the seven of us in 2013

Back in November 2009, I asked my amazingly talented sister Hailey to snap a few last minute family photos for our Christmas card.  Olivia was barely a year old, and little did I know that I would shortly discover that surprise baby number five would be joining our family in 2010.  Of course, Hailey came along to help me out, and so did my brother Trevor.  They wondered if we’d mind if they did a practice run family video?  Um, yes please!  I have plenty of photos of my kids, but not as much video, much less with me and Clayton in them.  I was so excited about it.

The day of the photo shoot was completely stressful, getting everyone dressed and hair done, and a husband showing up in NOT the outfit I laid out for him.  Grrrr…  I told him he had to kiss me in one of the photos even though we were really angry at each other and I remember looking at each other at that moment like, “Seriously, I am so ticked off right now, but I love you and I will kiss you anyway.”  Ha!  Please tell me that we aren’t the only family that fights on photo day!  That particular photo hangs on my wall to this day and in a way, it’s a reminder of our unconditional love.  Funny how the imperfect photos are so perfect.

The video that Hailey and Trevor filmed that day in 2009 ended up being such a surprise little treasure for me.  I cried as I watched it over and over.  It meant the world to me, and still does.

Flash forward four years and another child later, I’ve been craving another family video…before little Will loses his soft, squishy baby chub!  It’s disappearing so fast it makes me sad.  Hailey and her husband Brad are so busy traveling the world with their video work I wasn’t sure if they’d have the time to squeeze us in this year.  But of course, being the generous and sweet people that they are, they said they’d love to shoot a new video for me.

I had a plenty of time to plan clothing and props, but my life is such a whirlwind these days that I found myself scrambling at the last minute to pull things together the day of our shoot.  I didn’t feel as prepared as I would have liked.  “Oh well, here we go!” I thought.  Will fell asleep on the drive to the location and when we woke him up, he was so grumpy and incredibly clingy.  My two youngest girls wouldn’t let me do anything with their hair, and Clayton {who hates being in photos, and videos even more, but who humors me and smiles anyway} was having an allergy attack throughout the entire shoot.  Achoo!  Achoo!  And nobody brought tissues.  We were a little late too, so we didn’t have much time before we would be losing light, and to top it off I was having a bad hair day.  Dang it.

However, I wasn’t too worried about it.  I told Hailey, “I know you’ll work your magic and make this look more amazing than it actually is!”  She assured me, “Yes, don’t you worry!”  She is incredible at what she does, so I knew that despite all that was seemingly going wrong, we were in good hands.  She would add my cute little selected Beatles song, “I Will,” and that would help.  She would turn it into something better than I could even imagine.

And she did.  This video is another little treasure for my collection, and yes, I cried as I watched it over and over.  It means the world to me to have my little family captured for a little moment on film.  I’m sure that as the years pass it will mean even more and I won’t even remember the worries I had that day.  Maybe I will.  But it won’t matter.  This is us in 2013.  Funny how the imperfect can be so perfect.

Here’s our 2009 video if you’d like to see it.  xoxo

baby prestley

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I am SO behind on posting photo sessions from this summer, but how about we don’t talk about my overwhelming to-do list.  Instead, how about we talk for just a minute about this dreamy little boy?  Yes, I have to be honest, I’m a little biased because he is my nephew, but seriously…that hair?  Soft and silk and thick as can be.  I can almost smell that yummy new baby-ness just by looking at thses photos {no, I am not baby hungry, I am not baby hungry…}.  This little fella is destined to be a rock star because he was literally born with a faux hawk, a tattoo, and a guitar.  And his name is Prestley, so there’s no way around a future filled with stage lights and cheering crowds.  Okay, I’m exaggerating a little about the tattoo and guitar.  But he is still the coolest little baby in town.

peach sandwich

peach sandwich

From Unplugged Kitchen by Viana La Place.

From Unplugged Kitchen by Viana La Place.

A peach tree will be a welcome addition to our backyard in the near future, but until that tree is planted and starts growing my favorite fruit, I am thankful for generous friends who share with me!  Is there anything better than a warm, sweet-smelling, juicy peach fresh from the tree?  I think not.

I found this book, Unplugged Kitchen by Viana La Place when my soon-to-be-fourteen-year-old was just a baby, and I was getting into cooking for the first time in my life.  Browsing the aisles of a small bookstore, this one seemed to jump into my hands and I knew I had to take it home with me so I could read all the stories behind the recipes and admire the pretty photographs.  I believe this book is out of print now, but if you love cookbooks like I do, snap this one up if you can get your hands on a copy. The artist in me appreciates the graphic design of the book, the wanna-be world traveler in me enjoys exploring the Italian countryside through the text, and the food-lover in me wants to try every recipe!  It’s a well-loved part of my kitchen, now with a slightly rippled cover from a spilled glass of water, torn paper bookmarks scattered throughout its pages, and an accidental smattering of watercolor paint along its spine.

Little did I know when I bought it, that inside I would discover a little treasure called “peach sandwich.”  Peach sandwich? Why hadn’t I thought of that before?  I had to try it as soon as possible.  I’m pretty sure I had a peach sandwich every day for breakfast that summer.  Here’s the recipe for you while peach season is still in full swing!

Peach Sandwich

  • 2 slices sturdy rustic bread
  • a little butter
  • 1 ripe, fragrant peach, sliced (peeling is optional)
  • sugar to taste

Toast the bread slices, and, while warm, lightly spread with butter.  Arrange peach slices on 1 slice of bread and sprinkle with desired amount of sugar.  Cover with the other bread slice and very gently press down to bind.peach sandwichunplugged kitchen

summer camp 2013 {part one}


Can you see us hidden in this picture?

Can you see us hidden in this picture?DSC_4439web

It was dark in the tent when she put on her pajamas.

Best looking camp chef, right there.



The little kids collected sticks to paint. Super easy camp craft!

I’m pretty sure that before this summer, the last time I went camping was nine years ago.  It was in the fall of 2004, and I was five months pregnant with Nina.  I remember not sleeping at all on that trip because number one, I couldn’t get my pregnant body comfortable on the tent floor, and number two, I was completely freaked out when I heard a furry creature of some sort brush its warm body against the tent right next to my head.  Raccoon? Skunk?? Bear???  Heart racing all night…

With nearly fourteen years of babies that would never sleep in a tent, and/or toddlers that I feared stumbling into the fire, I’ve had little motivation to get out into the wild overnight.  Although I have actually missed it a lot. When I was young, I remember camping with my family quite a bit.  Sometimes in a tent, sometimes in our trailer.  I remember waking up in that mini-bunk bed in the trailer to the cozy smell of the heater kicking on, mixed with blueberry muffins my mom topped with sugar before baking.  More than once when I was a teenager, my dad took me and my sister, Cami, on week-long backpacking trips in the Wind Rivers in Wyoming.  He believed that we were as tough, if not tougher, than the boys we were traveling with, and we never cared about getting dirt under our nails on those trips.  It was to be expected, and so was peeing without the luxury of an outhouse!  Playing UNO and laughing in the tent while thunder shook the towering cliffs around us was such a good time.  Thanks to my amazing ideal-Scout-master of a dad, I learned to love roughing it.

Before we had kids, Clayton and I went camping all the time.  When we were engaged we opened a registry at REI {ha!}, and my friend Emily threw us a camping shower!  Camping in the Uintas for our first anniversary couldn’t have been better as we cooked our usual camp combo of Stovetop stuffing, canned turkey and cranberry sauce over a propane stove during a rain storm.  When I was five months along with Ben, my oldest, we backpacked through Switzerland.  One night, we had only a package of Swiss cookies and a peach between us, but I don’t remember being hungry.  We listened as cuckoo birds called to each other in the night, and it was there on the side of a steep slope that Clayton felt that baby kick for the very first time.  Shortly after that, a storm drenched our tent and everything inside it, including us.  The BEST memories.

Does it make sense to say that I was excited to finally feel excited to go camping again?  Clayton has been such a fun dad and has taken the kids camping on his own every summer, while I’ve stayed home with the littlest.  But now, this summer my littlest is old enough to stay away from the fire, sleep all night in a sleeping bag, and entertain himself by collecting sticks.  It made me feel so good when Clayton and the kids lit up when I said I would go with them this time!

We found a perfect spot in the Uintas, up above the river {love to hear the river while going to sleep!}, and surrounded by tall, green trees and dark, dirty dirt.  Olivia and Will came to camp in their flip-flops, and Olivia decided to play in the sooty fire pit first thing, so these two were filthy from head-to-toe right from the start.  But who cares?  We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire, laughed and laughed, sang stupid songs, smelled wild pink roses and tiny daisies, saw more stars in one little patch of sky than I’ve seen in years, read by flashlight in the tent, enjoyed an amazing breakfast as a moose waltzed through our camp, and I fell in love with camping all over again.

P.S. The fat air mattress that Clayton added to our pile of camping gear didn’t hurt either.

milk carton village

milk carton village

Watch how we turned this...

Watch how we turned this…

...into this!

…into this!

First, a bit of whitewashing.

First, a bit of whitewashing.

milk carton villagemilk carton villagepainted fingerspaintbrushes

After the paint dried completely, it was time to add all the fun details.  Focus...focus...please don't get Sharpie on your shirt...maybe I should change your shirt before it's too late...

After the paint dried completely, it was time to add all the fun details. Focus…focus…please don’t get Sharpie on your shirt…maybe I should change your shirt before it’s too late…

You can never have too many colorful buttons around, in my opinion.  They make cute windows, doorknobs, flowers, stonework...and even balloons!  Grab your glue!

You can never have too many colorful buttons around, in my opinion. They make cute windows, doorknobs, flowers, stonework…and even balloons! Grab your glue!

More details with cut cardstock.

More details with cut cardstock.

Don't forget your cotton ball chimney smoke!

Don’t forget your cotton ball chimney smoke!

If you are Will, don't forget to draw Captain America in the window of your house.

If you are Will, don’t forget to draw Captain America in the window of your house.

Fancy crayon-drawn rooftop.

Fancy crayon-drawn rooftop.

Would you just look at this cute garden?

Would you just look at this cute garden?

"Honey, I hope we can qualify for a home loan for this neighborhood!  It's everything I've dreamed of!"

“Honey, I hope we can qualify for a home loan for this neighborhood! It’s everything I’ve dreamed of!”

And that, my friends, is what you do when you have a child with a dairy allergy and you have half-gallon almond and coconut milk cartons bursting at the seams of your recycling container.  It was so much fun, and it filled two whole summer days!  The summertime equivalent of a gingerbread house.

coloring station

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Have you ever been in a decorating slump?  My kitchen table had been barren for months because I was tired of my usual set up, but had no clue what to put there instead.

Sometimes inspiration strikes unexpectedly, like it did when I thought up this idea.  It was nearly midnight when I remembered I had this great wooden candle holder.  I’ve had it stored in a cupboard for quite some time because  I’ve used up the candles and don’t know where to find replacements, but it’s such an interesting piece I didn’t want to let it go.  What to do?  Turn it into a crayon caddy!  Yes!  I zipped to the kitchen, so excited to put together a centerpiece that would be hands-on instead of hands-off.  An old wooden tray, a stack of printer paper cut in half, a friendly plant to fill in the gap.  I thought of adding glue sticks, etc., but decided that simpler was better in this case.

I left a little message for the kids to see the next morning, and it was funny how interested they were in my super amazing new centerpiece.  “What’s it for?” Nina was so confused.  “It’s for you kids, so you can draw at the table all the time!” I explained.  She just smiled and smiled.  My kids are always bringing paper and crayons to the table anyway, so this just made sense.  They jumped right in and colored the morning away, as if they’d never used crayons before and just couldn’t get enough!

I know this wooden candle holder isn’t something everyone has or can find, but I think this could easily be done by using pretty glass jars (think candy store style) or a row of small cups or vases.  Get creative!  And your kids will too.

We’ve had this on the kitchen table for a couple of weeks now, and not a day goes by without our little coloring station being put to good use.  If you build it, they will come–and color lots of pictures!