Well, I’ve been gone for a while. It is always a little strange feeling to be away from this blog. I’m still trying to get my feet back under me after such a long break – from school and our normal routine. I’m still a blogger at heart, but I do really enjoy the quick nature of Instagram. As I slowly ease myself back into my routine of school, work and blogging, I thought I’d share a slideshow from 2016. I need to find an evening to curl up with a coffee, my electric blanket and read old posts. Sharing slideshows like this is really for me down the road.

I used the app Flipagram to put together a few of my favorite phone pictures from 2016. It took me about 4 minutes. You just download the app and then pick pictures from your phone camera roll. The quality doesn’t look so good online, but on my computer and phone it looks great. You can also save and text your slideshow, so if you don’t want it posted online you can still share it with family and friends.

I can’t figure out how to get it to embed in WordPress and I’m too tired to figure it out right now…so, if you click on the picture it will take you to the slideshow.

Happy New Year and thank you for sticking around here!

2016flipagram

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  • Rhonda - Good morning….anxious to watch the video…..nothing happens when I try to play it.

  • AshleyAnn - Rhonda – Note to self…don’t blog with a sinus infection! I got it working now 🙂

  • jenn - oh my goodness i love that. they are all so awesome. i may need to try something similar. thanks for sharing

  • Peg - Can you adjust the speed, it is so fast?

  • Cindy - Nothing happens for me either…the link doesn’t work… 🙁

  • AshleyAnn - Peg – it is fast. I think when you create it you can make it faster or slower. I used so many pictures, I just went for a quick slideshow. You can’t adjust the speed after it is made.

  • AshleyAnn - Cindy – Click the image. Next it should open up a different page. Click the white arrow in the middle of the image for it to start.

  • Tiffany - Those are so fun!!!

  • Lindsey Claire - That was great! I love Flipagram!! You can also add short video clips and keep or mute the sound. 🙂

  • Diana - I so enjoyed this! I know nobody’s family is perfect but I like how you focus on the positives and how they make you happy. Happy 2017!

  • Rhonda - What a great video….love all the pictures that show your amazing photography skills. Happy New Year!

  • Ashley - Ashley!! So beautiful!! Will you share the worship song?? I love it! Like always, you inspire me to capture the beauty of my days.

  • Amy S - Ashley, I really enjoy watching the slideshow, but it’s a little too fast . Can you set it a little slower? Thanks 🙂

  • ellen patton - Your photos are the best!!

  • RaD - I liked it but… well, they moved so fast there was little time to soak them in. I guess because they are your pictures the memories they recall come in that instant. I love it either way, but if it were me making it (which I LOVE to do) it would be a bit slower in order to saturate you with the beauty of the moment.

    Song was awesome too. Rend Collective, am I right?

  • bethanyb - love it,the photos, the music and all. <3 thank you for keeping sharing when others have given up the task of writing each day. You and your family are such a breath of fresh air.

  • AshleyAnn - Thank you Bethany 🙂

I’m cold. If you see me out and about and there is a smile on my face. It’s fake. Behind the smile is a Grinch who would like to steal winter and hide it very far away. Just kidding…about the fake smile. The smile is real, the inner Grinch wanting to steal winter is real too.

We’ve been taking it slow and soaking up things around our community. When I say “slow” I mean SLOW. I have zero motivation to do anything when it is cold outside. I go workout in the morning and then park myself in front of the space heater the rest of the day. I might have been called “melodramatic” yesterday in regards to how I handle the cold, but I disagree with that opinion.

I mean, really, is summer ever going to come again?! How those of you survive in the north is beyond me. You have super powers that I do not possess…and way better cold weather gear I’m sure! I’m pretty sure every time I walk outside when it is below 60, I might get frostbite.

Despite my attempts to hunker down and hibernate, I do get out some. Kids have a way of ignoring the electric blanket I’m wrapped in and want to do stuff. Kids.

Our friends The Parkers have been hosting a Donuts & Crafting with Santa event on Saturdays. My 10 year donned an elf costume with his buddy to help with the event a few weekends ago. Buddy the Elf…not his name, but that made me laugh. christmastree-13We also ventured to watch our town Christmas parade…simple, quirky and a perfect place to spend a Saturday morning with family, friends and neighbors.christmastree-20christmastree-15Cutest cousins.christmastree-14My dad drove his oldest granddaughters in the parade. It was his birthday, but he made their day.christmastree-16

I did make one project yesterday. It took all of 5 minutes. I picked up this dish towel from Anthropologie on Black Friday for 30% off. Add some stuffing and stitch up 3 sides and viola I have a new pillow! The scene reminds me of the Bailey’s living room in Its A Wonderful Life. It is my new favorite Christmas decoration.

Today you can find me hanging out in favorite coffee shop in front of the space heater and wrapped in an electric blanket. I might get motivated to do something, but probably not. I do accept coffee deliveries….tis the season for summer to return!

giveaway

I’ll be logging out of this space for a bit – I’ll be back to ring in the new year. Before I take a little break, I wanted to announce the winners to recent giveaways. These winners have all been notified via email

Ably Giveaway

Men’s Hoodie – Jenny (jennypy…)

Women’s Hoodie – Allie (allie.m….)

flourish

1 Year Skillshare membership

letter-winners

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  • Oceana | Maps + Mandalas - I am in exactly the opposite place right now: it’s summer in Australia and I AM BAKING. I can’t wait to have a break for a few weeks when I head over to the UK for a winter holiday. It’s pretty much 90 degrees (F) all the time here, and I’m over it! Love that pillow, and the letter board, puns are my jam 🙂

  • Heather - Amen sister! We moved to the northeast this summer and I don’t know if I’m going to make it through this cold season. I’m thinking of getting that walking sleeping bag I saw you wearing one day in a photo. Come back summer!

  • Carrie Campbell - Opposite here as well. 😉 In FL it’s 101 degrees for 8 months of the year… soooooo thankful for the albeit brief cold season. (We still snuggle up to the space heater- it feels so novel. 🙂
    Anyhow, Merry Christmas to you and yours!!!

  • Tina - I live in Michigan’s UP (Upper Peninsula). Two days ago as I was driving my 5 year old to school he commented on the temperature. Something like: Yea mom! It’s 25 degrees. He was excited because it had warmed up. 🙂

  • Lucia - Ashley, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy new year!
    Love your pictures and the way you are!
    Hugs from Spain!

  • Michelle Fizzard - It was minus 37 with the windchill a couple of days ago and I still had to walk the dog. You would not enjoy it living here. 🙂 Merry Christmas and thank you for inspiring me with your beautiful blog again this year!!

  • Anne Eicher - Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to your sweet family! And I’m with you on the cold. I tell people that I live in the south (north west Florida) for a reason!!! Although it gets too cold for my comfort here also.

  • Seamingly Sarah - In Northern NY and born and raised in Northern VT! Bring
    on the snow! I can do without anything under 20F, but it comes with the territory. At least on those freezing cold days the the sky is crystal clear blue.

  • Kimberly Oyler - i am so not a winter person but i am enjoying the cool temps in kansas for a few days!! it is going to be 60 degrees tomorrow and i’m STOKED. wish i could bring you some coffee!

  • Pam - At least the cold gave your younger daughter a chance to wear that fluffy coat! The one of her with the hood on and her hair in her face is just about my favorite photo ever!

  • Arifa Ashraf - Hi. Can anyone tell me if Ashley and her family ever, after adopting their youngest, re-created that picture with an empty chair in the woods… ‘we saved a seat for you?’ I kept waiting for it, but I missed it somehow. Thanks.

  • Narayani - Hi there Ashley! I’ve been silently following your blog for a number of years now. It is amazing how intimate these things can be. I feel as if I know you and your family and enjoy seeing the kids grow up. We are really quite similar in our plans, family life, DIY, coffee, and photography (what lead me to your blog in the first place) obsessions etc.I wanted to actually take the time to reach out and let you know you have made an impact on my life in a positive way. Keep up the beautiful work, hug your family tight and have a joyful season and wonder filled New Year! Cheers from the cold and frozen North! We’ve actually had a warm-up its a pleasant, balmy 45 degrees!

  • Byron - Winter Time is here!
    Happiness and Cheer!
    Fun for all, that children call
    Their favorite time of year!

    I LOVE Winter! It’s awesome coat weather!

    However, knowing how you are, I have a present that may help you somewhat when I return to CF on JAN 1. Can’t wait to see you there and say “hi” again! 🙂

  • Kelly Krause - I think I can be a bit melodramatic about the weather too. Except I am completely opposite of you….if the temp tops 75, you will find me parked in front of the fan and complaining about how much I hate summer 🙂

  • Heidi E - I need to live in a place where I can go to a Christmas parade in shorts! FUN! 😉 MN does nooootttt do that.

  • AshleyAnn - Thank you Narayani!!

  • AshleyAnn - January 1!!!

  • Julie - Hi Ashley! I’m from FL and even though I live in the south, I’m SUCH a baby about the cold weather too. I love that you do CrossFit. It’s too intense for me but my husband loves it. I wondered if you guys have heard of their ROMWOD stretching program? You subscribe each month and they post a new routine each day. It takes about 20 minutes at the end of the day, but it’s become one of our favorite family traditions and makes us feel great! It seems like something your family would enjoy!

In Friday’s post, I mentioned we are thinking and planning for some big trips. This post goes along with that idea. As a family, we are slowly working our way around the country. Exploring. Traveling. Camping. Taking as much of the diversity of our nation in as we can. Pictures will never do these places justice…6.14flaminggorge-44.16Moab-114.16Page-114.16GrandCanyon-046.14yellowstone1-134.16Escalante-159.15turnerfalls-196.14avalanchelake-48.15family-084.16ArchesCanyonlands-198.15crestedbutte-106.14trailerlife-6

On our last camping trip, I was walking to the bathroom with the girls one night and began thinking about all the state and national park bathrooms and showers we’ve used. Such a funny thing to think about – I sure never posted pictures of those when I posted all the beautiful landscape shots! I told Chris I could write a travel guide focused only on bathrooms. He couldn’t remember one bathroom from any of the parks and I could describe almost all of them. Bryce Canyon campground – wow, fancy. Shoshone National Park – primitive, but wow the view.

I don’t have high standards – we are camping. I killed at least 4 spiders each night in the shower on our last trip. In my opinion, if you are camping you have to expect insects. Anyway, one of the things I love about all the different types (and standards) of the bathrooms we’ve used camping is my kids don’t skip a beat in any environment.

I know it probably sounds funny that those things are important to me, but we have some big dreams related to international travel. Our dreams do not include fancy hotels, but they do include extraordinary locations and cultures. As we plan and dream, we know flexibility with sleeping, eating and even using the restroom will be crucial for our family to really enjoy the places we dream of visiting. Those things are pretty hard to teach kids if you never change things up.

At one time we considered doing the necessary steps to get a functional bathroom in our trailer, but we declined for now. It would be much easier in the short term, but with our long term goals in mind – I think the regular lessons that come with campground bathrooms will make our future trips go much more smoothly. At least that is what I am telling myself each time we hike to the campground bathroom!

For now, we camp. We camp as often as possible in as many different settings as possible. We carry our shower caddies, we stomp on spiders, and we teach bathroom tricks that will serve our kids well when their feet hit the ground in an area without any modern conveniences. It might not make sense to many, yet it makes perfect sense to us.

We are enjoying these moments, but we are also anticipating and preparing for future ones. Life is too short to think all bathrooms need stalls and every overnight destination needs a roof.

5.16avion-01Just a reminder the Ably giveaway ends tomorrow night, scroll down to Friday’s post to enter.

CLICKHEREtravel

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  • allison - I am a long time follower and first time comment. I want to commend you for offering this life to your kids. What a blessing for you all to see the landscape of this great country. (and world someday) I agree with you and believe firmly in the flexibility of our kids making things like travel so much easier. But, I must tell you, not to take away from what your kids are able to do-I firmly believe that the ease of which they take on the bathrooms is a DIRECT reflection of how YOU have taken on the bathrooms all the years they have watched you do so. They have seen momma kill spiders when necessary without a squeal I am sure, and squat when things were a little less sanitary than wanted-with a smile. Keep on keepin on momma-I love your life 🙂

  • Alyssa Hitchcock - Ah, I hear you! We recently converted a school bus into an RV and went with a Nature’s Head composting toilet. It works great and has saved me from many a nasty roadside bathroom. The best thing about it is that you don’t have to plumb anything (AKA no black tank installation) just drop it in place and you’re good to “go.” 😉

  • Kelly J. R. - I keep a travel journal everywhere we go. Along with the hikes we’ve been on I always mention the campground bathrooms and what the showers were like – if there were any at all! If we’re in a Nat’l Park that has multiple campgrounds, I’m gonna pick the one with the best shower. 🙂

  • Beth - I love that you are exposing your kids to so many different experiences and can’t wait to follow along with your future adventures! If you ever get the chance to expose your kids (particularly the girls) to simple squat latrines (not squatting in the woods, but actual latrines)- do it! It’s a lot harder to learn to aim/use one later on but kids seem to adjust a lot easier. I say this as a Peace Corps volunteer in a country where, despite having many other modern conveniences, most houses and schools still have basic hole-in-the-ground squat toilets. This is especially important if you plan to travel in many Asian countries! It sounds ridiculous, but it really is an art, particularly for females.

  • Diana - I LOVE this sentiment! I grew up doing big camping trips with my family and have also used many many national and state park bathrooms, most on the ehhhhhh side but such a good adjustment, although I still wouldn’t be a fan of showering with 4 spiders… Also, can you come along on my next trip just to be the photographer?? Hahaha. Beautiful!!

  • Bethany - Ok, so is it weird to ask for a post about your camping bathroom ‘tips’? Haha. We’re pretty new to camping and with two little boys in tow, any tips from someone who is more experienced would be much appreciated!

  • Lacey Meyers - I’m super excited to see where your travels take your family, Ashley. I’ve had the desire to do so much more traveling and just as we were getting in the swing of things with a trailer and roadtrips, a new life circumstance has put that on hold for us. So I’ll live vicariously though you and really be happy for you and your adventures. 🙂

  • gHina - You should come to Indonesia one day 🙂 <3

  • Kimberly Locke - Thanks for the reminder 🙂
    I lived for a year in Brazil when I was 11. We traveled from Forteleza, to Brazilia, to the Iguacu Falls, through Rio, and back, then did a trip down the Amazon. There were always cockroaches in the cold showers, cold toast and tea for breakfast, etc. But later when I traveled with a group through Egypt and Turkey, squatting over holes with no TP…it was no big deal. The girls were disgusted, and I realized what a gift that year in Brazil was! “Low-maintenance” is one of my top goals for instilling in my five kiddos. 🙂

  • Penny - You are so wise with regard to your attitude/teaching about bathrooms and about travel in general. We have been blessed to be able to travel abroad with our children due to my husband’s job and food/bathrooms are so so different. But, if you have prepared your children to just embrace what is available it just becomes part of the adventure! Travelling light is also important and you already do that too. Rich adventures are ahead for all of you! Thank you for sharing real life.

  • Jamie J - These photos are spectacular.

  • Emily - I grew up in CO and we camped in the summers. It never occurred to me that you could have electricity or running water when you camped. I always thought a decently clean outhouse was “luxurious” when you were camping. You carry your own TP and take a deep breath before you go in! We took our kids on their first real camping trip this summer and our friends (who “camp” a lot) were incredulous that we didn’t plug in or stay at a campground with showers. Isn’t that kind of the point of camping?

  • susie edwards - We have done tons of camping with our kids too, a know what you mean about bathrooms! My boys don’t like when we stay at a place that has clean bathrooms, too civilized for them. Lol I have been to most of the places you took photos of. We live in wyoming and I am from AZ so we have hit a lot of national parks in between. I was telling my sister the other day how wealthy us Americans are because of how much land our country owns. She lives in Minnesota so she forgets how much land she owns as an american. I wish I could convince my husband to travel out of America but he loves staying in wyoming.

  • Ute - Ashley, I do love and learn a lot from your blog. But why kill spiders? There are some handy gadgets to put them out of the bathroom, I use a cloth most of the time. They are part of God’s web of life! If we do kill, it should be done respectfully and for a purpose. All the best, Ute

  • Elizabeth R. - I have gone camping and road tripping with my parents a lot. They’ve always done a great job of teaching us to be low-maintenance and enjoy “roughing it.” It’s great that you have the same approach! Also, where did you take that photo of the sun and the sheep in the field (out the car window)? It’s stunning (as are all your photos!).

  • Meredith - I couldn’t agree with this sentiment more. We have traveled early and often with our kids and some friends always ask “why” when they won’t remember all of these trips when they are older. But I think that we are teaching them to be flexible and open minded to other cultures and giving them a love of experiencing new people and places.

  • Jerry - Nyangombe camp site, Zimbabwe – my second daughter took her first steps. Near 30 years ago, as she turned 30 a couple of months ago! All 4 kids camped all over Zimbabwe, and in a few spots in the UK. No RVs – just tents and ground.
    Camping is the best thing you can do for your kids. It teaches them a lot about self-reliance and skills outside the normal everyday. Good for you guys.
    Good photos too!

  • Mallo - I grew up doing big camping trips with my family and have also used many many national and state park bathrooms, most on the ehhhhhh side but such a good adjustment.