PERSONALIZED PAPER DOLL MAGNETS (with dry-erase speech bubbles!)

I made a set of paper dolls for my little sisters for Christmas...each doll representing a member of the family: Dad, my step mom, the twinners, Andrew and me, Becksterooni, and Miss Aurora. 

They were drawn on heavy duty water color paper, colored in with Prismacolors, and outlined with a thin black permanent marker. In hindsight, I would have used some nice Chartpak markers for the color instead, to avoid so much texture. I was out of town at the time that I drew these, and only had the colored pencils with me. 

Then I drew speech and thought bubbles to go with each doll, laminated everything for durability, and super glued magnets to the backs. Now they can hang on the fridge or a white board.

The speech bubbles are my favorite part. They add an extra interactive element that I think the entire family can enjoy. What's great about them, is that the laminating makes it easy to change what the dolls are saying and thinking with a dry erase marker. 

 Just think of all the possibilities! So many fun ways to apply it. The Mom doll can be telling the children about their chores for the day. Andrew can whisper sweet nothings in my ear. And I can tease my dad about his fashion choices over and over again. 


CINNAMON CRUMBLE MUFFINS (sugar, gluten, dairy free!)

I have been experimenting with this recipe for over a year. Each time got better than before, but it wasn't until this weekend, that along with a few minor changes, I got the idea to add a crumble topping. That made all the difference. What a happy general conference breakfast it made!

I would recommend doubling this recipe. Otherwise, it will only make about a half dozen muffins and believe me...you're going to want to want more than that. 

2/3 C almond flour
2/3 C gluten free brown rice flour (minus 2-3 Tablespoons)
1/3 C gluten free oats
3 T coconut flour
3 eggs at room temperature
1/4 C almond milk (unsweetened)
1/4 C olive oil
1/4 C coconut glycerin or yacon syrup or honey
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 packet of stevia
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp netmeg
1 tsp vanilla

I just eyeballed everything, so these measurements are estimates! 
1/8 C gluten free oats
1/8 C unsweetened coconut
1/8 C coconut sugar
1/8 C cold coconut oil
1 T coconut flour
1 T cinnamon 
pinch of stevia
pinch of sea salt

Add cupcakes liners to muffin pan. Fill each liner 3/4 with batter. Cover each muffin with desired amount of crumble topping. Bake in preheated oven of 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. 

I like to cut it in half warm and smother both pieces with ghee. 



{This is a favorite post from about 4 years ago. Having just finished up parent teacher conferences, it's been on my mind a lot. Most parents are fabulous. But sometimes, I wish some would take to heart more seriously what I have to say at these meetings!}

I realize I don't know my students like their parents do, but I do think that spending six hours a day with the little squirts counts for something. And I really do have their best interest at heart. 

Here are a few things I wish I could tell all parents...from the desk of Mrs. Ashmore.

1. READ, READ, READ and READ SOME MORE with your childTake them to libraries, talk excitedly about books, read them your favorite books, use books and reading times as rewards, have them read books to you...even have them write their own books. I can't tell you what a difference it makes on their academic performance. Parents always want me to give them a secret magical formula for success. And this is it. It is so simple, and yet has an insanely huge impact.

2. Throw the video games away. Every year, the kids with the worst ADHD....the ones with violent tendencies when things aren't going their way...the ones who drive me absolutely bonkers....are the ones who talk incessantly of video games. This may sound a bit dramatic...but video games will rot your child's brain.

3. Your kids are so capable. It's amazing what they can accomplish with some responsibility, direction, and trust. Stop doing everything for them and give them a chance to step up.

4. Talk to your child. This is the single most effective way to build their vocabularies. Low numbers of vocabulary words in a child's knowledge base will greatly inhibit their reading acquisition. Those entering school with lower vocabularies will almost never catch up to their peers. Talking with your children will give them practice with language, grammar, and interacting with others...all necessary skills. And it just makes them feel good to have you listen. =)

5. Missing school IS a big deal. Those two days that your child was absent in order to babysit her younger siblings, go snowboarding, or simply sleep in, she missed our lessons on nouns, breaking syllables, using guide words in a dictionary, explanation of the weekly vocabulary words, the spelling list phonics pattern, and multiplying by sevens facts. The "makeup work" I send home will never compare in quality to what they missed, and I simply do not have the time to re-teach those entire lessons just for your child! Plus, everything they learn tends to build on the previous lessons. The hole in their education stemming from those two days can haunt them for years.

6. Birthday invitations. I know it's convenient for you just to send them to school with your child to pass out to their friends...but you don't see the look on the kid's faces who aren't invited. It crushes their little hearts...and mine. Invite everyone, or send them in the mail.

7. Don't be a helicopter parent. Hovering protectively nearby to swoop in and save your child from consequence or discomfort, robs them of learning any lessons from those oh-so-important learning experiences (See # 3 above). Let me also mention, this type of parenting creates wussy crybabies. And they have to learn real fast that crying does not prompt me to swoop in and fix every little situation for them like would happen at home.

8. I know everything about you by the end of the school year...whether I want to or not. I know your level of education, the state of your marriage, your economic status, your religion, your values, your manners, whether you like me or not, your parenting skills, your top priorities, and even occasionally, your sex life. Kid's talk. Watch what you say.

9. Your child may be the center of your universe, but I have to share mine with 25 others. I saw this statement as part of a list found in the Reader's Digest a year or so ago. I love it. LOVE. IT. Often times, parents don't understand that I am working myself to the bone for their child...but I am spread rather thin.There is only so much I can do as a single person. Be nice to and understanding with your child's teacher!

10. I really do know what I'm talking about. I may look young, but I am a trained professional. I spent 6+ years learning how to educate your child, and I have 6 additional years of practical experience in this art. Don't discount my ideas because I can't possibly know what's best for your child. You may disagree. But do so politely, please.

11. Don't label your child in front of them. I have had so many parents inform me, with their child standing right there: "Suzy is so smart in math but will need a lot of help with reading." or "Steven is shy, so he may struggle making friends." "Billy is smart, he's just really lazy." People! Do you not understand what your words are doing?? Children will, rise up to meet your expectations. If you tell them they are a poor reader, shy, or lazy...they will become and always be, a poor reader, shy, or lazy. Those stereotypes are nearly impossible to break through.

12. I really do care about your kid. A lot. Please don't assume that I am "out to get him" if I need to share some academic or behavioral struggles with you. We are on the same team.


Holy Hannah CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES {sugar and grain free}

Yes, I still eat like a crazy person: no sugar, wheat, dairy, or soy products. I did take a break over the holidays, and enjoyed it...but definitely paid the price in aches and pains and other health issues. Now I'm back on track and trying to get my body to settle down and feel like it did back in November. 

Eating this way is not as difficult as it was in the beginning. I've found many great things to eat to keep from feeling deprived. These cookies were one of my favorite discoveries. 

A year ago, desperate for alternatives to carrot sticks and broccoli, I gathered a collection of cookie recipes from the Internet. Experimenting with ingredient combinations, I sought for something that might work for limited little me. The process yielded many failures: Cookies Andrew wouldn't touch and I nibbled at only to justify the cost of  the ingredients...cookies that made me gag and went straight to the trash with no hope of a future...

So, when I eventually pulled these out of the oven and tasted them for the first time, words welled up from deep within my sugar-impoverished soul: "Holy Hannah! These are delicious!" 

I very nearly cried. 

And my exclamation stuck. Several batches later, as I was jotting down the final recipe in my notebook of Candida-diet friendly foods, I labeled it in bold, joy-filled script: "Holy Hannah Chocolate Chip Cookies!"

These cookies, ladies and gentleman, are not just for health nuts. Soft, chewy, and full of flavor, they are enjoyed by little sisters, junk food lovin' husbands and picky brother-in-laws to boot.

Holy Hannah Chocolate Chip Cookies!
  • 1 1/2 C almond flour
  • 1/2 C GF brown rice flour
  • 1/2 C oats (I use gluten free)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground sea salt
  • 1/2 C melted coconut oil (I prefer slightly less)
  • 1/3 C coconut glycerin or Yacon syrup
  • dark chocolate or carob chips to taste
Drop into large mounds on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees. Yields 1 dozen. 

{UPDATE: I found an alternative that is just as tasty. Rather than chocolate chips, I add about a tablespoon of cinnamon with a drop or two of cinnamon essential oil. They taste just like snickerdoodles!}



7:00 AM. Fresh snow. Fog. -15 degrees. Power outage. School closures. 

Back in December, I stood at my kitchen window and watched the sun rise over this sparkling fog. 

It was so lovely and dreamlike I felt compelled to take exactly thirty-three pictures of the scenery. As you will probably get bored after ten, I narrowed it down. And since I don't have anything interesting to say about them except for variances of:
'Holy cow, I love our holy flippin' incredibly beautiful view..." 

I will instead babble about my thoughts for the new year.

2014 has begun on a solemn note: pressure from unexpected sources, stress, disappointment, discouragement, post-vacation blues, hormones, and stewed together with a little selfish feelin'-sorry-for-myself. 

Blah, blah, blah, right?

I'm hoping to rise out of this funk soon. In the meantime, setting new goals does help. They provide new direction and focus. And my focus for the year is: de-stress-ifying

My personality tends to be...intense. I feel things deeply and have a ridiculous need to be perfect. I make things happen when I set my mind to it, and things usually work out for me. But when they don't...especially after exerting all my energy to make it so...I feel like a big, fat failure in all areas of my life. 

I'm telling you, the stress will kill me if I don't get a handle on it.

(Sheesh, I'm already weary of this topic. Let's just cut to the chase!)

temple view
It negatively impacts my health in many ways, so this is what I'm going to do about it...

1. Exercise. 
With an emphasis on relaxation and meditation...om-ing and namaste-ing included, if necessary. (Though I'm still trying to understand what Denise Austen means by: "breathe out through your belly button.") 

I bought some yoga tapes at a thrift store, and I found that the local library has a nice collection. Losing weight it not the goal here. I just need to be healthier mentally so I can be healthier physically. I am making it a huge priority. 

2. Refrain from Gossip.
Being at peace with others will help my stress level. Speaking negatively of them will only compound any anger, annoyance, or frustration. There's no reason to spread it around and cause the problem to grow; just let it go.

3. Watch my Tone of Voice.
It's more than just not yelling at Andrew for tracking mud on my freshly mopped floor...ahem. It's also not letting annoyance leak out when the changing room attendant forgets about me trying on new bras in stall number 3, and unlocks the door to a wide-eyed line of embarrassed customers. She obviously didn't mean to, so just chill out and laugh it off. 

And just because this is the fifteenth time since recess that I've asked Bobby Jo not to lean back in his chair, doesn't mean I have to sound like an ogre. Breathe in...breathe out...stay calm and relaxed. Next time, just very calmly, kindly, even lovingly...take that darn chair away altogether.

4. Remember Family & Friends
Those I love the most are (usually, anyway!) some of my greatest stress relievers. I admire them, and I rejoice in their successes.We have fun together. As such, they deserve more attention. I need to be better at keeping in touch, remembering birthdays, and inviting old friends over. As the majority of our family lives far away, I see a lot of letter writing in my future. 

5. Stop Being a Socially Awkward Weirdo
Think of clever, hilarious, pertinent things to say in all situations. Be charming and confident. Laugh infectiously. Most importantly, learn how to prevent my face from turning scarlet every time I'm put on the spot or addressed unexpectedly.

Well, never mind. One shouldn't take on too much at one time, now should she? Maybe next year.



Decorating for Christmas is my favorite. We didn't do quite as much as usual...but here are a few pretty corners of the house. 

Our mantel.

The bookshelves have a wintery, woodsy feel with a pine cone, gold evergreen, bird, and moose.

Not planning on a Christmas tree this year, I had to get creative with ways to display my favorite ornaments. 

The entry way got a few holiday touches too.

The dining room chandelier got decked out with greenery and snowy ornaments. The shelves got a fuzzy felt garland and a Uncle Roland's drawing of the Savior as a reminder of the reason for the season.

The wooden nativity my dad made for me when I was a kid is on display.

So much character. :)

Pine trees and my new favorite candle holder furthers the woodsinessness. 

It's my blog and I'll make up words if I want to.

This is the result of assigning Andrew to decorate his antlers. The poor birdies! 

He won't let me fix them because apparently, this is flippin' hilarious.

After I took these pictures, our friends found out we weren't cutting down a tree this year. It seems they found this unacceptable, because they showed up the next day on our door step with this sweet, little artificial one. :)

Check out 2012's holiday home tour right here. I kind of went all out last year. 

Happy holidays, all!



A small group of my 3rd graders talked as they worked on a Christmas craft. Somehow, they got on the topic of boys doing gymnastics. A sassy blonde with a mischievous grin stated with great authority that boys only do gymnastics so that girls will like them more. My interest suddenly piqued, I paused to eavesdrop.

The little guy next to her nodded seriously. "My big brother is always working out at the gym...except he's never been on a date. And he's eighteen."

Miss Blondie, suddenly aware that I was listening, turned to address me. "Mrs. Ashmore, the only reason Mr. Ashmore goes to work everyday is because he wants you to be more attracted to him." 

I responded with appropriate nods and words of validation. For this was valuable information indeed. :)

Though I couldn't help but wonder, as I continued on my way. Has Andrew been aware of this truth all along and using it to his advantage? 

And here I though it was my secret! 

Big trucks...ripped Levi's...heavy lifting...power tools...

Attractive indeed.

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