We began the year we got married. It was snowing hard that year. I remember standing outside ringing that bell so hard because the more I moved the warmer I stayed. The manager of the department store at that Shawnee mall told us we could stand just inside the doors and out of the snow. When his shift was over the new manager told us to go back outside with our kettle. We didn’t care….we were starting a new tradition for our family.

The next year we stood outside of Long’s Drug Store in Manoa Valley on the island of Oahu. I rang the bell while Chris played his guitar and sang. We stood in flipflops, shorts and t-shirts…wonderful.

We’ve continued our tradition nearly every year. We have rang with babies in carseats covered in blankets. We’ve rang in sweaters. We’ve rang in 10 layers with chattering teeth. As the boys grow they join Chris in the singing….and typically they do a lot of dancing.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want my kids to think of when Christmas is mentioned. When they begin their own families and their own traditions – what do I want to fill their Christmas memories? I’m still pondering all that I want their Christmas legacy to be, but I do know a few things I want to pop into their heads. When they think of Christmas I want them to be excited to celebrate the meaning of Christmas. I want them to know that we give because God gave. We can give not only presents, but our time and talents too.

It was cold. A grandma (I call her that because that is what she called herself) tried to convince me to let her take my kids inside with her. I told her no. She asked, “Why in the world are you doing this? Why as a family? Why do you have your kids out here?” I told her I wanted to teach my kids the meaning of Christmas. She smiled a confused and bewildered smile. Then my oldest handed her a candy cane and she went on her way.

I made several trips inside with the 3 youngest kids to warm up. My oldest came in one time and then he realized his daddy couldn’t give candy canes and play the guitar. He stood out there the rest of the hour with his lips shaking because he wanted to be sure everyone that made a donation got a candy cane. Not once did he say he was cold. Not once did he ask to leave. He pretty much rocked it. I am proud of him.

My 2 year old entertained shoppers with his interprative dancing to Christmas carols. His little sister did a lot of booty shaking too.

The sun set and our hour shift came to an end. Chris turned to me and mentioned how difficult it might be one day to get 4 teenagers to have the same night free to go ring a bell with mom & dad. I kind of think it won’t be all that difficult. I have a hunch that one day Chris won’t be the only one with a guitar and that the toddler booty shaking will be replaced with something my teenagers think up.

Once at home we sat around the kitchen table drinking hot chocolate and talking about what we had just done. The older boys were relying all the money that they saw being put into the bucket and all the smiles of those that donated. Then the boys grinned and said, “That is a lot of people that will get food this Christmas. And a lot people that will get to be warm.” Chris and I glanced at each other….it is so very good when they do actually get it.

Just in case you are wondering…to volunteer to be a bell ringer you just contact your local Salvation Army…that is what we do each year.

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  • Jodi - This post was exactly what I needed to jump start my day. It made me so proud and they are not even my kids! I have goosebumps and tears. I love it. Great job Ashley! Your family is truly amazing. I agree, I do see your kids as teenagers helping out. :)

  • Jessie - I don’t think I have actually every “really” commented (unless entering contests count!) on your blog. You have been told this so many times, but I am going to say it again…you really hit home with your posts. I mean hit, with as much force as possible, right where it hurts. This post is so true and is very timely for our family as we are trying to figure out how to really impress upon our 3 year old the meaning of Christmas. A few months ago I didn’t even know about your blog until I found noticed a post of yours on Design Aglow. Checking your blog every morning is now a daily ritual of mine. Thank you!

  • Anna Marie - So neat, Ashley! I enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

  • Tracie - Thanks for this post. I get so frustrated at this time of year with all of the buy this, give this, bigger, better, etc. We keep Christmas simple and put a lot of focus on fun family traditions, church, music, giving of our time and money to charities we love. Jesus came to us as a baby in a manger, to no fanfare at all. When did Christmas become less about him and more about giving me loads of presents?

    May your family be blessed this Christmas and may your children always understand the joy of giving!

  • Corey Moortgat - wow, how inspiring! I’m going to email a link to this post to my husband right now. You may have just recruited another bell-ringing family of toddlers!

  • Reidunn - I have tears in my eyes. Your writing is as good as your amazing actions. I’m so happy there are people out there being intentional like this.

  • Jennifer - I love that idea – I had never thought about it. I am trying to do the same thing as you with the meaning of Christmas with my kids. Each year they choose an angel from the tree that is their age. They then buy clothes and toys that their angel needs. Every year they look forward to choosing the angel who is just like them. We talk about why the kids might be on the tree and how lucky we are to have clothes, etc. Yesterday my 5 year old said to me,”Mom is would be so sad to be an angel and not have your name picked.Maybe we should choose 2 kids next year.”

  • Yanet - The part of your oldest “toughing” it out choked me up. I see in my boys the older they get, the more they understand and I see glimpses of what wonderful individuals they are becoming. That’s what I see in your little ones. They are growing up to be as thoughtful and giving as their parents.

  • Lindsay - Love this. That is awesome that they get it – wow. I just love this!

  • Liz - Wow! Ashley! I’m with Yanet—your oldest brought tears to my eyes…what children can show us that we’re capable of. Jesus is so pleased with him (and you and Chris for leading them in the right way). Yours is the only blog I make time to read every new post—with three little boys, it might be every month or so with the others. But yours is so worth it!

  • Laurie J - This is great. We did this as a family of wee ones also and I think it is so impactful. Now every night my boys thank God for a warm bed….and last night my middle son added, “and thank You for one head.” Not sure where that came from but it was a good rhyme!

  • Katie - Your words brought a tear to my eye – your children are going to grow up with a lot of love in their hearts.

  • Shauna - What you are doing is amazing! Keep up the fantastic work!

  • maribeth - what a great idea! i know it is simple, but i would never thought of ringing the bell as a family/group. you just always see one person doing it, but what cheer it would bring to see multiples. i, too, don’t think you will have any problem getting them to continue in the years to come. thank you for sharing!

  • Sadie - Oh my. This brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. You are such an amazing family. This is an awesome idea! I’ll have to keep this in mind. What a perfect way to teach the kids about the meaning of Christmas! Thanks for sharing this!

  • colleen - I was just thinking this morning about the ultimate act of humble service that Jesus offered up on our behalf and how anything we offer is paltry but necessary. Paltry because even our most “holy” deeds are filthy rags. Necessary because it checks our hearts and reminds us of how greatly we have been loved and served. Thanks for letting the Holy Spirit use you to put pictures to what that looks like. And to emphasize how much fun it can been when we serve & give AND DANCE! Those three are a wonderful combination :)I would say “God Bless You” but i am very aware that He already has.

  • Robyn Farmer - This made me cry. I love what your teaching your children. As we raise our daughter and pray for her future husband we hope he is getting raised by parents like you.

  • Mariah - Thanks for sharing this this morning. You make me want to be a better Mommy.

  • Mindy - What a wonderful tradition to start with your family. Your a wonderful mother. So inspiring to the rest of us! Thank you.

  • Juli I - Ashley, I can’t stop the tears. I’m so touched. You are a wonderful mom and an inspirtion. Beautiful post. Thank you!

  • giozi - Wow wow wow. Last sunday we (in the church) go out to give brochures, and christmas cards. I have to tell you tha It was little shame for me, I’ve never do that, but your husband, your childrend a all your family is fantastic, for me it was so hard and your husbad is there smiling, with his children, everybody happy to share,and this was harder.
    God bless your family Ashley. You are a example, no only for your blog, for your life.

  • Krista Lund - kudos to you for being awesome parents!

  • Peggy - Inspiring. Thank you.

  • shelly - Wait until they’re young adults and they tell you about their desire to work in a job that has meaning and purpose and helps others. Talk about the Christmas spirit! I get teary just thinking about it. My friend told me years ago that the proof is in the pudding as to whether you’re doing a good job parenting. The pudding is made day by day, season after season. Way to parent!
    Oh, and can you remind me of the lens you use for your tutorials. You shared it with me and I forgot. (Santa needs to know)

  • Julie B - Totally inspired as always! I love love love this tradition. I keep my spare change in the car so that anytime we go somewhere that has a Salvation Army bell ringer they can all put something in the pot. Even the little one. I want them to know the feeling of giving. Beautiful post!

  • tasha roe - tearing up here! this is so fantastic! love the legacy you are creating for your kids. so great!! we always talk about doing more along these lines with our kids and never carve out the time. it is so crucial! we MUST do more this year.

  • Mary - I love this post. What a perfect way to spend part of the holiday season!

  • sarah W. - Of course I’m crying cause I’m just that person. super emotional.
    You set such a great example for not only your kids, but all of us who read your blog. You have such a giving heart, and are such a great mom. What a great way to share christmas with your family and teach them what it really means. You and your family rock!

  • Jeannette - This made me cry!!! You do such an awesome job teaching your kids!

  • keisha - This is amazing. And so simple to tell my 3yo, we give because God gave. THANK YOU for that – Merry Christmas and may God continue to bless you and yours.

  • Helen + Bill + Mirys from Brazil - What a beautiful atitude!!!!

    I´m so proud of you 6! You are trully inspiration!!!

    I don´t have this kind of tradition at home but, this year, I´m going to donate some toys and candies at a children´s hospital (for cancer), in my town. And my 2 little musketeers are going with me!!!

    Life is sharing, Ashley! Life is sharing!…

    Mirys – http://www.diariodos3mosqueteiros.blogspot.com

  • Kristen D - i love enthusiastic bell ringers (the last one we got was slouching in her chair, and on her cell when we went in…and out). during this wonderful season, i pack my wallet full of change and give both my kids money to put in the bucket when we go in, and when we go out and then make sure to tell them the meaning of what we are doing. they love it!

  • kyla hailstone - Awsome, truely awsome. My daughter just did bell ringing with her 4-h club on saturday and I think it’s so great to help them understand supporting our community and helping tose in need.

  • Joye - I love this! I mean LOVE it!!! What you have started with your family will be their most treasured memories of Christmas ever!! My kids are all little too, but we’ve started Christmas traditions of giving that I hope stay with them for the rest of their life! My kids love “Jesus’ birthday month” and they know instinctively that the best gift they can give Jesus is loving others–especially those in need this season!!! God bless your family this year!

  • heather - and this is why you’re my favorite.

  • its been a while « Smalltown Lovin - […] really loved this […]

  • the whyte house - wish you guys were out here…chris with a guitar and dancing kids is a whole lot better than that darn bell! lol. we get a trumpet playing every now and then, but no guitars.

    chris- ms. elmore should have had some of the choir guys out performing for the salvation army when you guys were in high school. can you see it? you, rob crawford, blake connelly, aaron loney, thomas hale, ryan fagala(and his overly expressed face :))…to name a few. that would’ve been a great show in front of wal-mart. :) haha.

    ashley, if you want some “chris high school memorabilia”, i’d be happy to send it to you guys. i’m sure the kids would love it. i know i still have photos from choir in my scrapbook and i definitely don’t need any of them! :)

  • tasha - wonderful! thank you for sharing your thoughts and tradition. merry christmas!

  • Raychel - Ashley, you and your family are such a inspiration! Thanks for reminding us of the real reason for the season! Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy 2011! God Bless!

  • LeAnne - once again…tears to my eyes. So precious. All of it, the meaning being realized by your little ones, the time being enjoyed by each member of your tiny family, and the pictures that capture it all. Thank you for today’s post.

  • Caitlin - What a great tradition!

  • Hannah Bunker - That is so awesome that you do this with your kids!

    Also, my family lives in Shawnee. Nice little town.

  • Tiffany - :)

  • hearttypat - Ashley! I’ll need personal coaching from you next time when I’m a parent! All those values and lessons to teach kids, and I have not the slightest idea how! This is why I love your blog! God bless you and your family and have a wonderful christmas!

  • mandi - AWESOME!!!
    I’m with you-when the kids get it, it is incredible. I’m always pondering our family’s legacy too. What we are passing on, praying over, wrapping up beautifully for our children.
    Have you read “Treasuring GOd in OUr Traditions” by Noel Piper? I haven’t read it but I’m wanting to. I’ve heard really great things about it.

  • Leanne - very sweet.

  • Gevay - It is inspiring how you and your family live out your faith. You are not just Christ followers in word, but also in deed. Thank you for another reminder of what this holiday means, “We give because He gave”.

  • Kirra Sue - You & Chris are some awesome parents. Awesome. Thanks for passing along all these amazing tips for those of us just starting out.

  • Leslie - Ashley, I read your blog everyday. I too have never left a comment. Shame on me. You are truly an amazing person. You inspire me with your love for others, and how you raise your children. Thank you for being you and helping me be better.

  • Jenny B. - Wow. Awesome.

  • jennie - this made me cry. Thank you

  • Stefanie - I know you’ve heard this a few times…but, wow, your family is such a beautiful inspiration! Thank you for the idea.

  • OrangeFarmhouse - Maike - I just love your family for doing this!

  • Melissa - Very very inspiring! I love it! You are giving your family a truly amazing gift! Thank you!

  • Ruth - Ashley, you never cease to amaze or inspire me. Thank you! In 2004 our little town was devastated by Hurricane Charley and the Red Cross provided us (along with most of our town) with 3 meals a day for weeks. We have been ardent supporters ever since but have never once thought of volunteering with our kids to ring the bell. We will now.

  • Carolyn - What a wonderful family tradition…and the crux of the message ‘we gave because God gave’ is (sadly) rare in all the hype and commercialism surrounding Christmas. You are doing a wonderful job in raising your children to glorify God and consider others. That is better than any present to be found under a Christmas tree.

  • christmas thoughts « - […] what Christmas is all about and what traditions passed down the generations mean? I just read a post from my favourite blog Under the Sycamore, really, everyone should read it. It’s about what […]

  • MelissaM - Once again, Ashley, thank you for sharing fabulous examples how to teach your kids God’s love through real life field trips. You’ve inspired me again to think of something similiar for my 2 year old. :)

  • amber - THAT is awesome. Why haven’t I ever thought of that? Thanks…you just added something to the top of my to do list. Way to go biggest bro…you do rock! :)

  • CharlaL - tears….I needed to be reassured that they WILL get it. I had a rough morning! Oldest brother and my son are close in age! I love your heart, and I love that you share it. Not in a way that is look at me I am so great. But with the heart of a mother wanting to make life COUNT! THANK YOU for allowing God to use you as inspiration and encouragement!

  • Caitlin - Incredible. This is so perfect & what a wonderful perspective to teach your family. Thanks for sharing! God bless!

  • Valerie - Thanks for the inspiration. I don’t know if I am brave enough to do such a thing, but you and Chris certainly inspire me! Perhaps one day we will give it a try.

  • Katie - what a beautiful thing! and so encouraging to hear how others make sure Christ stays the center of this holiday season :)

  • Meredith - In high school, one of the opportunities that Community Service offered was bell ringing for the Salvation Army. The first time I signed up I was a freshmen and the only spot left was the two hour shift on Christmas eve right before mass. My friend Morgan and I signed up together. We bundled up, it was snowing, it was cold, and every one was in a rush to get their last minute items from the market. Everyone either donated on their way in or on their way out, some people donated both times. One woman bought us hot apple cider inside. It was the best feeling I have ever had, and I didn’t care that I was cold.

    The next year, Morgan and I signed up again, same shift, same spot, same cold. This time we figured out that we needed hot chocolate before ringing the bell. We stopped at a coffee shop and while waiting in line, the woman in front of us over heard what we were going to be doing. She bought our hot chocolate for us and then gave us money to put in the bucket for her.

    That Christmas eve shift is my favorite time to volunteer. Every person has a reason to be rushed, to be in a bad mood, or to be overwhelmed with what is going on and forget about the people who could really use a little extra help. But for some reason, at the busiest place in my town, everyone seems to have the same thing in mind, give back.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful post. I know that when I have children of my own, I will also bring them out to ring the bell.

  • Jenny - What an awesome tradition!Not to mention what an amazing family. My fiancé and I have been talking about our hopes for our future life together a lot lately, especially family and holiday traditions we hope to continue and create, and I might just have to add this to the list:) Thank you for being such an inspiration, God bless and Merry Christmas!

  • caro - I’m like the old lady, don’t like kids with this activities, but we can see your kids enjoy the moment, and the messagge you are given them is amazing. Thank you for do a better day to all of us. Sorry for my english ihope you understand me.

  • Summer - Thank you for this inspiring post!! Following your family’s Christian example me and my family will be in front of the grocery store ringing tomorrow night! :) merry Christmas!

  • Jessica Egg - I really enjoy this family tradition of yours. You have a wonderful blog and I appreciate all your tips and uplifting thoughts. Much thanks!

  • chantelle - Your story makes me cry warm happy tears! Your kids will be beautiful loving teenagers who will love to spend time with their uber cool parents! All thekids will want to join in! My husband plays the guitar and my 2 year old would do a wonderful dance-guess who I will be calling tom morning-thank you for sharing your wonderful family activities. (but you should supply kleenix!)

  • Brooke - touched deeply and smiling from ear to ear. Thank you to you and yours for remembering Christ-mas and teaching your kiddos well. xo

  • Paige Rodriguez - By now, you must know what a difference you make with this little ol’ blog. You truly do inspire people to be better, do better, even create better. Here I am a young mom with a 3 yr. old, and I’m reading this thinking, THIS IS MY CHANCE. To start this for our own family. To continue the cycle of teaching to give. Thank you for taking the time to teach us!

  • Allison - As an engaged 27-year old, I am soaking in your parenting ideas for when we start our family. Know that simply sharing your life is shaping mine and that of my future children’s.

  • Cynthia (It All Changes) - This post makes me smile. It was my tradition as a child to help out and as a Salvation Army officer it makes me smile when other families do the same. We want to teach our future children about the joy of giving to others in Christ’s love and not the stress of the holidays for us.

    Thank you for being such a giving family.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I love you. I love you. I love you.

  • Vicki - I always wonder what stuff that we “teach” or do with intention (or not intentional)will stick in their minds. I know so much of what I just “know” to do, that just feels natural, is really things that my mom planted there. It’s a little overwhelming, this parenting thing. By the grace of God we get it right.

  • Elise - You are so awesome!! It never even occurred to me to do this…I need to come up with something to relay to my children the real reason we celebrate Christmas, and they do know, but something like this is just great!!

  • Anndee - Wow. Very inspiring! I need to get better at donating into those pots – no doubt your family generates some great donations! And what a FABULOUS tradition. I’m all teary eyed.

  • Brianne Pitts - Thank you for your post. You motherly insights are very inspiring. I don’t know why, but I actually started to cry when I read this. I guess I was just thinking of my own childhood and the special things my parents did with us, and of my own teeny children, and how that after loosing my mother a few months ago, I need to be the one that does these things for my own young family. Thank you for your kindness to others.

  • nori - ashley… this post made me cry. you and chris are amazing parents with huge hearts and your children are just PRECIOUS. precious looking with precious hearts.

    God bless you all!

  • Irene Wiranata - This post is so overwhelming, it touched me right in my deepest heart. God bless your family abundantly!!

  • Juleah - Just made a phone call….looks like we’ll be ringing some bells next week! Thanks!

  • Melissa - Wow… thank you for sharing this wonderful Christmas tradition. It actually brought me to tears, Happy tears as my kids call them. You have an amazing family!

  • Desiree - I love this idea! I can see us doing this. I’m going to look it up next year. Thank you for sharing!

  • Evie - your family rocks… thats all!

  • Lila - This post really inspired me, talked to my husband about it last night. I agree, I want my future children to have a tradition of giving that teaches them to think outside themselves. Loved hearing what they said at the end of the day! Insightful!

  • Dana Moran - I love this post, love everything about it! I love how your family always come first. I come to your blog often for inspiration & great ideas…

  • Lilliana - Thank you for sharing this post… we should all work at giving our holidays true meaning as that is what will stick in our children’s minds and in our hearts.

  • Natalie - Sniff! This is a beautiful thing.

I write a contributing post to two different blogs each month. How I ended up doing these for two blogs with similar names is beyond me. I realize it is confusing for those of you that are not regular followers on those sites. Once a month I contribute a DIY post on Design*Sponge and one on Design Aglow. The two sites are not related to eachother…other than the fact you can get inspiration overload from both. Design Aglow is a resource for photographers. For my posts on Design Aglow I am using their products in a non-conventional way. Today my most recent project for Design Aglow will be published. Though the focus is some of their templates you can find ideas for gift wrap on it as well. If you are looking for beautiful gift ideas I recommend visiting The Giver’s Log.

So here are a few ‘behind the scenes’ of my Design Aglow project:

When you have young kids people always tell you that you are going to miss it when they grow up…they say it whenever you want to complain about something. Well you know what…I am out of the pacifier stage and I don’t miss crawling around a nursery floor in the middle of the night trying to find one. I am on the verge of being out of the highchair phase and I’ve never been so excited to get rid of a piece of furniture. When I am trying to be creative I have 2 little ones unrolling ribbon, tearing my beloved Amy Butler paper, dumping glitter and all in my business. I don’t think I’ll miss this type of contribution to my crafting.

She kept stealing a package of trim to push around in her stroller. If you put a doll in the stroller she throws it to the ground, but she loves pushing my stuff. When I went to retrieve it – disappeared. I still don’t know where she stuck it…

The second photo is what it looked like when I was photographing the gifts for the Design Aglow post. I stood between the window and the table.

The project involves gift wrapping. My mom had bought FireCracker an adorable little shirt with polka dot sleeves. She wore it all the time and then got a massive stain down the front. It was beginning to be a crop top anyway, so instead of throwing it away I cut up the unstained pieces to save in my scrap fabric bin. One of the sleeves came in handy for this project.

You can visit Design Aglow to see the full project and details.

In other news, I was a long time Facebook holdout. Not anymore. This week I have figuring out how to enable others to share pictures on my wall. I’ve asked those that follow my Facebook page to share pictures of things they make that were from tutorials I’ve posted or inspired by something on this blog. I can’t tell you how fun it is for me to see these pictures. Every now and then someone will email me a picture or send me a link to something they have made, but it doesn’t happen often. It is fun to see that some of you actually try the things I post here. I wanted to share a few of the pictures from the Under the Sycamore facebook page.

I will note you have to “like” the Under the Sycamore page to get feed updates. If I am only your ‘friend’…you’ll never see any updates because I don’t update my Ashley Ann Campbell wall…just the blog wall.

Onto some reader pictures:

There are so many more pictures on Facebook, but I wasn’t sure if the owners wanted me to share them here. I will share a blog link to a beautiful shower…but the Facebook ones you’ll have to go check out for yourself.

Have a great weekend and don’t forget to check out the Design Aglow post!

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  • giozi - Just yesterday I mentioned you, and design aglow and wrapping ha ha ha what a coincidence 😉

    Upss I’m so glad to see one picture (baby food jars) of mine in your blog. I’m veeeeeeeeeeeery happy !!!

  • tasha roe - you have a great spot in your kitchen for taking pictures! the lighting is AWESOME!!
    love seeing the behind the scene shots. the process is what’s fun to me.
    thanks for including my baby shower. that totally made my crappy-sleep deprived-out of coffee creamer day!!

  • Hannah Bunker - Aw! Thanks for including the bird “painting!” I’m so honored! :)

    And can I say, that if I ever got a present from you that looked like any of the ones you posted…it would cause me serious pain to unwrap it because it’s so pretty! haha! Love it!

  • Amanda @ Our Humble A{Bowe}d - I love your wrapping! I was also planning to use recycled kraft paper as wrapping, going for a ‘brown paper packages tied up in strings’ look. Can’t wait to read the Design Aglow post!

  • Mary - Hooray for facebook! And I just have to ask…did you make that red fabric flower you used to wrap the box? It’s lovely. :)

  • brittany - I made the rainbow cake for my daughters birthday this past week! I appreciate all the pictures with your kids while you craft – it makes me happy :)

  • Meadowlark - I used to agree with you on the “won’t miss it” until now when the “baby” is 23 and expecting a baby of his own. (well, she’s expecting. he’s waiting). It’s those moments when it all rushes back – the fat little feet, the intense looks of concentration, those pudgy little faces … seriously, you will miss it. You are blessed to have this blog to document your babies.

    and thanks for the crafty stuff too. :)

  • Sarah Doerfler - i love your DesignAglow posts, and now love your blog too. I had to comment this time because I giggled reading about your littles. hee hee! hang in there sister! the truth is that you miss the cuddly times and the toothless grins, but not the “help”! this year i have had a hard time realizing that i am no longer a mom of toddlers – my littlest little is in jrK and my oldest is 3rd grade (with a 1st grader in between). I miss the fat cheeked gummy grins and the pudgy busy hands but what a morning i had today watching my big boy in his coat and tie singing on stage with his 3rd grade classmates! there are good things to come…and that’s why we photograph it all right? to remember the days of baby and toddler hood (and everything after that too!!!) thanks for the inspiration!!!

  • Kim - ooo so excited to see this packaging just the extra inspiration I needed !!! Thanks

  • Laurie J - love the wrapping! I can so relate to little hands taking everything and scattering it around. As I write this I’ve got playdoh in places I’m not sure I’ll be able to locate 100% today! And now my youngest son just jumped on the couch….and missed. Good thing he’s the tough one. You amaze me with how much you get done in a day :) love reading your blog

  • Maueen - I am so with you. I was at a mall a month ago trying to navigate my niece’s stroller through the way to narrow isles and said, “I don’t miss strollers at all” Then I was at a museum with three kids and no coat room, carrying 4 coats, and I said, “I miss my stroller”

  • The Prairie Hen - Dear Miss Not-Missing,
    Sounds like your Firecracker is more of a shopping type than a mothering one! There are things about these stages you will miss but the things that drive you crazy are the part that make you so you don’t crawl into a dark depressed hole due to the passing of time… smile and move on!

    That’s How We Roll in NE

  • hearttypat - I love that first picture at the last row of the submitted pictures. Can’t take my eyes off the wall color! Anybody knows similar color paint in that shade?

  • Cherish Stockdale - these are awesome, love how all the projects turned out wonderfully! :)

  • Ashlee - I feel so giddy to have something I did (inspired by you of course!) on your blog!!!!

  • shawna [of styleberryBLOG] - thanks for adding my picture to the post! I have a little “stuff” pusher too…wonder where they learn that stuff…??! creative mamas! :)

  • Amber - Really cute packages, Ashley. Love the variety of textures, supplies, etc. Just out of curiosity, did you mark who they were all to elsewhere? It would be my luck that Grandma would open the gift intended for Baby Sister. :)

  • nori - ashley… you are such a sweet soul! thank you SO much for the shout out in your design aglow post.

    blessings to you and your beautiful family… nori

  • MelissaM - Ashley, I loved your gift wrapping/gift tags tutorial you posted! However, I cannot afford the $215 worth of printable downloads for the 4 sets of gift tag templates you suggested. I know there are tons of free downloads available, but get overwhelmed when I search through google. Do you know any good websites that offer free downloads? Thank you!

  • Shannon Phillips - I love seeing all of the creations inspired by you! How awesome!!

  • Pleasant Vonnoh - I LOVE the idea of cutting up old/stained clothing for scraps! I’m so glad I came across your blog thanks to your inspiring posts over at Design Aglow!

  • Mindy - Figgin cute!!!

  • Mindy - ****Friggin forgot the R. Ha.

  • Crystal - I’m so excited my picture made it on your blog!

  • Lila - I really love the look of your presents. I think it is so much fun to make packages magical to open, I really think it adds to the gift. You inspired me to go out and get brown postal paper and doilies :)

  • amanda torres - So cool! I love that ‘grandma’ looked at you like you were crazy, but thought it completely sane to let 4 little kids go in a store with a complete stranger. I’m bewildered.

  • sarah - hello! i found you via the lovely clusters. your site caught my attention because i too live in oklahoma and am a fellow blogger.

    your blog is just lovely. i will come back and visit.
    cheers xoxo sarah

Over the last year a few of you have left comments about my MacGyver-ish ways. Whether the comparison is meant as a compliment or not, I always take it as one. I am HUGE MacGyver fan. The man could create anything out of nothing. He never did things the correct way, but made do with what he had and made it work. It wasn’t technically correct, but it worked…which is the whole point. The more I thought about it, the more it made me laugh. “MacGyver Crafting” that pretty much describes how I create. I know that I don’t do things technically right. I don’t know how to read a sewing pattern. I don’t measure anything with rulers. I hang curtains with clothespins because I don’t want to go to the store to pick out a rod!

Then there is Martha. I know people love to hate her, but I think she is pretty genius. Most what bears her name is timeless and beautiful. Back in high school I read Martha Stewart Living instead of whatever magazine most teenage girls read. I bought Martha Stewart Kids Magazine in college because I loved the layout and design…no interest in having kids back then. I’m a Martha fan.

You know those games that ask if you could spend a day with one famous person, who would it be? I want a double date with MacGyver and Martha….we would be trapped in Lowes with no electricity, the plumbing would go out and we’d have 5 hours to remedy all the problems and have the place decorated for a party. Dream date.


In honor of my non-technical ways of crafting I thought I’d share a little diy. I picked up this candle from IKEA and it needed a makeover.

Supplies: Baker’s Twine, fabric scrap, coffee sleeve (surely MacGvyer saved his coffee sleeves)

Step 1: Hot glue the coffee sleeve to the candle

Step 3: After attaching the coffee sleeve, add the fabric and twine

If you are really lucky when you try to take a picture of your eclectic candle, a toddler will do her best to blow it out. I will note, as the candle melts you can see the inside of the coffee sleeve. That doesn’t bother me. I checked with MacGyver and Martha. It didn’t both Mac, but Martha felt I should have covered the inside too.

Another little MacGyver action in my home. I took down a large painting in the living room because I needed it for another project. It left a large hole among all my frames. A trip to the backyard for a sycamore limb and now I have a hanging branch. Odd…probably. A winter bird and doily snowflakes hanging from it make me smile. I’m pretty sure I won’t be hanging the painting back up. I love my branch….MacGuyver thought it would be better for a fire and Martha thought it looked nice, though she noted it would not look good in her Bedford home.

The big painting is getting a makeover. I am having the hardest time picking a paint color for my room. It is driving me crazy. The gray is from Martha’s collection, but I think I’ve nixed it. She has beautiful paint sample cards at Home Depot.

When I picked up my candle from IKEA I also got storage baskets for my random fabric and trims. For someone that doesn’t technically know how to sew I have acquired quite a collection. I hope FireCracker doesn’t want her closet back anytime soon!

So…what famous person would you like to spend a day with?

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  • laura - you are hilarious. love that candle!

  • Kimberlee J. - I’d say Pioneer Woman. She’s famous, right?
    And Oprah. :)

  • Jennifer - I think I would spend the day with Drew Brees, the New Orleans Saints quarterback. I could only do this if my kids came along since he is their hero. We would go for some beignets, watch his practice, and then end with dinner.
    http://www.bigdandme.com (if you visit today you can see what my 1 year old “ms. self-sufficient” has been up to)

  • roxanne - I would wanna spend my day with you. YOUR AMAZING!! and i would hope that your amazingness rubs off. lol

  • julie m - I love your style…MacGyver and Martha would be proud.

  • Laurie J - hmmmmm….maybe The Cake Boss? He’s got some crazy fondant skillz and I’ve currently got a little crush. But in a non-creepy way I’d think it would be fun to meet you! :) I’d love to be crafty but I am limited to what can be done with a glue gun and pretty much no creativity!

  • Anna Marie - Hmm…I’m gonna have to go with a double date as well and choose you and Meg. We would go to thrift stores, antique shops, flea markets and maybe do a little crafting to wrap the day up. But I have no idea how we are going to fit all of that into one day. I think we need a weekend 😉

  • amanda torres - Definitely The Pioneer Woman. I gonna speak in faith right now. I WILL spend a weekend at her ranch! Amen.

  • RachelC - Well, I was going to say you, but based on the previous comments, it looks like your schedule would be full……so, I will have to settle for Brad Paisley and Rachel McAdams. Brad could teach me how to write fabulous songs, and maybe I could channel a little bit of Rachel McAdams’ character in the Notebook. That character was timeless.

  • BriBedell - I would love to spend my day with Martha for sure, but I think you are pretty cool too and I have neer been to Oklahoma! I live in Michigan…can I visit? LOL

  • Caroline - i’d love to spend a day with you and your kids!
    it should be lovely.
    you are realistically creative and innovative.
    your kids are all so adorable and fun!
    i love the kind of mess you have in your home!
    it’s beautifully messy! :)

  • Shannon - Love it!

  • Mariah - I think I’ll just start calling you MacMartha. Get’s the job done, looks pretty, and as a bonus sounds like a tasty sandwich. Who doesn’t want to sound like a tasty sandwich? I think I would like to spend the day with…. Sting. But no, I would be too intimidated. Paul Simon. No, I would be too star struck to even look at him. Oh, this is just too hard.

  • Hannah Bunker - I love the tree branch! And the layout of your frames is great! I always have trouble figuring out how to arrange frames on a wall.

    I would want to spend the day with Carol Burnett. I’ve been a fan since I was in 5th grade (and I’m only 24!). I’ve read everything she’s ever written and pretty much seen everything she’s ever done. We could hang out, sing, talk about her life, and I would share with her how she has influenced mine.

    Actually, I did get to meet her once. I cried. It was one of the most surreal, special moments in my life.

  • Jenn B - I would spend the day with the president – that would be cool to see what his day is really like. Where did you get your couch – I love it!

  • Linden - I would want to spend the day with my husbands grandmother, Patricia Rose. okay she’s not technically famous BUT she does have one of her paintings hanging in George Bush’s Texas Ranch house. I only got to meet her once before she passed away from alzheimers before our wedding. She was the most talented painter I have ever met. Beautiful landscape paintings… they brought much beauty into the world and I would love to have her beauty back for a little while.

  • Anna - With you!!! :)
    There are a couple others: Will Ferrell, Wes Anderson, the cast of Glee….but you are number one by far!

  • april's craft nest - okay! i am not the only one. i devoured MS mags in HS. i did not really care about those teeny bopper mags. i had about 10 years of MS mags stored in my gargage(moved with me 4 times). i finally gave those to a friend. and MS KIDS! oh my gosh! i was so in love with those. why did they ever stop. i saved two from years and years ago, WAY before i ever thought i even wanted a child. one had the sheep costume in it and i thought to myself, “self, just in case you ever want kids, THIS is THE costume!” and guess what? i made it this year for my sweet little 2 yrs old lambie! here he is if you want to check him out. http://aprilscraftnest.blogspot.com/2010/11/sheep-birthday-party.html

  • reeve - love, love, love the candle! So simple yet so freakin’ cute! Thanks for sharing:)

  • Julie B - Since I can’t spend a day with Paul Newman :( I would for sure pick Amy Adams and spend the day trying on fabulous shoes and singing show tunes. I am for sure a nerd. But sometimes my daydreams have nothing to do with my four kids or anything crafty!

  • Shannon Phillips - I am cracking up over here. I love you and your quirky ways.
    This is really stumping me. I can’t think of anyone famous to hang out with.

  • Nancy - What a hoot with my morning coffee. You’re hilarious!

  • Nicole - ooh- love the bins! more info, please?!

  • heather - the candle is fantastic! i’m making one today with my ikea candles. and your branch is fantastic!! i have one that my son broke as he was falling out of a tree (he was fine, but cried because he thought he hurt the tree so we kept the branch) i wrapped it in cream yarn and then hung the paper globes from elizabeth street from it. i adore how it! it’s like my own modern mobile.

  • Alice H - I really want to meet Ree Drummond (aka P.W.) and see M.M.’s bottom in real life. Is that too much to ask??? No!

  • Carrie Rosalind - Beautiful candle! Very MacGyver of you! :)

  • Bryn - So funny – I am literally watching MacGyver right now and started reading your post…made me laugh. I have loved this show since I was litle! He is so resourceful!

  • Martina - I love this post. Haha! My husband’s college choir director was friends with Martha (well, actually their daughters were friends, but close enough!) and she said that Martha sleeps sitting up with a pad and a pen in her hand so she’s always ready to record her brilliant ideas when she wakes up. I agree that she’s a genius! And I’m sure she would have covered or painted the inside of that coffee sleeve. I learned from her show that screws on light switch plates should all be turned so the screwdriver slots line up vertically. I’m not a perfectionist by nature but now I always do it!

  • Ali Richardson - Ha ha, this post made me laugh out lour. What a trio you would be in a Lowes! I think I may pick James Taylor and just have him singing in the background all day long. Heaven :)

  • Moriah - Paula Dean would definitely be on my list. I secretly wish my two boys will grow up to be like Jaime and Bobbie.

  • gina - :) fun post!

  • the whyte house - this is now my favorite post. only for the macgyver part. :) i died laughing. glad you looked him up…i always spell his name w an extra letter. haha. we LOVED macgyver growing up and always said that richard dean anderson was related to us(my dad’s name was morris dean anderson :)). we thought he was the coolest for having our last name. haha. so that right there should say that i was complimenting you on your macgyver sewing skills. haha!!!

    day out with a famous person?? hmm. not sure. my husband’s semi-famous in this area. a day with just him would be awesome.

    bill cosby. absolutely.

    maybe michael buble. he could sing to me all day. hmmm…maybe that wouldn’t be such a good idea, afterall. i might not wanna go back home and then he’d have to pull out the whole “restraining order” card and his fiancee would go all argentina postal on me… it’s just too close to christmas for all of that nonsense.

    i need humorous and sarcastic boys…
    -chandler bing
    -damon salvatore

    yes, please.
    that would be a good day.

    kind of a random list, there. i’m indecisive. what can i say?

  • Carol V. - Martha would definitely be on my list of famous people to spend the day with.

  • Katie - Amen to reading Martha Stewart magazine in high school and buying the Martha Stewart Kids magazines because of the charming layout… uhh… long before I had kids or a home to be crafting for. Anyway, loved this post. You are so funny and likeable. :)

    Also, where do you buy your baker’s twine? Is it just so expensive everywhere?

  • Jamie - That’s easy: I’d love to hang out with the Duggars! I’m a little obsessed with them for a few years now; such good people. Or Reese Witherspoon. I was able to attend a taping of Martha’s show 2 years ago in NYC and her set was amazing. Seriously amazing. I still have my collection of Martha Baby magazines — collected them LOOOONG before I ever thought of being a mom. I wish they’d bring it back. I get defensive when people knock Martha…

  • Trista - I found your blog today, and just read your posts all the way back to October. You are fantastic. I’ve loved every one of your posts on Design Sponge, I just didn’t know it was you. Thanks for the entertainment.

  • Lesley - So, I guess it runs in the family. Remember my young girl obsession with MacGyver? I’m pretty sure Rachel does. Me, Mac and some chips & salsa. Good times.

  • Dacia - I find this post to be quite hilarious! :) I, too, love Martha. Half our of our wedding registry was made up of Martha Stewart products. She is in every room of our home: kitchen (mixing bowls, pans, misc. stuff, bedrooms (linens), bathrooms (curtains, soap pump, etc), and the list goes on. OH! I almost forgot. My craft closet is full of Martha paper punches and tools. I KNOW you have them too! I’ve got my eye on a set of her flour sack towels at Macys, they come in the PRETTIEST colors.

    Which baskets are those? I love them… they look like a remake of vintage gym locker baskets.

    Keep doing what you do MacGyver!

  • Dacia - Oh and I almost forgot. I would like to have a date with YOU! And/or Martha. That would be great.

  • Christie - Is it lame that I almost automatically thought of Joey McIntyre from NKOTB? I think it’s because I watched Oprah’s teenage crush episode when she went out with Jackie Jackson – too funny! In reality, probably Anthony Bourdain.

    Separately, the couch you have in your living room – did you buy it somewhere, or just have the awesome luck of finding it? I have been trying to find a something very similar and have failed horribly.

    Happy Holidays!

  • Carolyn - Hmm…can’t think of any famous people I’d want to spend time with, but I would like to gather up all my friends who are scattered all over the place…collect the whole set and have them in one location! As for your DIY, if there’s one thing you’ve convinced me of it’s that…I need a hot glue gun :) The candle looks fabulous!

  • ingrid blanchette - i’d pick you to spend the day with…and we’d go to that secret rummage place you go to!

  • mandi - Your dream date made me laugh so hard! Lowe’s, problem fixing, the party- hahaha!!!

    My dream date would be with Mary Jane Butters. I’ve been reading her magazine since it was more like a fanzine and I still love her.

    {{{Also- what you said about reading Living in high school- that was me too.}}}

  • Marykay - I LOVE this post! My friends used to call me MacGyvette :) I have had a hard time figuring out who I would like to spend the day with, as if it is really going to happen… But I would want to spend the day with Beth Moore.

  • George - Holy cats! I’m loving the sycamore limb! Sometimes I forget how easy it can be to make a room stand out! Love it. And I’m diggin’ your blog!

    Raised By Wolves

  • Jacqui - Sometimes I feel certain that I am Marthas biggest fan. My cats are named Martha and Stewart, and I strive to incorporate a littler Martha in my life as much as possible! Though, like you, I usually invent my own way of doing things :) Hands down, Martha would be my DREAM DATE!

  • Lila - I would hang out with Jamie Oliver and his gardener. Have you seen his cooking show? Everything he makes he gets from his little garden and everything he makes makes me want to cook! I would love to have garden like his someday. Martha is also a favorite of mine. My friends tease me about it, I’m the one with Martha Stewart Living while they are reading Comso :)

  • Sharon - OK, my choice would probably be the lady on Firecracker’s tee-shirt. …Wonder Woman! LOL

  • Juliann - hahaha; Lowes-Mac-Martha-you scenario sounds like a hilarious reality TV show…you should totally pitch it to a network :-)

  • Devon - Ashley! Oh. My. Goodness. You seriously crack me up woman! I love, LOVE this post! It made me smile, laugh, and wonder what I can do in my house that both MacGyver & Martha would comment about. …and that last photo? Completely drool worthy. I too have compiled quite a collection of fabric (while I am not a “sewer” either. Whenever I see something I love in a fabric store, I simply cannot go home without it! Um… now where can incorporate that storage genius of an idea in my house? :)

  • Lindsay - It is so hard to find nice fabric where I”m from? Anyone know where to get a lot of Amy Butler fabrics in Canada??

  • ashlee - why, you, of course:)

  • meg duerksen - macgruber and blizzard man.


  • The Prairie Hen - Dear MMMMMM,
    You are my kinda girl, Ashley! I LOVE Martha! My Mama got my hooked young and when I got married our wedding theme was Martha Stewart meets John Deer!

    I think I’d choose Mary Engelbreit… and that one might come true since she recently agreed to paint a sculpture I made for my dad’s fiberglass animal business!!! Whoo-hooo!

    Dreaming in NE

  • tasha roe - I would have to say Martha or Phil Knight (Nike Founder)
    Always wanted to work for both of them.
    Will Ferrell would be awesome too – I like funny people. 😀

  • MelissaM - I would love to spend the day with Beth Moore or Anne of Green Gables. Both kindred spirits, full of passion, and entertaining! I love them both!

  • Elise - I know it sounds hokey, but I would love to spend the day with you!! We could have fun and craft and I could steal your couch!! Oh, did I just say that out loud?? I’ve been meaning to ask about your couch…is it a twin sleigh day bed?? I love it!! Oh, LOVE all your candle embellishing, too!!! I’ll link one up to your FB that you inspired.
    Hope you have a Happy Friday!!

  • Missy - This is fantastic! I hope MacGyver and Martha are reading this and it is the inspiration for a MacGyver guest appearance on Martha’s show. We’ll all say we saw it here first! Just gotta say how much I love your blog Ashley! I read it everyday and look forward to it after I get my “chores” done or when nap time comes for the little one. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself. It’s truly a blessing.

    Now, random question – I need a creative idea to cover some couches that I don’t like. Tailored slipcovers are too expensive, other ones don’t fit right. Any brilliant ideas?

  • Jen - I am sooooo coming with you on the MacGyver and Martha dream date. That would be my ultimate as well! I laughed all the way through your post, I could totally see myself right there with you. :)

  • Hannah B. - Awesome idea! I too got Martha Stewart Living in high school & bought Martha Stewart Kids in college just for the layout! (which managed to get me some serious weird-stares in the cafeteria) Oh, and do you remember Blueprint? *sigh*… so divine!

  • Amanda - You’re right on the money! I love MacGyver & Martha too! Definitely a dream {double} date….

  • Mindi Patty - I made the candles from this post!!! Check it out. I. Love. It.


  • No Impact Bride - This idea is adorable and we love it so much we’ve included it in our latest post at No Impact Bride. Hope you don’t mind!



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