Every now and then I get the change to wander in a craft store. It doesn’t happen, but when it does it is like a mini-vacation. I often wonder about the people that design the art, the paper, the kits. Well….this is so wild….my friend Amanda has a DIY House Pillow kit available at Jo Anns stores. I wanted to frame the packaging. I kept looking at her picture and smiling – Hey, I know that girl. Like she is my real life friend. I know her!!!

8.15HousePillow-01Amanda sent my oldest daughter a kit, knowing how much my girl relishes any chance at the sewing machine. I thought I would need to help her make the pillow, but she actually did 95% of the pillow completely on her own. I kept wanting to step in to help, but she was confident she could do it…even the detailed stitching.8.15HousePillow-03Everything in the kit is pre-cut and measured. Simple!8.15HousePillow-04This is the area I thought I would have to help her the most – sewing straight lines on those little windows. She did such a great job and was adamant that she did not need my help. She was right.8.15HousePillow-05Her little sister is slowly getting an interest in sewing, but she really was more interested in stuffing the pillow and making faces at us.8.15HousePillow-07She is so proud of her pillow. I could have helped her. She would have still been proud. However, when she tells people, “I made this all by myself! Well, my mom helped a little, but I made it mostly!” – I can hear the confidence and pride in her voice. Her pillow is now proudly displayed on her bed. A keepsake for sure.8.15HousePillow-09

She is pretty much on the same level as I am now in regards to sewing. I can thread the bobbin – that is about all I have on her now. Thankfully, my mom is quick to teach her. I imagine she is a much better student for my mom than I ever was!

You can find all the information on Amanda’s pillow kit on her blog at:


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  • Annemieke - Excellent job Firecracker, I am so impressed and now I am going to have to get this kit!

  • Julie - Well done! It’s darling! Would be fun to tranfer photos onto fabric for the windows, as well if used as a gift.

  • Cathy - I NEED to get to JoAnns!!! Well, I really don’t because I have SO many unfinished projects already, but this one is adorable!!

  • Jayme - This is so darling! I love that your cute daughter made this pillow! <3

  • Caroline - Wow! you know i’ve been hoping to sew something on the sewing machine but it never happened. im kinda scared to use it, because i never learnt how to use it in any way. im afraid i’d spoil it!
    but your daughter just inspired me to give it a try!!!

  • Juice - What a joy to see the sense of accomplishment on her face.

  • Diane - Nice job, Firecracker!!

  • Krystle - My daughter is 7 and really wants to sew with me. I’m pretty much self-taught, so I’m sure that I’m doing everything “wrong”, what’s a great way to teach her? Any starter projects that we could try to work up to something like this?? :)
    Thanks! I love coming here every day to see what you’re up to! It’s like a daily dose of awesome :)

  • Charity G. - I love her focused sewing face. What a cool project and she did an amazing job!

  • Maureen - Wow, I am impressed! With the confidence, skill and finished product…. It’s adorable! Way to go Firecracker!

  • AshleyAnn - Krystle – I think this would be a great project for you to do together. Really all I know how to do is sew a straight line. I would recommend trying this one together!

  • Rosalind - Oh very cool and well done Firecracker!

  • kimber - I’m so impressed right now. Her pillow turned out way better than mine probably will. And AMANDA! I’m so excited for her. That’s it, everyone is getting a pillow for Christmas.

  • Allison - Love this!! My 3 girls love to sew and the 2 oldest (12 and 10) are far better than me! Love reading your blog and seeing how your everyday life is filled with much happiness and joy! Living in Africa right now for 2 years…wish we had a Joanne’s fabric store:) I’m attempting a blog of our experience here…yours is such an inspiration!

  • Cathy - Thankful for all that you share! You have encouraged me to cherish the everyday moments. I have seen posts detailing camera equipment but could not find specifics on the sewing machine that you use (other than seeing the make of Singer). Could you provide which model you use or make a recommendation for a beginner?

Colorado is one of our favorite places to visit in the summer. The combination of seeing family and being outside in weather that isn’t blistering hot makes my whole crew happy. We mainly hung out with family, but we squeezed a few hikes in around the town of Crested Butte.

I’ve been trying to record snippets of our trips here as a way to remember them, but also for future reference (for me and others). As a parent, I always appreciate real life perspectives and tips on places and things. Traveling looks totally different as a mom of 5 than it did when I was a single 20-something. We still explore, but differently. These travel posts are extensive travel guides for everything in an area – they are simply a few notes and tips from our trips.

We didn’t have tons of time for long hikes, so we did a couple shorter ones near where our extended family lives. The first was a hike super close to Crested Butte South called the Caves Trail. We saw a handful of people on the trail and the boys were really hoping to see a bear in the caves (an adult verified first that a bear was not in the cave).


The view from the top was spectacular. This was our first high elevation hike with our dog. She basically pulled us up the mountain and then dragged us back down. Beagles are known for their energy for a reason. I had a Yorkie growing up. She couldn’t make it around the block before she’d just lay down and make someone carry her. Our beagle is the exact opposite. We love her, but I can’t imagine having a beagle without the entertainment of 5 kids!

The website says it is steep and strenuous. I didn’t think it was that bad, but it was in full sun most of the way. It isn’t that long, so you don’t need tons of stuff to take along. Water, snacks (my kids always need snacks), and hats were all we needed. Climbing inside the cave is steep, just a heads up.

You can see the caves from the main road between Crested Butte and Gunnison. The kids really enjoyed spotting them from a distance every time we drove by on the road.

8.15crestedbutte-028.15crestedbutte-03Their hats are from Honey Bee Tees.8.15crestedbutte-04

The kids were wanting to play in a river, but not go on a long hike. My brother-in-law took us to the perfect spot along Slate River. We were able to park nearby, the current wasn’t too strong and the water wasn’t too deep. The boys spent most of the time throwing rocks while the girls cleaned the rocks (washed river rocks in the river).

I can’t find a direct link to where we parked and hiked down to the water, but it was a dirt parking lot and there was a small walking bridge over the water. The majority of people we saw on the trail were riding mountain bikes. I think the trail loops from the town of Crested Butte. I told Chris in a few years we are bringing (or renting) bikes. The drive out to the river was gorgeous – natural beauty without all the ‘touches’ of man. I am sure you could just ask a local for directions, it was a single road outside town.

I sat on my bottom and watched the kids. Let me say that again, I SAT DOWN. It was awesome.

8.15crestedbutte-05My kids don’t believe shoes. The rocks were smooth and they were running in and out of the water. Shoes are so cumbersome to my kids:)8.15crestedbutte-068.15crestedbutte-088.15crestedbutte-098.15crestedbutte-10My oldest daughter wanted so badly to cross the river, but it got a little deeper than she was comfortable crossing. We all told her she could do it, but she wasn’t so confident. When she is unsure, there is pretty much always at least one brother that comes alongside her. After crossing with his help once, she confidently crossed back and forth on her own. I hope her brothers are always there to help build her confidence and show her she can do it.8.15crestedbutte-11

We visited Crested Butte (the town) for a bit. Here are my two food recommendations: A cookie ice cream sandwich from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (it is huge, our family shared one) and the gourmet vegetable soft tacos from Teocalli Tamale. My brother-in-law order the tacos and I very much regretted that I did not after tasting a bite of his. So good. There are so many other things to do in Crested Butte and places to visit….and hike….and explore. We didn’t have much time, so we tried new places this round.

Share your favorite Crested Butte tips in the comments…for those traveling later and for me next year!CLICKHEREtravel

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  • Kristin S - I think THESE brothers will always be there for her. You have fostered that in your children – so it seems.

  • Lacy - Thanks for sharing your family trip adventures. I can be a worrier and tehse posts always remind me that other families try things, like hikes, and they and their kids survive. One question – did your kids have any trouble with altitude sickness while you were in CO?

  • Lacey Meyers - I just love your travel posts, Ashley! Both because we get to see lovely places we might otherwise not, and also because it is a joy to see your family enjoying such wonderful adventures together. Thank you for sharing!

  • Lindsey - My family has a home in Crested Butte… been going there my whole life. Hiking Mt. Crested Butte is so fun, and there are so many places to just hike around the base. As far as food I have to say Slogars Chicken in downtown CB. Oh my… comfort food at its finest. Best fried chicken and best cottage cheese I’ve ever had!

  • Jenny L. - I love watching your youngest daughter with her father. I remember when you went to get her and looking at the picture of her sleeping on Chris’ chest and thinking she really likes this new daddy stuff. Every little girl should have that kind of Dad!

  • Ruth - I am always encouraged by how much your boys love and look out for your girls! I have two boys and a baby girl so I am always on the look out for great examples of loving older brothers :) When my girl is old enough she can do her bit by making them cookies like Firecracker does! You have such a beautiful family; enjoy your vacation!!

  • brandy - can you believe I actually chose beagles so that I would HAVE to run? 10 years later and our beagle perks up every morning with the hope for a run.

  • Amber - I share your kid’s disdain for shoes! Shoes are overrated! : )

Road trips tend to take us extra long. We often make side stops to explore along the way. Some days I just want to get to our destination, but in the end I have yet to regret a side stop. On our way to Colorado we drove through Capulin, NM. Chris is an expert at finding random locations nearby (I’ll post more on that later). He found some information on Capulin Volcano. Oddly, there really aren’t very many signs in the area about the volcano. You could easily drive by and not even realize what is just a couple miles off the road.

I forgot to take a photo from a distance, so here is one from the official site (so you can see what you are looking for!). You can see the road that winds around the volcano to the top.

BA855254-155D-451F-674515ABFEACA461Once you get near the top there is a paved path that goes along the whole rim. It was a really easy hike for the kids, only about one-mile long.

8.15capulinvolcano-018.15capulinvolcano-028.15capulinvolcano-038.15capulinvolcano-048.15capulinvolcano-05She kept making this face when I would hold up my camera. I’d take a photo and she’d ask to see it. Then laugh. So much personality in such a little body. She also totally could have made this climb, but she has a daddy wrapped around her spunky finger.8.15capulinvolcano-06The view was breathtaking. I kept telling the kids, “We are standing on a volcano!!” It was pretty cool.8.15capulinvolcano-078.15capulinvolcano-08This shot is looking down into the plugged vent of the volcano, you can also see the parking lot.8.15capulinvolcano-10Hey kids, let’s try to take another family shot while we all look directly into the sun. It will be awesome.8.15capulinvolcano-128.15capulinvolcano-13According to the park information, Capulin Volcano erupted and formed 60,000 years ago. We’ll be studying volcanoes this year as part of our science curriculum, so I am excited for the kids to look back at this experience. It is a bit out of the way for most travelers, but if you are driving down Highway 64/87 in northeastern New Mexico, I definitely recommend the stop.

You can find out more information about the park by visiting the National Parks website.

The whole rim trail is only one-mile and it is paved. We did fine in flip flops with a couple water bottles. The park closes at 5:00pm, so keep that in mind. We only had about 30 minutes, so we had to rush a bit. From the top you can see formations in New Mexico, Colorado and Oklahoma.


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  • Danielle - We took our boys there on our way back to OK several years ago! Such a cool place to stop.

  • Jenny L. - I love your family and the flip-flops or slaps as we call them. Well the kind the boys have on we call slaps. I am sue you guys have some Florida blood in you somewhere.

  • Sara - I love places like this because they look exactly like what I imagine the dinosaurs saw. I spent time in Abiquiu, NM at a place called Ghost Ranch. They offer camping, awesome trails, and a dining hall. A great place for families.

  • Steffany - Devoted reader of your blog but not a frequent commentor :) Just wanted to thank you because I’m hosting a Noonday show in September down here in Texas because of your posts. Super excited for the show and so is my 6-year old daughter. Thanks for sharing as you do everyday!!!!