House Rules

18 September 2013   //     13 comments   //   design, diy, happy, step away from the screen, type

Hey kids! Not sure if you noticed or not, but I haven’t been here in a while. My 365 project got derailed a little bit. First it was because I was busy. Then it was because I was actually spending a lot more time away from my screen.  Then I got busy again, and somewhere along the way, I decided to let myself off the hook and pick it back up when I had the wherewithal. Or not. We’ll see.

Meanwhile… I thought it might be time for another story about something I stepped away from the screen and made. Yeah? Okay! This story has a few “parts” to it, so I thought I’d break it down into bite size pieces.

Act 1 –

Scene 1:
About a year and a half ago, I started writing our family’s “house rules.” I had seen a few of these lists floating around the Internet and really liked what they were all about. Especially in a house with kids. So I started working. Not diligently, but whenever something occurred to me, I would add it to the list. I kept the list on Evernote so it would be with me wherever I was.

Scene 2:
One night I was sitting on my couch looking around the living room. The staircase is a dominant feature of that room because it is right smack in the middle of it. All our walls are painted different colors, but the stairs are white wood. It occurred to me that I needed to do something creative with the stairs. I mean, here it was, a giant canvas right in the middle of the living room and it was just plain white. So I added that to my ever-present, ever-growing list of “things to think about and do someday.”

Act 2 –

Scene 1:
The house rules were coming along nicely, but there was a problem: Where was I going to put it once it was finished? We don’t have a ton of walls in our house (years ago previous owners knocked down most of the walls turning a boxy, compartmentalized, 1930′s era bungalow into an open, airy, modern feeling home. We love it, but we don’t have as many places to hang things as we might like.), and most of those walls were already exhibiting art, as we’d lived in the house for 6 years.

Scene 2:
One daydreamy afternoon, I’m thinking about our stairs, and what fun thing I could create for them, when suddenly it all comes together for me. The house rules! On the stairs! One rule per step. I counted the steps (13) and opened the house rules document. I had 9 rules. Surely I could come up with 4 more.

Act 3 –

Scene 1:
The stairs were, upon close inspection, pretty banged up. 6 years of a family of 4 on white stairs? Yeah. Might need a little paint. So that was the first part of the project. meanwhile, I was trying to figure out the best way to get the words on the stairs. I considered freehand painting, sharpie, and stencil painting, but I’m a fairly compulsive person (understatement), and I know that any imperfections would drive me crazy. Finally I decided on vinyl. Choosing the typeface and, more importantly, the color took a while — the stairs are surrounded by yellow, sage green, red, and brown walls. What color would work with all of those? We ultimately decided on a steely blue grey. And practical, clean DIN for the font. I designed the words and had them printed at my favorite sign company for about $40.

Scene 2:
Got the vinyl back as one big sheet. While I cut the lines apart, I also stressed about how to apply them so they’d be straight and also spaced the same distance from the wall (remember — compulsive). I decided left-aligned would work better than centered, and would also look more modern.

Act 4 –

They came out about a million times better than I even hoped they would. And the kids love them. And I love them. And we have even invented a game around them. We frequently find our cat, Mark, hanging out in the middle of the stairs. So we decided he would choose our rule of the day. Any time someone walks by the steps and sees Mark there, they yell out the rule he’s sitting on: “Mark says WORK HARD!!” Or “Mark says, SHARE!”

Here’s the complete list of our house rules. I strongly encourage you to think about what yours would be, even if you don’t turn them into something on display. It’s pretty interesting to consider which behaviors are important enough to you and your family that you would classify them as “rules.”

Be Kind.
Laugh. A lot.
Work Hard.
Play Fair.
Tell the Truth.
Offer to Help.
Ask Nicely.
Hug and Kiss.
Say Thank You.
Respect Others.


Lucky Number 13

31 December 2012   //     2 comments   //   design, eat + drink, happy


Ladies and Gentlemen. The future. It’s coming!

Once again, we’re in the lucky position of being able to make a fresh start with a brand spankin’ new year. 365 whole days to do it all right this time. Clean slate. Tabula Rasa. Square One. Woo!

And how do we celebrate? That’s right, friends — say it with me — with Collard Greens!

And what kind of friend would I be if I left you hangin without a great recipe for Collards? No kind of friend. So here it is: The best collards recipe ever. Seriously — people who swear they don’t like collards (like my Dad!) love these collards. So don’t be nervous — go for it! Make yourself a mess o’ greens (and black eyed peas, and pork!) and bring on the fortune, luck, and prosperity. Let’s kick number 13′s butt.

Oh, and don’t forget the milk punch!


Ohmygod Yum Collards

- 4 bunches of collards, long stems and tough ribs removed
- Salt
- 1/4 cup brown butter (recipe included)
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2 chipotle chile en adobo, all chopped up (to taste — it’s intended to add smoky, not spicy)
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Pepper vinegar (recipe follows)

Wash the greens thoroughly in a whole lotta water (I fill my sink and wash them in there). Place the dripping wet leaves in a pot of water, add salt (to taste). Cook the greens for about 10 minutes (until they”re all wilted and reduced down quite a bit). Remove to a bowl. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

Heat 1/4 cup unsalted butter on medium-low until it turns brown and nutty. Strain off the milk-fat solids. (This is something I make a big batch of ahead-of-time and keep in the fridge.) Increase the heat to medium. Add the onion, garlic, pepper flakes and chipotle, stirring occasionally until the garlic is lightly colored and onion is soft. Add the greens, their reserved cooking water, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook for 30 minutes and taste again for salt (they can use a lot). You can continue cooking until the greens are “within an inch of their life” or you can stop here. The longer they cook, the better they”ll taste.

Serve with pepper vinegar on the side.

Recipe for Pepper Vinegar: 1 cup white vinegar + 4 oz serrano chiles. Drop the washed and dried chiles into a bottle that has been freshly washed in hot, soapy water. (A narrow neck bottle is preferable so the vinegar can be drizzled rather than poured, but it doesn”t really matter.) Bring the vinegar to a boil in a small pan, then transfer to the bottle (via a measuring cup or some other easy-pouring device). Let it sit uncapped until cool. The peppers will absorb some of the vinegar. Add more vinegar to fill the bottle, then cap and set aside in the cupboard. The vinegar will be best if you make this ahead. But you can speed the process by including one pepper sliced into “coins.” Plus, the discs look cool floating around all the whole peppers.

pepper vinegar

(Thanks to Deborah Madison for the original base recipe, and especially for the brown butter secret. You have been helping me for many years to make people’s New Years just that much luckier and fortunier.)


Happy LEAP Day

29 February 2012   //     4 comments   //   design, happy, list, play

It’s February 29, y’all! LEAP Year!

In honor of our special day, we at LEAP Design would like to give you a gift. Are you ready for it? It’s really big. Bigger than a Big Mac. Bigger than a Big Gulp. Bigger, even, than Big Ben.

It’s big.

You guys, it’s a day.

A whole day. Your very own day to do WHATEVER YOU WANT with. So go. Put your phone down, get up from your computer, and go do something unexpected, something inspiring, something that you wouldn’t do on any normal Wednesday.

Need some help? No sweat — we’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of 29 things to do with your extra day:

1. Learn how to juggle.

2. Bake some bread.

3. Get a puppy.

4. Eat dessert for every meal.

5. Call someone you haven’t spoken with in a long time and tell them you miss them.

6. Go to the beach.

7. Go to the mountains.

8. Take a nap.

9. Take a yoga class.

10. Take a walk.

11. Take a friend out to lunch. Your treat.

12. Paint a mural in your house.

13. Volunteer your time.

14. Climb up on your roof and look at your street from a new angle.

15. Bring a picnic (and a friend) to the airport and watch the planes take off and land.

16. Invite friends for dinner; cook something you’ve never cooked before.

17. Write a letter to a friend and mail it.

18. Send a real birthday card (made of paper) in time for a friend’s birthday.

19. Take a long, hot, bath.

20. Read a book you’ve been wanting to read.

21. Fix something you’ve been meaning to fix for a while.

22. Ride a bike.

23. Bake a cake and bring it to a friend.

24. Take a hot air balloon ride.

25. Go skiing.

26. Go to the zoo.

27. Go hear a band.

28. Get a kitten.

29. Sing a song. Out loud. Loudly. Over and over again.

Happy LEAP Year, friends. Go enjoy your free day!


Beloved Street Art

21 December 2011   //     5 comments   //   caught my eye, color, happy, nature, photography

This is making the rounds on Facebook right now — if you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s a collection of amazing street art from 2011, curated by Street Art Utopia. Their site’s tagline is We declare the world as our canvas, which just makes me happy. And so grateful that these folks are out there forcing us to look at the world differently.

Here are a few of my favorites, but really — go look at them all. You won’t be sorry.

(Thanks for the link, Bo!)


Paper Town Friends

27 August 2010   //     Comments Off   //   clever, design, happy, istuff, kids, wearable

Sit down friends. I have something great to show you. Really really great. It’s a new iPhone app called Paper Town Friends created by clever Robin Rosenthal. Paper Town Friends features a bunch of paper cut-out characters for you to dress with their very own paper cut-out clothes and hats and accessories.

Robin cut out by hand all the tiny clothes and shoes and hats in the app. And get this — they’re even tiny in real life! Teeny crocs — with holes! A wee shriner’s fez! Baby batik tunics! It’s all just so freakin adorable.

(click for bigger)

And I love the effect it creates. The wonky shapes. The messy, decoupaged feel of it all. It’s like a soothing balm for the over-vectorized, over-digitized soul. Sweet and smart and omg so fun! Hooray for Robin! Yay for us! And okay, maybe I’ll let my kids play with it too.


happy 5 swissmiss!

20 May 2010   //     Comments Off   //   design, form + function, happy

The fantastic-beyond-compare SwissMiss blog is turning 5 and I’m so sad that I can’t attend the bash. So instead I’m participating virtually, via the Flickr party. There’s some great stuff there — be sure to check out all the other well-wishers’ wishes.


let there be mud

19 March 2010   //     7 comments   //   happy, kids, nature, play

It’s officially Spring here. Time for crazy days at the park.

Have a great weekend friends!


muses: lisa albrecht

14 March 2010   //     6 comments   //   design, happy, muses, save the world

Way back in 2008 I met someone who changed my life for the better.

Kirtsy was throwing a party with Guy Kawasaki, at his house. We had spent the past 3 days toiling in the sun, stuffing swag bags, arranging tables, organizing shuttles and managing preparations for a party that was as grand as any of our weddings. Finally we all disappeared into the hidden corners of Guy’s house to change into our party clothes. The transformation when we all emerged was glorious. Everyone was sun-kissed, flushed with excitement and beautiful. As we walked around reveling in our creation, I found myself in front of Lisa Albrecht and Adrienne Adair (Laura’s favorite art director), both of whom I had met just that day. When I complimented Lisa on her amazing earrings, I never expected what came next: she took them off and gave them to me.

Turns out her dad makes them. By the hundreds. Gorgeous, hand-blown, colorful glass discs, suspended on long, slender, silver rectangles. They are unlike anything I have ever seen before. Despite Lisa’s pleading with her dad, he won’t sell them. Instead he gives them all to her to wear. Their deal is, whenever someone compliments her on them, she gives the earrings to that person. Have you ever heard of anything that exuded such good karma? I hadn’t either.

I was so shocked that I actually accepted them.

Then, holding my own earrings in my hand, I started feeling bad. Here she is at this huge party with gorgeous earrings and now she has nothing. So I offered her mine. They paled in comparison to the candy-like drops she had given me, but it felt better. Then we went off and partied and didn’t see each other again.

Every time I wore my new earrings, which I did often, I got complimented on them. (But I never give mine away. Sorry.)

Then one day I got a box in the mail. Inside was the entire contents of the picture above, including a letterpressed Thank You note. It was from Lisa (and her father). Thanking me for giving her my earrings. Does that make any sense to you? She gives me gorgeous earrings that cause everyone who sees them to notice them, I give her an old pair of earrings that no-one even notices anymore. And she sends me a thank you present?

To this day, my heart leaps for joy whenever I see her.

And I want you to know her. In addition to giver of beautiful earrings, she is the brains and brawn behind the amazing LaundryTree, purveyor of Soap Nuts. Soap Nuts

Don’t know about SoapNuts? Dude, they are a fruit. That gets your laundry clean. And they totally work. And they’re completely, unadornedly, all natural. Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

Mom 2.0 2010
Beautiful Lisa being painted by the lovely Katherine Center.

So go check Lisa out. And if you meet her, be sure to compliment her on her earrings. And tell her how much I adore her.


free staples!

08 March 2010   //     2 comments   //   caught my eye, design, happy

Fantastic sign posted on utility poles along my walk to work this morning.

Then upon closer examination I noticed the call to action:

(Click for bigger)

This is one of those things that can turn a normal day into a great day. Know what I mean?


mom 2.0: defining a movement

28 January 2010   //     2 comments   //   announcing, conferences, happy, thought provoking, video

(Can’t see the video? Try this link.)

The brilliant and beautiful Katherine Center has done it again. This time in the form of a video addressing the statement Mom 2.0: Defining a Movement.

I can’t wait to see Katherine in Houston next month at the Mom 2.0 Summit. I feel like time spent with her, regardless of what we’re doing, is quality time. Do you know people like that? I’m lucky to.

Speaking of Mom 2.0 Summit, have you registered yet? Please do. I promise you won’t regret it.