural colors when I decorate interiors, but I do fancy bright details. They don’t need to match at all, but their presence in a room makes the decor more interesting and brings several more layers into the decoration. I like unusual and uncommon colors, which is why I chose purple in the living room. It’s not one of my favorite colors – and in fact, I don’t even like it! – but it made such an adorable match with the bright green, and I couldn’t resist! …

Living With Kids: Martina Ahlbrandt

I tend to hold my breath when I check in on Martina’s blog. She and her husband, Jason, are foster parents hoping to someday adopt. They’ve sweetly decorated a bedroom in their home without knowing the age of the child they would be asked to keep, and every corner of it makes me smile. Their first placement, lovingly called Ladybug, stayed in their nursery not nearly long enough; they’d been hoping she’d stay forever. After a little break to try to heal their hearts, they’re now taking care of a newborn they call Precious. This is her room. I  hope you enjoy the tour as much as I did. …

On the Road

Okay you guys. You will think I’m ridiculous, but here’s the deal. Ben Blair and I arrived home from Florence on Saturday night. And the kids happen to have a 2-week break from school starting today. So. We loaded up the van and we’re driving to Barcelona!! We’re making a couple of stops on the drive south to break up the trip, but we should arrive in Spain tomorrow. I’m so excited! I’ve never been to Barcelona but we’ve heard over and over again that it’s an amazing city for families to visit. Something interesting about this trip: we stayed at a small hotel last night, we’re staying at a youth hostel tonight, and we’re trying out Airbnb in Barcelona (it’s this apartment — looks good, right?). Should be fun to compare and contrast. : ) How do you travel? Hotels? RVs? House Rentals? There are so many options!

Clara the Cow

When we settled into our hotel last night, I checked my email and found this message from my daughter Maude: So, I heard the lawn mower stop, and I went outside to see what was up. The cows were mooing louder than usual. I crossed the street, and I saw Mme Lucienne and her husband and the lawn mower guy. The husband had plastic on his arms, and a cow was tied to the corner of a fence. The gate was wide open. Mme Lucienne was putting fresh hay out. The cow was in lots of pain, I could tell. The man reached into her bottom, and pulled out some hooves. A small gold head poked out. The man was covered in blood. He untied the cow. I saw the mom lick her baby clean. It started to rain, but only a little. Mme Lucienne and her husband went inside, and the lawn mower went back to work. About 10 minuets later, I saw the baby try to stand up. All the other cows rushed forward. The baby fell. A rainbow appeared in the sky. The baby stood and went under the mama. Mme Lucienne came back out, all clean, and asked us what the baby girls name should be. Betty suggested Clara, and Mme Lucienne agreed. The baby cow took her first steps, and ate some hay. Mme Lucienne went back inside. Betty and I went in too. xoxo, Mimi I think that might be the best email I’ve ever received! I’m so glad my kids got to see a calf being birthed (and named it too!). That’s the sort of experience that stays with you. Don’t you wish you could be everywhere at once sometimes?

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Thank you so much for the Florence recommendations! I’ve made an amazing wishlist from your suggestions and I can’t wait to explore. We flew into Pisa yesterday afternoon (a short 1.5 hour flight!) and made a little field trip to see the Leaning Tower. I don’t have a life list, but it definitely felt like a life list moment. : ) I took a million pictures and can’t wait to share. Afterwards, we hopped on a train to Florence — 1 hour due west. P.S. — I snapped this photo with Instagram. I’m gabrielle_designmom if you want to join me.

Hello Italy

Did I tell you I’m on my way to Florence, Italy today? Yippee! Ben Blair is presenting a paper at a language learning conference on Friday, so we decided to make a parents-only getaway. Doesn’t that sound romantic? Our dear friends, Audrey & Nic, are taking good care of our children while we’re away. I feel so darn lucky! I plan to eat nothing but pizza and gelato. : ) We’ve never been to Florence before. Any don’t miss recommendations? Vintage postcard of Florence found here.

Living With Kids: Saule Smariga

Just last week, we were lucky enough to tour Angelique’s happy home. Today, I’m thrilled to introduce the other half of the Silk & Burlap team, Saule Smariga. After a few really lovely email exchanges, I can honestly tell you that she’s as warm and as interesting as the home she shares with her husband and three young children. Enjoy the tour! Q: The width of your home is 20 feet wide! Amazing. I do love seeing how you’ve overcome this little challenge. What’s your secret to making your spaces seem so airy? A: Considering our last home was a 16-foot wide row home, this felt expansive to us! Trial and error has a lot to do with making the spaces work, but the abundance of windows and natural light along with the open floor plan, smaller scale furniture, and a lot of storage to hide clutter help make the house feel comfortable. This has by far been the most challenging feature in making our house into a home. People are always surprised when they see the inside of the house for the first time. It feels much bigger than they expected looking from the outside! …
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