Monday, May 2, 2016

Family of Four | Salem Pond, UT

We made it down south today to visit my sister-in-law and I took a few photos of their family while I was down there. This is the first time I've photographed my youngest niece and she is just all smiles and goo-goo eyes!  Capturing these guys through my lens is always such a joy because their family just exudes love in everything that they do.

It was beautifully overcast day, it would have been PERFECT if not for the wind, but we made the best of it! Here are a few of my favorite shots from this windy shoot :)

 Thanks for looking! And thanks to my sister and brother-in-law for allowing me to share in their family's memories.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Letter-Sized Adventures | Arches National Park

Early this spring, tired of the prolonged winter up North, we decided to take an impromptu trip down to Moab to get a bit of sun.  We spent two days in Arches National Park.  We saw most of the arches and other scenic landmarks in the southern part of the Park. We also went on a few of the hikes that were easy enough for our kids.

Despite becoming ill the second day of our trip, our oldest was a real trooper.  He loves the outdoors and hiking and said his favorite sites were Balanced Rock, The Windows and The Delicate Arch Viewpoint Hike.  Even our youngest, who is more of a homebody enjoyed himself.  He especially loved the Park Avenue hike, the visitor center and the interactive dinosaur trail.

We hope to return soon and stay at Devil's Garden Campground so that we can take in the rest of the sites in the Northern half of the park including the Landscape, Skyline, Sand Dune and Broken Arches.

Below is more info and photos of some of our favorite parts of this family adventure:

1. Park Avenue

Named for its resemblance to the famous New York City Street, the rock formations along this area of the park are truly unique.  There is a great viewpoint for photos, but we decided to hike the full length of the area between these formations.  This was a 2-mi hike round trip, but with the exception of the initial descent, for the most part it was pretty level. If you have more than one vehicle in your group you could turn this into a 1-mile shuttle hike.

2. The La Sal Mountain Range

We opted just to view the La Sal Mountains from the viewpoint area within Arches, as seen here.  However you can take a three hour drive along the The La Sal Mountain Loop Road Scenic Backway which follows the Colorado River and takes you into an entirely new set of surroundings.  We hope to make time for this drive on our next trip.

3. Balanced Rock

This iconic landmark is definitely one you'll want to see. We got out and walked around it capturing photos from all angles.  My favorite viewpoint was with the snow-capped La Sal Mountain range in the background.  And if you find just the right spot you can even play around with perspective and grab a shot of someone in your party holding the balanced rock on their shoulders.  See my scrapbook page "The Weight of The World" below ;)  

4. The Windows

This was one of those areas I think we could have spent all day exploring and might have if our oldest son hadn't fell ill. He kept trying to push on because he wanted to explore each of the four arches in this area up close.  Here we were really able to get a sense of the sheer size of these arches.  We walked through them and stood under them...looking far above us and below us (EEK). Here you can access the North and South Windows, the Turret Arch and The Double Arch all in a short distance.

5. Delicate Arch Viewpoint

At about a mile-and-a-half out and back this hike was shorter than the Park Avenue hike but I'd say there's a bit more climbing and descending.  That being said it's a good family-friendly hike. In fact, it was just right for our littles. And although it doesn't get you right up next to the arch as the other Delicate trails might, you'll see some beautiful 360 degree views and it gets you just close enough for some good photo opportunities.

6. Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail

The drive out to Mill Canyon was a fun little side trip, though I'm not sure I would recommend tackling it in early spring with a low-clearance vehicle like we did, as there were a few spots our small car almost got stuck. Nevertheless it was well worth the worry. This was by far both boys favorite part of the trip. Being able to walk up to the dinosaur bones and see them up close in their natural setting was really very cool. And it was a good learning experience for our boys...because a place like this only continues to exist when we respect nature and history.

7. The Moab Sunset

Perhaps one of our favorite things to see while visiting the park, was the beautiful Moab sunsets.  My youngest son replied, "Hey look its like someone painted the sky!" INDEED. You'll definitely want to plan to be outdoors around sunset, it is truly a sight to be seen!

8. The Arches National Park Visitor Center

So my youngest son LOVES museums.  He loves to take in all of the facts and the displays and the visual aides.  He loves learning about the rocks and the animals and the history of a region, so for him the Visitor's Center was a huge hit.  If you have kids who seem to love soaking up any fact they can wrap their little brains around then your family will probably enjoy it as much as we did.  You can also stamp your National Parks Passport while you're there!

9. Moab Rock Shop

This rock shop was AWESOME! The boys each had $20.00 to spend on the trip and they spent more than half of it on you guessed it...ROCKS! They had lots of different kinds of rocks to choose from including  minerals, fossils, petrified wood, geodes, etc. And inside they have a very cool collection of fossils, bones, and semi-precious stones. Definitely worth checking out if your kids are into rocks!

10. Moab Coffee Roasters

We really liked this little coffee shop.  Not only was the coffee good but they also have a great selection of homemade gelatos. If you can't decide on a flavor I recommend their Pistachio...YUM!

We can't wait to head back this summer and visit the rest of the park.  In the meantime I'm enjoying reliving our trip thru my memory keeping.  Here are a few scrapbook pages inspired by our trip.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Everyday Videography | Capturing Memories in a NEW Way!

I was intrigued the minute I saw Nicole Cole's Everyday Videography class at Studio Calico.  I've never been the videographer in our family-that responsibility has fallen mainly on my husband and now my oldest son who has shown some interest in making his own YouTube videos.

But after watching the promo video for the class I knew that I wanted to learn to take my memory keeping to this new level.

The course itself was great, just what I needed to get started making my own everyday videos. In fact, one rainy day I binge watched the first three parts of the class and before I could finish watching the fourth and final video I was inspired to press pause and start recording our lives.

Here is the first of what I'm sure will be many of our everyday videos:

It's not perfect, but I'm so happy I took the time to make it!

NOTE: Nicole's Everyday Videography class is not currently open for enrollment-but should she or Studio Calico offer this class in the future I highly recommend it!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Easter Photo Shoot | Ogden, UT

I had the opportunity to take some fun Easter photos of my friends' family this past weekend. It was a nice opportunity to practice with my new camera and fall even more in love with my prime 35mm lens.

I always have so much fun shooting this family, they are so laid back and fun and well they're just plain adorable! Plus they have a new addition - so it was fun shooting their little one for the first time.

Thanks for taking the time to look! And a big thanks to this cute family for making me a part of their memories :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

My Letter-Sized Project Life 2016 Plan + Title Spreads

As you might have noticed, I've been struggling over the past several months to find the time and motivation to scrapbook.  Some months I struggled to get even one layout finished and I started to see the number of photos I was taking dwindle as well. But I was determined to keep the memory keeping fires burning.

So last November I decided to make one more last ditch effort at making Project Life work for me. Rather than trying to start right in the busiest time of our lives though, I gave myself permission to hold off until the new year and  I decided instead to spend the months of November and December gathering my supplies and my thoughts.

Below I've shared my plans for my 2015-2016 Project Life album and the products and tools that will help me along the way.

The Plan

LETTER-SIZED: With all of the great 9x12 albums and protectors that were released last year I decided to stick with my beloved letter-sized format for this project not only because I love the compact size, but also because I can include any regular layouts I make over the year in my album as well.  
AUG 2015-JUL 2016: After looking at my photo log I decided to play catch up and date my album back to August 2015.  For some reason the start of the school year has always felt like a more natural starting mark for our family. Its when we are most organized and geared up to tackle a new year; its when we take our family photos and its when I send my boys off into the world another year older and another year wiser.
MONTHLY SPREADS: I've decided to go for a monthly approach consisting of 1-2 spreads and a "Currently" section to honor myself a bit more in my memory keeping.  This section will utilize the 9x12 protectors with all those cute little 3x3" pockets and will consist of an anthology of the tv shows, music, books, and trends that I'm currently into.  
HYBRID: I'll be using a mix of both physical and digital products and will be doing the bulk of my printing at home.    

My Tools

And these are the tools I've chosen to help keep me motivated and make my project a little easier. 

THE 9x12 MESSY BOOK  | A Beautiful Mess

I fell in love with this fun album from A Beautiful Mess the moment I laid eyes on it.

To start out with I bought a single pack of each of the four styles included in the multi-pack: 1B, 2B, 3B and 4B. And then as I need more I just purchase the multi-packs.
DOCUMENTER KIT | Studio Calico 

I made the decision to subscribe to Studio Calico's pocket page kit because of the ease it offered. Having everything I needed plus a few new things to try out each month was just what I was looking for to keep things simple and satisfying.

 NIKON D7100 | Nikon

I'm so excited about my new camera. Its my first DSLR (shhh don't tell anyone) so there's a bit of a learning curve but it will definitely keep me snapping photos this year!

I've been nothing but happy with my Canon Pixma MG5420, so when it came time to get a new printer this year I stuck with the same family and just bumped up a few steps.  To tell you the truth I got this printer for $50 less than what I bought my other Pixma for 4 years ago.

My Title Spread

And here's a glimpse at our title page and the opening spread of my album. 

Supplies: Studio Calico Lollipop and Arendal Documenter Kits.

I knew I wanted to fill half of my opening spread with back to school photos of the boys. So on the other half I decided to include one photo from each month of 2015 up until the starting month of August. This "half-year-in-review" approach turned out to be perfect since I didn't end up taking very many photos during the first half of 2015.  

Supplies: Storyteller Kenner Fillers by Just Jaimee; Through the Years by Amber Labau Designs and Studio Calico Lollipop Documenter Kit

As I discussed earlier, I've been playing catch up but should have August thru October to share with you shortly!  Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

15 Memorable Moments from 2015

Hi there! To say that its been a long time since I last posted, is a bit of understatement. To say that it has been an eternity might be a bit more accurate.  And to tell you the truth I've agonized over my first post back for months. What to say, how to say it, how much to share, whether or not to apologize...

But then I realized that my blogging is really just about recording everyday life and sharing bits and pieces of it with all of you. And sometimes our lives demand that we make sacrifices and we set things aside for a time, to pick them up once the dust has settled. So rather than waste time dwelling on how sad it makes me to have gone these last several months without blogging I'd rather just pick up where I left off...

And what better way to do that then to give you a glimpse of some of my fondest moments from the last year!


2015 was a year of hardship and growth for our family. We lost, we loved, we changed and we let go-all the while growing closer as a family.

Below is a collage of fifteen photos that record some of our family's most memorable moments from the past year and captions giving you a bit of insight into our year.

1. My younger sister married her true love in a surprise wedding this past August. With Etta James playing as she walked down the aisle and photos of her and her hubby hanging from the trees - she never looked so beautiful or happy as she did on that day.

2. My husband and I decided to take up backpacking and we've been training for a Havasupai trip to celebrate our 10 year anniversary.  Our first hike we went on - meant to be a romantic sunset hike up Desolation Trail - took a lot longer than expected. And while I'd like to say we made it nonetheless, the truth is that this photo captures the moment we called it quits and went back, which turned out to be less than .5 miles from the overlook.  Ah well there's always next time right, and the good news - our new headlamps worked great! 

3. My boys and their toys. I know, I know, increased screen time and the invention of the tablet threaten the notion of quality family time. But I'm afraid its been just the opposite for us this year. Special bonds were formed between brothers, father and son and mother and son, over hours of playing Minecraft, Plants Vs. Zombies, Madden 2015, Guitar Hero and Clash of Clans.

4. Our trip to Yellowstone this past May was the greatest! It was our first official family vacation, it rained the whole time but we still had a blast! We saw so many amazing things and captured lost of beautiful photos, including a wonderful series of snaps of my boys standing in front of painted buffaloes!

5. This year Caleb lived and breathed football and he's becoming quite the little athlete.  We're looking forward to signing him up for flag football next season but until then he's happy watching football, practicing in the rain/snow and dressing up as his favorite football players. The football helmet from Grandma for Christmas was a huge hit!

6. That's a clean bedroom folks. It didn't happen often in 2015 but it happened at least once and there's the proof!

7. We lost our beautiful "Coda Bear" this year on Christmas Eve of all days. He was almost 10 and suffered from arthritis, but in the end it was his cravings for little boys socks that finally did him in :( He was a beloved part of our family and we will miss him so very much!  

8. This year we finally invested in family photos and we couldn't have been happier with the results. Up until a few months ago the only "family" photo I had hanging on our wall didn't even have our little Japser in it! I think this is something we will make a point to do every year. Megan of Megan Fisher Photography was so wonderful and it was fun to be on the other side of the lens for a change and see our family from a new perspective.

9. Our Superbowl baby turned 7 this past year, "7-going-on-17" it feels like some days. I know that the days where he still shares hugs and kisses with his mom and waves enthusiastically as he runs from the car into school are almost gone and I am dreading it! But I'm also excited to see the young man my little boy is beginning to grow into.

10. I love this man and I can't believe we're coming up on our 10 year anniversary!  This photo isn't so much about a specific memory but instead about every memory I've had of my husband this past year. Through everything he is our rock, our provider, our handyman, our comic relief and my very own personal alarm clock and barista. We are a team and as far as I'm concerned this year we were champs!

11. This photo was from our roadtrip back from Yellowstone but it represents so much more than that.  We spend a lot of time in cars - driving to and from work and school and scouts and family outings. All of the while singing, laughing and talking with one another. Ten years ago my husband and I fell in love while driving back and forth from work together and this past year we've tried to use our time in cars becoming more acquainted with our boys.

12. My boys are growing closer each day, something I might not thought possible at the beginning of 2015.  Don't get me wrong there is still a lot of bickering and fighting and wrestling but there is also a little more helping and teaching and inclusion as well. One day I hope my boys can realize that the greatest gift I ever gave them was each other.  Until then...I'll just look at this photo ;)

13. Jake has spent a lot of time this past year sharing some of his favorite childhood activities with the boys - activities that he and his dad or grandfather used to do together. We might not be raising any expert fisherman or marksmen here, but what I do hope we are instilling in them a sense of history and tradition.

14. Our little Japser went off to school this year. And he is just the brightest little guy--sometimes a little too smart for his own good. He's our creative. He loves to paint and color and build. He is also a lefty which has been a bit of a struggle for us old stubborn "righties," but we're figuring things out.

15. And now we're back to me. I went back to work this year after 5 years at home with my boys. Its been hard and I wasn't ready, but we gotta do what we gotta do, right? I've struggled moving from a strategy of micro-managing to one of macro-managing within our home, but I'm pretty sure my husband and my boys are loving the change! Since I've gone back to work and taken up hiking I've lost almost 50lbs. I'm stronger and have more energy, but oh so much less time. I'm lucky if I scrapbook a page or two a month but I'm not ready to give it up yet. I have so many ideas and plans and to-dos for the new year and I'm looking forward to sharing many of them with you. So be patient with me as get back in to the swing of things.


Thanks for allowing me the time to take a breath and catch up.  I wish you all a happy new year and look forward to seeing you a bit more in 2016!  


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

40 Chapter Books in 2015 + Free Printable Bookmarks!!!

My husband and I make it a point to try to read to our boys every single day. Because we know what a difference it truly can make.

We go to the library 2-4 times a month and I let each of the boys pick out a handful of books that they are interested in.

We buy Scholastic Books on Caleb's reading level, centered around characters he loves, in an effort to keep him interested in reading.

We read at all times of the day including in the morning, after school, at dinner and at bedtime.

It made me very happy to hear from Caleb's teacher at this last Parent-Teacher Conference that she can tell that we read to him and not only that but she can see the difference it has made in his reading and comprehension skills between the first of the year and now.

I also see a difference, one that has nothing to do with "reading accuracy or fluency" or "phonemic awareness," or "benchmarks,"  but rather a growth in his love for reading.

While its important to me that my son be able to string together a sentence and be able to read and understand others' sentences, I also want him to be able to access all of the magic and knowledge that reside within books.

And that is why we started reading chapter books together at night before bed. We started last September when we read The Tale of Despereaux as a family after receiving the book at a school function.

Soon after Caleb asked if we could read another book together. We chose The Boxcar Children because both my husband and I remembered reading this book as a child. From there we moved onto The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and then Stone Fox.

At the beginning of the year with the help of Caleb and my husband we chose thirty-six more chapter books to read, for a total of forty--one for every week of school.

You'll find our reading list below with links to Amazon, where you can find more info about each book including a synopsis, available formats and prices. (NOTE: These links are not affiliate links, but merely a place for you to find more information out about the book should you like to.)

The books below are listed in alphabetical order, not the order in which we are reading them.  I would recommend starting with shorter books first to build interest and momentum ;)

1.   Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
2.   The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
3.   The Borrowers by Mary Norton
4.   The Boxcar Children by Gertrude chandler Warner
5.   Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
6.   Bunnicula: A Rabbit Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe
7.   Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
8.   Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
10. The Cricket in Time Square by George Selden
11. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
12. Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
13. Freckle Juice by Judy Blume
14. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
15. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
16. Holes by Louis Sachar
17. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
18. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
19. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
20. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
21. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
22. Mary Poppins by Dr. P.L. Travers
23. Matilda by Roald Dahl
24. The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
25. Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
26. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien
27. Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
28. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
28. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
29. Rascal by Sterling North
30. Ramona and Beezus by Beverly Cleary
31. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
33. Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
34. Stuart Little by E. B. White
35. Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
36. The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
37. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
38. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
39. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
40. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

We've been averaging about a book a week and to hold our place each night, I made these bookmarks with a few of my favorite quotes about reading.  

Feel free to download and print them off for your own personal use!

Do you see any of your favorite chapter books for young readers on this list?  Or do you have another you'd like to share?  If so I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!