Thursday, October 30, 2014


We arrived in New York City via red eye, bright and early Wednesday morning. After maneuvering the air train and the subway from the airport, we dropped our bags off at our hotel in Midtown and started to make our way through the city. We stumbled through Times Square just as the Good Morning America weather lady was stepping outside to talk to the fans. We made it on air for precisely one second. Exciting and so completely touristy!

It was a cold and rainy morning, and we weren't really sure what we were doing yet (plus we were in the thick of the post-red-eye haze), so we sought shelter in Grand Central Station to get our bearings. It was the height of the morning commute, and the place was packed. The rain wasn't about to let up, so after some people watching, the Met seemed like a good place to spend the morning.

And it was. There was so much to see there. The 19th and early 20th century European painting section was my favorite. I'll never get over the fact that I am standing inches away from world-renown works of art, canvases that the artists touched themselves, sometimes hundreds of years ago! So cool. I employed this museum-going tip, and am glad I did. It made for a great experience.

At this point, we were beginning to lose steam. Our lack of sleep the night before was catching up with us, so we grabbed a bite to eat at the Melt Shop (yum) and headed back to the hotel for a power nap (if you can call a 2+ hour nap a power nap).

I lugged our big heavy camera all the way to New York, and I didn't take a single picture with it. Can you believe it? Camera photos will have to do, I'm afraid.

We ended our first day in the big city with a slice of pizza and a late movie. Such a luxury!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Yesterday morning, Mike and I woke up and walked along the High Line. We stopped to try a creme brûlée doughnut (and a pumpkin one, too!) at Doughnut Plant. Then we found a bagel shop and discovered that we liked lox. With full stomachs, we hopped on the subway to the airport and flew home to our four children. It was a good way to end our week in New York City. I can't wait to tell you all about it.

We hadn't planned on being away for so much of October, but we are grateful for the opportunity. We couldn't have done it without my parents who watched our kids while we were in New Orleans for Mike's conference, and our sister-in-law, Lindsi, who took the kids while we were in New York. Leaving the children behind is always stressful, but the time alone with Mike is such a blessing. I came home feeling refreshed and re-energized in my role as a mother. Here's to hoping that feeling lasts!

Monday, October 20, 2014

beach pictures

We had a little photo shoot with our tripod while we were in California last summer, and Mike finally had a minute to edit the photos. I wanted to post them here before too much more time had passed.

I love this big family of mine. We are spread from Southern California all the way to Germany, with many stops in-between, and we don't get to see each other nearly often enough. This trip to the beach last July already feels like a dream. It was the first time we'd all been together in more than four years. For the sake of our children, I hope we don't wait that long to do it again. The time we all spent crammed in a beach house together provided some really great memories. My kids still talk about it all the time.

The original Parker 6. One-time blogger and current English teacher Leslie, me, surfboard shaper Matt, dentist Lincoln, business consultant Elliott, and soon to be PHD grad Julianne. We were all raised the same way, but I love to see the different directions our lives have taken. We share many similarities of course (things like our faith, our focus on family, etc.), but we are all living in such different places, with our own traditions and way of doing things!

The grandkids! Plus, my parents. I love this one. My parents look so happy. It must be because they are surrounded by their most favorite people in the whole world.

Oh, what I wouldn't give for a minute of this night with my family and that ocean breeze right now.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

happy weekend

Man alive, is it Friday yet? I'm checking out early this week. I don't have any reason to, but I'm doing it anyway. If you need me, I'll be in my sewing room, making muscle pants for Oliver's halloween costume. (I can't wait to show it to you!)

Thank you for always supporting me here. I'm still not sure how any of you got here, or why you've stayed, but I am grateful for your friendship.

Have a good one, friends!

Monday, October 13, 2014

New Orleans

Last week Mike had a conference to attend in New Orleans and I got to be his plus one. I was so excited. I had never been to New Orleans before, and I was really looking forward to the trip. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon, and it looked just like I thought it would - like adorable New Orleans Square at Disneyland. . . only a dirtier, trashier, and more humid version. Oh man. It was sort of shocking, actually. Looking back, I suppose my expectations were a little off. On our first night there, excited to explore the city, Mike and I took a walk around the French Quarter after dinner and ended up on Bourbon Street. I know, big mistake! Honestly, half a block in was enough for us before we turned around and high tailed it out of there. And it was a Tuesday night at 8:00! I can't imagine what it must be like on the weekend, let alone during Mardi Gras. Goodness.

But it wasn't all bad. We actually had a really good time. The people were all so nice and everything we ate was completely delicious. Here are the highlights:

After we checked into our hotel on Tuesday, our first stop was Cafe du Monde for pre-dinner beignets. I thought they'd be overrated, but I was wrong. They were delicious and cheap and our whole experience there was great. We even went back late the next night for more. It is a fun place to sit and observe some of the craziness on the streets.

My favorite day of the trip was spent at the National World War II Museum and in the Garden District. I walked to the museum from my hotel and spent about two hours going through the exhibits. I could have easily spent two more. There was so much to read and experience there. I think it'd be terribly boring for children, but I really loved it. If you go, pay a few dollars more to see the movie Beyond All Boundaries. I didn't, and I am still kicking myself about it. I left the museum feeling so grateful for the sacrifice of those men and women. What they did and accomplished was really amazing.

The Garden District was probably within walking distance of the museum, but I didn't like the looks of the part of town separating the two, so I hopped on a tour bus. You can also take the trolly. This section of New Orleans is full of beautiful, grand homes. It is quiet and peaceful and feels like it is a world away from Bourbon Street (but like all of New Orleans, it is sort of falling apart).

The stretch of Magazine Street here is full of fun shops. I particularly liked Pippen Lane (expensive but adorable children's clothes, and if you are lucky you might score something from the clearance rack like I did) and the Antique market. I picked up the perfect vintage hat for Stella's halloween costume there.

I stepped into Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 for a few minutes. I didn't take a tour, but I browsed by myself for a bit. So interesting.

On Thursday afternoon, Mike's conference set up a swamp tour for us. I was less interested in the little alligators than I was in the scenery. It was so unlike the dry desert of Arizona! It was beautiful, in a swampy sort of way. I especially loved the green stuff carpeting the surface of the water. And the breeze from the boat as we sped down the river felt so good in the midst of all of the humidity.

I took one last walk around the French Quarter on Friday morning to admire the architecture and buy some final souvenirs. It turns out that the French Quarter at 10am isn't such a bad place. The revelers must still be in bed then and the streets have been hosed down, cleared of the previous night's debris. It was quiet and pretty. I skipped the tourist shops on Decatur and went to the French Market instead. It is sort of like a swap meet, and I found some good things for my kids there.

I don't want to give New Orleans such a bad rap, but I was genuinely surprised by the level of filth (physical and spiritual - and by spiritual I mean things that would offend a person's spirit, regardless of their religion) that I saw. But, having said that, it is unlike any other place I've ever been, too. The culture and history are completely unique and the people there are happy and kind and helpful. I'm glad I was able to visit.

A couple more notes:

Whatever you do, eat at Butcher. Mike only had two meals not provided by his conference and we spent both of them here. Super hipster, but so delicious. Mike loved the Buckboard Bacon Melt. I really liked the BBQ Pork Sandwich.

A friend cautioned me on my instagram feed to be careful while I was there, as it is an easy place to be robbed. She told me to stay to the beaten path. I wholeheartedly agree. I definitely felt unsafe, but I was never scared. Does that make sense? I learned long ago to walk with confidence in a big city. Since I was by myself most of the time, I walked fast and acted like I knew where I was going. Because of this, I was never approached like some of the other tourists I saw were. I kept my sunglasses on and didn't look anyone in the eye.

Some final advice: avoid Bourbon Street. And maybe Canal Street, too.

Have you ever been to New Orleans? Was your experience similar to mine? I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Conference Report

I went into this past weekend seeking answers. Like everyone, there are things in my life that I worry about. There are times that require small course adjustments to be made, or completely new paths to take. But no matter what decision I am facing, General Conference always points me in the right direction.

I felt like there was a theme for me this time, and it was parenthood. How can I be a better mother? What can I do to help my kids succeed in this difficult world? How can I make our home a safer, more loving place? How can I better teach my children about Jesus Christ? These are some of the questions that were answered by the inspired leaders of my church.

Tad R. Callister spoke about the role of parents as the prime gospel teachers. Do our children get our best, or what is left over after we have given our best to something else, he asked.

While not necessarily about parenting, I loved Jorg Klebingat's bold address on how we can improve our spiritual confidence before God. He included things like taking responsibility for our physical well-being and becoming "really really good at forgiving" in his five step plan.

L. Tom Perry gave specific advice to mothers and fathers. "Faithful parents have never been needed more," he said. He cautioned us to not let the noise of the world overwhelm the still small voice of the Spirit.

Henry B. Eyring gave an emotional example from his own life about how revelation that comes to a parent on behalf of their children can have a lasting effect on the child's own personal revelation. He said that as parents, we need to pray to know what to say to our children, and they will remember our words.

I loved M. Russell Ballard's caution to stay on the boat! He gave three really good rules to follow to safeguard our faith. It is about doing the simple things everyday (like reading our scriptures and saying our prayers) that will bring us closer to Christ. We cannot let ourselves get distracted by less important things.

Richard G. Scott also talked about simple things we can do in our families to make it through these troubled times. We are here on this earth to be stretched, but there are things we can do to actively exercise our faith, he said. Things like prayer, everyday. Scripture study as a family, even when we think there is no time. He said that scripture study together is more important than anything else, including sleep and homework. He promised that if we take the time to do this, peace will prevail in our homes. He mentioned weekly Family Home Evening, and not as an afterthought, but as something we plan and prepare for. And finally, temple attendance, as often as we can. He said that our struggles will not disappear if we do these things, but we will be better able to endure them.

And for those of you who are not members of our church, I invite you to listen to Elder David A. Bednar's address. It is specifically directed to you. If you've ever wondered why mormons like to talk so much about their faith, or why we like to share our beliefs with others, this is the talk for you.

I hope you are having a wonderful week!

Friday, October 03, 2014

happy weekend

Park weather is here! Hooray! I feel like we should win some sort of award for making it through another Arizona summer. Oh, I am so glad that it's October. October means opening the windows in the mornings, changing the laundry in the Arizona room without breaking into a full on sweat, and finally wearing jeans. It feels really good.

Have your kids decided what they want to be for Halloween? Costumes were the subject of much discussion around our house this week. Elliot changes his mind just about everyday, so we won't be making any official decisions any time soon. I don't love Halloween, but I am actually starting to like the idea of putting costumes together. The rest of my kids have some great ideas this year. Let's hope the Goodwill comes through for us.

This weekend is our semi-annual General Conference. It is hands down one of my favorite weekends of the whole year. I am very much looking forward to getting cozy in the basement, eating cinnamon rolls, and listening to the inspired words that will be spoken. I hope you'll find a chance to listen in. I'll be sure to take notes and report back on Monday with my favorites.

Here's a little blurb about it:

Have a good weekend!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Nativity Advent Calendar

I've received a few emails asking about my nativity advent lately, so I thought I'd repost some information. If you are interested in making a felt nativity advent calendar, now is a good time to start. It is rather time consuming, but so worth the effort. This is still my kids' favorite Christmas tradition, and I am always surprised that they remember who's turn it is to put the first piece up every year.

The figures: I made my figures out of a high quality wool felt. It is more durable and easier to work with than a less expensive craft felt. The entire collection requires such a small amount of fabric, that I was willing to pay a higher price per yard. Each little piece has a magnet affixed to the back. This allows them to stick to the magnetic background and can be moved around to change the scene. I hand stitched mine together using coordinating embroidery thread, but if that's not your thing, I'm sure fabric glue would do the trick. I didn't use a pattern (felt is very forgiving that way), but a reader of my blog, Jessica, made templates based on my design that can be found here.

I made 25 pieces, so there is one to put up every day until Christmas morning. Baby Jesus is always the final piece. I keep them in small brown paper mache boxes (from the craft store, you can see them in an old post I linked to down below) that are numbered one to 25. Each morning it's like opening a little present. Oh, it is fun!

The background: I attached two metal shingles (found at the Home Depot for a few dollars) to the backing of my frame. Then I mod-podged craft paper over the top to create the sky, grass, and stable. I wanted a very simple, almost folk look. I put a layer of mod podge over the top, and several years later, it is still in great condition.

Happy crafting!

Other posts about my nativity, including some close-ups, here and here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

happy weekend

Stella is losing teeth left and right. That's what happens when you are almost 7, I guess. She wrote the funniest little note for the tooth fairy the other night, asking for something besides money. Bracelets or rings or cool rocks, she said. The tooth fairy only had money on hand that first night, so it was a pretty disappointing morning. After a trip to the store, however, the next night was a success.

And now here's the part where I complain about the weather: I don't know about you, but if cooler weather doesn't come soon, I am giving up. Giving up! On everything! And by 'cooler' I mean not-100 degrees, so it's not like I'm even asking for much. Give me the high 80s, for heaven's sake! (Actually, it's supposed to be rainy and 90 tomorrow so I'll stop complaining. Until next week when it's too hot again.)

If you need me today I will be sitting in front of a fan, drinking ice water, imagining wide open windows, crisp breezes and chilly mornings, just like I have been for the past 4 months.

Have a good weekend!

p.s. My kids loved the Parent Trap! It is such a classic. Keeping with the Haley Mills theme, I've just requested Pollyanna from the library. Can't wait!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

pumpkin gingerbread waffles

It's the first day of fall! Hooray! It might still be 100 degrees here in the desert, but that doesn't mean we can't eat pumpkin waffles and pretend that we are chilly.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Waffles

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup pumpkin
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup melted butter (or coconut oil)
1 egg
3 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl with a whisk. Add the wet ingredients and combine. Cook on a preheated waffle iron until nice and crisp. I put my waffle iron on almost the highest setting. I think pumpkin makes things cook slower, so if you want them crisp, they almost need to be overcooked.

Serve with spiced whipped cream or good old maple syrup (and lots of butter, of course).

This recipe makes 4 or 5 belgian waffles.

Friday, September 19, 2014

happy weekend

I don't know why I feel like I need to take a picture of Elliot every time he takes a nap, but I do. My instagram is full of them. These pictures bring me a lot of joy. They help me remember that he is still small, and that this time is fleeting. Next year, he'll be a big kindergartner, going to school all day long. I am trying to appreciate this last, slow year that we have together. Most days I try to lay down with him. And when I do, it always ends up being the highlight of my day.

Big news: there are no 100 degree days on our forecast! It is so strange to me that the upper 90s mean fall. I literally sigh with relief when the high is only (only!) going to be 97. Oh well, take what you can get, right?

I'm forcing my kids to watch the original Parent Trap tonight. What do you have planned?

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

knitting revelations

Yesterday was rainy and dark. It was begging for pumpkin bread and a knitting project. So I threw some loaves in the oven and looked through my basket of yarn. I hadn't picked up my knitting needles in years. It was so fun! But here's the best part: as I sat on the couch, knitting away, it was as if my family was compelled to sit with me and talk. One by one, they made their way into the room to tell me about their day. All I had to do was listen. I wasn't focused on a book, or my phone. My hands were busy, but my mind was open, and they must have sensed that difference. It was wonderful. I need to remember this in the future.

Plus, there is just something so satisfying about taking a tangle of yarn and turning it into perfectly ordered rows.

I'm thinking of attempting a sweater next.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Family, A Proclamation to the World

A few months ago, Mike made this extra large print of The Family, A Proclamation to the World for me. (I talked about it here.) It measures 16x20 inches, and is simple, clear, and easy to read. I love it.

If you'd like a copy for your family, Mike has made them available to download for a small fee. It can be printed in your home or at your favorite printing shop (or Costco), up to 20x24 inches. More details and info here.

It's hard to illustrate the large scale of the print, but I think this grainy action shot does a better job:

Friday, September 12, 2014

happy weekend

The other night, we finished the always hectic homework/dinner/bath/bedtime routine with a little time to spare. I love when that happens. One of my greatest pleasures is reading in bed, and I love when my children are able to do that, too. Stella is discovering chapter books and it makes my heart happy for her.

Any fun plans this weekend? I think yard work might be on our agenda. And maybe ice cream. So I guess that makes the yard work ok.

I hope the morning air is crisp and the leaves are starting to turn wherever you are! Have a good weekend.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

my sister's birth story

My little sister, Julianne, had her birth story featured on Design Mom yesterday. It is definitely worth a read. I am so proud of the work she is doing in the world. Good job, Jooj!