My friend Shannon gifted me with a super cute quilt top frame last year. You can find her post with more information and examples by clicking here. Shannon and I are a part of the same homeschool group and this week some of the moms in our group got together for a little Shannon-inspired crafting.

Craft supplies should be pictured under the definition of “happy” in the dictionary.

This girl loves a party. She especially loves a girl party. Though she couldn’t join in this time, she made a welcome sign and little paper dolls for all the moms. She’s got the gift of hospitality.9.14frames-049.14frames-059.14frames-069.14frames-09

Below is the original one Shannon made me – it makes me think of her each time I see it. Check out her post to see how she added doilies too.9.14frames-08*The small photo prints are from Social Print Studio, they are from my Instagram account

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  • heather barta - Thanks for sharing! I just placed my order with social print studio ;) I am a long time fan and I LOVE all your posts, very inspirational!

  • Carrie - What a great idea! We love our CC and this inspires me to gather and do something encouraging with the moms. We have a moms night out, but wouldn’t it be fun to have a moms night “in” and take over with crafts!?!? Makes me happy to think about it. Also, I have been a long time reader (thank you for your awesome daily blog!!!!) and I thought it was great that you noted your daughters gift of hospitality – like mother like daughter I am thinking :)

  • Jenn - what a fun project and time you had with friends. you girl is a sweetie. i have probably said this before but think she and my girl would get along well. i think my daughter has the gift of hospitality as well.

  • Sandy C - Great way to combine a party for girls, scrap fabric, & yarn :) Thanks for the idea!

  • Heather - what a lovely idea! I’m going to make one with my daughter for her room!

  • Emily Elderworth - Hello! These are adorable! Is the yarn just hot glued to the back of the frame? Thanks!

  • kimberly oyler - oh i love these.

  • Itzi - Thanks for sharing. I love anything to do with boards and hanging photos and papers. I must try to do this at home.
    Have a great day
    Chaotic Itzi @

  • Corrie - Love this Ashley!! I see some crafting in my future :).

  • AmyK - I’m totally making this for my future niece/nephew’s nursery! How cute! Thanks for the idea. Your blog is one of my favorites.

  • Ashley Smith - What a fun craft! Thanks for sharing. I found your blog a year and a half ago when I was looking into homeschooling. Ironically I found your blog through another gal’s blog who was a homeschooler. I don’t think that you had decided to homeschool then or if you had you hadn’t shared about it. Anyways, I have so enjoyed stopping by here and it’s a regular blessing in my life. I noticed the little welcome sign and just had to say that we have found and are enjoying CC too! This is our second year and it’s been a great part of our homeschool journey. I think you’ve just inspired me to have a CC mom’s night. Maybe we can make these! I don’t know if your group does this but ours has a map tracing contest where the kids trace maps each week and are aiming towards winning a pizza party. Tracing maps has been a fun way to help with the geography memorization. I found a huge box of wax paper sheets at Costco and that makes it easy. I hope your kids are enjoying it! Thanks!

We talked about it for months. Maybe years.

We dreamed of seeing a certain boy with his dog.

According to Chris, there is no ‘good time’ to have kids and no ‘good time’ to get a dog. You just do it and love that you did.

So last weekend we just did it.

And we love that we did.

Introducing Arley Campbell. She’s a beagle that joins a family of 3 brothers, 2 sisters, a cat, a fish, 12 hens and 1 rooster. She’s won us over.

I had to do it…9.14arley-059.14arley-06She loves the kids. When they leave the room or walk away from her outside, she cries for them. It’s pretty fun watching them all take on different roles with her. Our 8 year old has told us about 5 times each day, “I keep thinking I’m dreaming, but I’m not. I have a dog!” His joy is contagious.

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  • Karen Choat - Here I thought your blog telling the stories of your lives could not possibly get any sweeter. Love when a puppy gets a kid or five.

  • Bonnie - Since our old dog passed a while ago, I’ve been going back and forth in my head about whether or not we’ll get another dog, and when. I think this is just what I needed. Goodness, could she be any cuter?!

  • Sandy C - I imagine Arley feels the same way when she wakes up to 5 faces all ready to love & play with her!

  • Sarah - What a great new addition to your growing bunch! Simply wonderful!

  • Sarah - Cute!

  • Erika - One of the very best decisions you will ever make! Kids + dogs= HAPPY! Love your blog and your outlook on life. Arley is adorable. Enjoy!

  • dana - aside from your precious children and that adorable new puppy…that sunlight in your yard is amazing! congrats on the new addition!

  • Josefine - Oh, she’s adorable! We just got a 5 month old Icelandic sheepdog 3 weeks ago! My motto is something like (translating as we go along) Everything is just the way it’s supposed to be <3 /Josefine, mother of 2 from Sweden/in Denmark

  • Renee Johnson - Oh so sweet! What a darling little puppy :) I’m sure he will fit right in with your rambunctious crowd!

  • amy jupin - love this.
    every last bit.
    arley is a blessed little puppers.

  • Elena - I allways wanted a dog. Always!. Now, with two daugthers, we have decided that NOW it’s the moment. I agree with your husband, never it’s a good moment to have a dog, or a child… But… Maybe it’ll be the best!!!
    I’m looking for solutions for the wooden floor, My house won’t be so beauty, but… I think this is the best present for us as a family. Thanks for your inspired post!

  • Jessamy - Um, seriously, the cutest puppy ever. Adorable! Congratulations! What awesome memories your kiddos are about to make!

  • Romy - I’m so happy for you!!! Dogs are the best thing in the world!

  • Izzy - Wow she is just too cute! I feel like I need to give her a hug!

  • Sara Huber - I have a feeling beagle breeders are going to get a few more phone calls over the next few days…she is crazy-adorable!!!

  • Jody - The other night my kids and I were talking about what heaven must feel like – I told them my guess was to imagine their happiest moment on earth when they felt the most happy & loved – that that was a small taste of what heaven must feel like. My oldest son then said “my moment is when we got our lily” (our 3 year old golden).

    Your kids happy memories have just increased tenfold!

    Enjoy that puppy!!!!!

  • Lori - love this so much! such a cute little pup! can’t wait to see arley make more appearances in your posts :)

  • Debbie - Adorable!

  • Laura Sudderth - Oh, this truly made my morning. Nothing better than your first dog as a kid! Awesome. She is so cute and tiny.

  • Addie - So cute!

  • Sarah - Oh my gosh she is so cute! My husband would love for us to get a beagle, but we live in an apartment and he is going to school, so it’s just not realistic right now. But like Chris said, there is never a good time. The scale picture was precious!

  • Laura J - This is going to be good! We got a very sweet rescue dog we named Toby a little over a month ago. I am hoping for some iphone dog photography tips. When I try to get closer to snap a photo, he leaps up and gets too close. My photos are blurry and mostly of his nose! We love him and he has been a great addition to the family.

  • Kristin - So sweet! Congratulations!

  • Liz - golly, she’s adorable. enjoy her sweetness.

  • Catherine - We got a dog I really didn’t want and didn’t feel ready for but what a blessing he is. I have gone from full on dog apathy to loving his squishy furry little face like he is one of my children almost! Ah, they have a way of getting into your heart. I love how excited your son is. My daughter nearly fainted with happiness each day after we got ours (she had been asking/campaigning for a dog for YEARS).

  • Michelle Hill - ohhh my goodness!! she is too stinkin’ cute!! Enjoy every second of her :)

  • Sarah - So cute! I love the scale pictures. : )

  • Cassie - These photos are adorable! Yes! There’s never a convenient time to get a dog and they are so much work but SO worth it! Great choice! And she is a cutie!!

  • Jeannine - She’s beautiful! Congratulations on your new addition :D

  • Chris - Awww. Dogs are the best. She’s a little cutie. Congrats on your new addition. You won’t regret it. They are so loving and lovable.

  • Julie - Oh, she’s so cute and tiny! Puppies are awesome.

    I’m so happy for your 8-year-old & the rest of you. :)

  • Lucia - OK, long-time beagle owner here. You know about beagles, right? They are…well, the word that gets tossed around is “independent”…as in, they make their own decisions. As in, their IQ will sky-rocket if treats are available. Otherwise, they will take your command into consideration, but they may have their own ideas! Seriously, not the easiest to train. But they ARE little love-buckets, and so gentle with children. Congratulations to your crew, and to Arley, surely the luckiest dog on earth. :)

  • Susan - Congratulations! You will not believe the joy this little addition will add to the family dynamic! We have a beagle named Jethro and a Jack Russell named Scruffy! The grandkids absolutely light up when they see them. Enjoy!

  • LisaAnn - Lucky boy! Lucky dog! Your ‘no good time’ comment makes me smile. That’s what we keep saying, maybe we’ll just get one too. So fun.

  • Paige - Ridiculously adorable!

  • Kassondra - We have a min pin but I am also trying to talk my husband into a bigger bread for the kids for Christmas. Hopefully I get my way! ;)

  • Julie - I love when kids’ dreams come true! Yay!

  • LM - What a lucky puppy to be welcomed into your family! She sure looks sweet and like she fits right in already.

  • kimberly oyler - “ohhh stoppp!!!!” – the words that came out of my mouth when i saw that first scale picture. i don’t even like dogs and i just want to snuggle her right up!

  • Jenny - Congratulations! She is adorable.

  • RaD - Beagles are cute, loving and great family dogs. Just be warned… they are notorious for running away. Ask me how I know.

    Enjoy your new family member and watch her carefully as she gets older. You’ve been warned, LOL!

  • Melissa - We have 2 tri colored and they are getting old now so are sorta slowing down (12 and 9)but that nose can still get them into a heap of trouble (cat food, cat box – ick – garbage) We thought we were outsmarting Miss Kaylee and bought a rather expensive trash can which she figured out in less than 2 hours. She also has figured out the gate to the chicken side of the yard everytime we have come up with a new way of keeping her out – both of them LOVE raw chicken eggs and help themselves if they have the opportunity. TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN – beagles are stubborn and their nose distracts them constantly so it can sometimes take a bit longer but they can be trained. And introduce her to the chickens with her on a leash – she makes a move towards them, correct her. Mine are completely trustworthy with any poultry – however, if one of our rabbits gets loose, all bets are off. ENJOY!! They may be work but I have never seen a mean beagle and they are wonderful for kids!!

  • Diana - Oh my goodness. I am not a dog person, or an animal person really, but that is one adorable puppy. Enjoy!

  • Megan - Oh my word!!! She’s adorable!!!! Just when I thought your family couldn’t possibly get any cuter. :) We have a beagle and a beagle mix so beagles really have my heart. With all that room to run and play … what a lucky dog!!

  • Jenn - I think she is the cutes thing ever. makes me rething wanting a dog…..I mean no I don’t…….yes I do. ;)

  • Stephanie - I enjoy reading your blog, this is my first comment! Congrats on your adorable puppy! I never had a dog growing up. My teenage sons wanted a dog and were asking for a long time, it seemed like everyday one of their friends posted on social media photos of their new dog. Thoughts and feelings of guilt about my sons growing up and not having the experience of having a family pet bothered me – I didn’t want to look back and have that regret, just because it may be “hard”. I guess I never really said “Yes” but we did it, and I am so happy we did! We wanted/needed a non-shedding, “hypoallergenic” dog, so we found a breeder and purchased an Australian Labradoodle puppy. We have fallen in love! Now that she is potty trained things are easier. She is also crate trained and does not have complete access to the house. The boys look forward to coming home to see her after school. They have been active participants in her care from the very beginning, I did not want this to become an argument of “take her out – this is your dog, you wanted a dog so help out” and it hasn’t. I am so proud of our family all pitching in to care for the puppy. It is nice to have something we all focus on taking care of, playing with and enjoying. She is a great addition to our family and I am so happy we did it! Best of luck to you with your new dog!

  • Kelleyn - Adorable!

  • Sudeshna - I read your blog for last two years and I was wondering for a long time why dont u have any dog!! for me also i feel a family is really incomplete without a dog :)

  • Tanya - I love this!!!! Congratulations!!!! Great choice on a beagle. We have two! I can’t wait to watch for picture of that little cutie being devoured with love by your family. Every kids needs a dog! ????

  • Joe - I grew up with dogs and now my kids are. I love seeing kids with their pets but dogs seem extra special. There’s just something wonderful about watching my son romp through our yard with our dog, Molly.

  • Libbe - Total cuteness! And now you get to practice your dog photography skills (and we get to watch! :)

  • Tanya - My comment should not have ?? after it, not sure what that is. Anyway, congrats again — so exciting!

  • Maureen - Our 3 are all in college right now and the thing they miss the most above all else is our dog!!!! True love. The youngest is a freshman and has us take pictures of the pooch and text him.

  • Carmen - too too cute!! I love the photo on the scales. We have wondered about getting a beagle (as in my husband is desperate, and I am holding back), so I will watch with interest your journey.

  • Ruthanne - We had a beagle, who lived to be 14 years old. She was the sweetest dog! We all loved her. They do tend to “wander” a bit, when they put their nose to the ground – it is the hound dog in them. But, she was such a people dog! I still miss that dog …! Beagle puppies have the cutest faces – they look like they are wearing eyeliner! Enjoy her!

  • Lisa - Oh, mercy. I love beagles. My grandparents had two different beagles during my childhood and they are etched in my mind as the perfect dog. Lucky Campbells! Lucky Arley!

  • Sam F. - Oh my goodness, this post makes me so happy! Little Arley is adorable beyond words and to hear how happy it makes your kids and how little Arley just loves your kids too…So good! Thanks for sharing this sweetness!

  • Shana - The picture on the scale is so cute and then as she jumps down – love it!!

  • brittony - no good time and no bad time!

  • Heidi Jo the Artist - We just saw two cute beagle puppies while camping around a week ago. They are adorable!

  • Melissa - Oh my goodness this dog is absolutely beautiful! The perfect addition to your family!

Fall is quickly approaching. It makes me a little sad. There are those that relish having four distinct seasons – we sure have them in Oklahoma. Then there are those that wish for summer year round. I fall in the second group. Give me shorts and flip flops all year. I’m trying to soak up these final days of hot weather. I’ve grown up going to the lake. Random Oklahoma fact – we have more shoreline than the Atlantic and Gulf shore coasts combined. However, our shorelines are around lakes. I’m not a fan of swimming in lake water. My brother-in-law noodles. I’ve seen what comes out of Oklahoma lakes. No thank you. My kids, well they are all about lakes…like good little Okies:)


The kids played for hours – digging, splashing, running, repeat. While they played with water and sand, I played with my camera. I took the three shots below with different settings, giving priority to the aperture. I thought I’d share a very basic tip for those of you learning your camera. Most cameras have an option that says Av or A (it is usually on a dial on the outside of the camera body). This settings lets you pick your aperture and the camera picks the ISO and shutter speed. The aperture, in general terms, determines how blurry your background is. The bigger the number (f/22), the more that is in focus. The smaller the number (f/1.8), the more that is blurry. It is a fun setting for you to experiment with, but keep in mind as you change your aperture the camera must change your shutter speed and ISO, this can lead to blurry and grainy images depending on what you are shooting and the lighting.

Anyway…that is something fun to play with on your camera. The aperture is determined by your lens, so you might not be able to get a really small number (which is actually a big aperture opening  – confusing, I know).

In brief…big number, in focus. Small number, blurry.9.14water-08b9.14water-079.14water-089.14water-09If you are interested in learning more about aperture, shutter speed and ISO – there are a few spots left in my final 2014 DSLR course, which begins on Sunday. The course is for the very beginner student. I cover the foundational elements of composition, storytelling, and shooting in manual from my approach to capturing my days. You can find more information and register by visiting the SnapShop Workshop website.

If you primarily use your phone to capture your days and would like to improve your phone photography skills, I am extending registration for the final 2014 phone course. The course covers my approach to photography (composition, storytelling, apps) from the perspective that your phone is your primary camera. You can find more information and register by visiting the SnapShop Workshop website.

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  • Steph - ((I hope this doesn’t come across as awkward, because it is meant to be completely positive))

    I read a lot of blogs. What can I say, I spend a lot of time on hold at work, and I have a lot of interests!! You know, a lot of bloggers start out as one thing and morph into something different. Something more commercial, less authentic, etc. The change usually occurs when the bloggers starts to attempt to make a living off of their blog, or gain too many fans.

    I am completely in love with the way you are using your blog to contribute to supporting your family. You are taking your God-given talents, putting real honest work into translating them into something useful, and offering them to others at a fair price. And what you’re offering is concrete and rewarding to those who choose to take you up on it. In the meantime, your blog continues to offer so much beauty to those who don’t participate in your workshops. You share how you do (and don’t) balance your life, without becoming one of those blogs where every second of your children’s lives are sold to the highest bidder.

    I just had to tell you how refreshing that all is, and how I’m inspired and impressed by your (for lack of a better term) class and integrity. That probably embarrasses you, because you aren’t an attention-seeker, but darn it, you are deserving of compliments! Anyway, back to my own daily struggle to have it all while fitting my creative side and passions into my work and family life – you’ve given me a mental boost, though, and I thought you should know :)

  • Susie - I agree Steph! Well said!

  • Catherine - What she said. ^^ :)

  • Kimberly | Turning It Home - I find it funny, I was born and raised in Florida and long for actual seasons. I like to say we have two: hot and not-so-hot. However, we can tell when the seasons change based on what’s being sold in Target, and you know it’s REALLY cold (as in, 70 degrees) when people start wearing boots outside. So although you and I both want the opposite of what our geographical location provides, at least we can experience what we have with those we love. :)

  • kimberly oyler - i will trade you places. it is still not fall weather in california. i’m not sure how i’m going to survive.

  • MrsFun - I’m with you on the flip flops and shorts all year. I am entering my second fall and soon it will be my second winter and I am not ready at all.
    Love the first set of photos, so happy and carefree.

  • Alisa Muir - Awesome pics.
    I will say, that pic of Firecracket up the top walking out of the lake. My gosh she is a mini you. Like I did a double take in that pic.

  • AshleyAnn - Steph – thank you…your encouragement means a great deal to me…Thank you for taking the time to write that!

  • Monica - Hi Ashley, beautiful captures like always. One question what lens you use for the pictures above? I am trying to see what lens I should buy next. :) Maybe by Christmas .

  • Katie A - By chance, were you guys at Lake Eufaula? I grew up going to that lake and still visit every summer with my hubby and kids. Love sandy Oklahoma lakes!

  • Samantha - Do you use the back button focusing? When shooting portraits for some reason I always have one eye out of focus. Any tips on how to avoid this besides changing the aperture?