advent calendar: Christmas books

We have had this tradition since our girls were small. Sometime before December 1st (usually November 30th…and sometimes the morning of the 1st), I wrap 25 books from our Christmas picture book collection. I generally buy a few each year, some have been gifts we have received, a few I have even bought at a 2nd hand store. Our current collection is probably about 35. I pick the 25-this year with help from my girls, claiming several times each “THIS is the very best one”

We did add a little twist this year. With our money system, our girls earn their spending money, buy their own clothes, gas $, etc… They are all feeling a little low in funds SO we put $ in the pages of some of the books. When we began the tradition I numbered the books. For several years now our girls have just chosen which to open. Now that decision will be a little bit more fun for them. The one that opens the book keeps the money. They are excited to start tomorrow. These are the books that I wrapped this year.

OLIVE THE OTHER REINDEER by J.Otto Seibold & Vivian Walsh


THE FRIENDLY BEASTS an old English Christmas Carol by Tomie dePaola

DASHER by Matt Tavares

RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER by Robert L May & Denver Gillen

YES VIRGINIA THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS by Chris Plehal & James Bernardin

THE GIFT OF THE MAGI by O. Henry & P.J. Lynch

NINE DAYS TO CHRISTMAS A Story of Mexico by Marie Hall Ets & Aurora Labastida

THE STORY OF HOLLY & IVY by Rumer Godden & Barbara Cooney (this one is too long for our purposes but it is a sweet story)

GOOD KING WENCESLAS as read by Jane Seymour & illustrated by Omar Rayyan

THE NUTCRACKER IN HARLEM by T.E. McMorrow & James Ransome

MORTIMER’S CHRISTMAS MANGER by Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman

THE CHRISTMAS EVE TREE by Delia Huddy & Emily Sutton

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE for kids by Jimmy Hawkins & Douglas B. Jones


ONLY A STAR by Margery Facklam & Nancy Carpenter

GREAT JOY by Kate DiCamillo & Bagram Ibatoulline

IF YOU TAKE A MOUSE TO THE MOVIES by Laura Numeroff & Felicia Bond


THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL by Hans Christian Andersen & Jerry Pinkney



A WISH TO BE A CHRISTMAS TREE by Colleen & Michael Monroe

THE GREAT SPRUCE by John Duvall & Rebecca Gibbon

CHRISTMAS ORANGES by Linda Bethers & Ben Sowards

Sometimes my teenagers act like they are too grown up for picture books, then I get these out and working on our selection for the days before Christmas, they are filled with opinions and excitement. What are some of your family favorites that we don’t have listed here? I would love to add them to our collection!


“Our society is much more interested in information than wonder, in noise rather than silence…And I feel that we need a lot more WONDER and a lot more SILENCE in our lives.” -Mr. Fred Rogers

I was taught a powerful lesson this Sunday. A young man, who I admire so much, was giving a talk during our church service. His subject was prayer. He stated how many prayers we would have said at that point of the day on a Sunday morning. I can’t remember the number he used—but I remember thinking it was more than I had prayed that day. Then he listed…

morning prayer

breakfast prayer

opening prayer in the church meeting

the sacrament prayer

I had been physically present for all of those prayers that morning, but the reason that number seemed high to me, is because I wasn’t truly present for those prayers. Brayden had suggested later in his talk that we stay on our knees until we feel the real intent we strive for in prayer. Maybe through the silence and quieting our minds that Mr. Rogers suggests we will find the WONDER return in seeking connection with the DIVINE. I am grateful to Brayden (a senior in high school) for teaching me this lesson. I wish you all could have heard his entire talk. I have done better this week because of what he shared.

How do you create quiet and wonder in your lives? It is a serious struggle for us at our house.

create a dream: an apartment complex

My husband Danny read daily from his vision board, OWN A 10PLEX. His vision became a reality when our dear friends decided to sell their apartments. It is a complex that houses 10 families…55 and older. It has been a lot of work for him. He spends every Saturday there, especially in the warm months, and some evenings too. He never complains. His love for this project and place override what it does to his freetime.

How did your dream to own apartments come about?  What has been your inspiration?

My father and grandfather invested money in real estate.  I always knew that I would do the same. 15 years ago we bought our first investment property (a rental house) and we knew that it was the right thing for our family.

Imagine yourself at 80 years old-what will be grateful that you did in this stage of your life? 

80 year old me, will be grateful for the sacrifices I make now.  I love the quote- “today, live like no one else so that tomorrow you can live like no one else.”  Being a man of faith, work and family will be what my future self is most grateful for.  I think I will be grateful for the exercise I do today too.

Is there anything that you do daily no matter what? 


What does the world need more of?

Grateful hardworking people

If you had an extra hour every day, what would you do with it?

Spend it with my girls, long walks with you.

What is the best professional decision you have made?

Take a job with the Woodbury Corporation out of college, and learn about commercial real estate.

What was your first job?

Working on the farm with my grandpa (age 4)

What is the best advice you have been given? Who is it from?

From my grandpa- “hardwork is the only option”

What ______________tool could you not live without? Why?

My truck, It gives me freedom to do a myriad of tasks…haul off old water heaters, pick up loads of trash, pull trailers and not spill gas in my car when I am hauling gas powered tools! 

What does confidence mean to you?  How do you create it in YOUR life?  Confidence is being prepared to take the opportunities when they come to you.  Those opportunities come after a lot of hard work.

What is your favorite failure/mistake?

Anatomy 101 at the University of Utah. It made me realize that I was not going to be a physical therapist, as I had hoped.  I switched to Economics and have loved my profession in commercial real estate and property management.

What is your favorite quote or thought to think?

The scripture in the Book of Mormon, Ether 12:7 “And if men come unto me, I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness, that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that  humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

Will you share a favorite routine?  How does it benefit your life?  I get up at 5:20 am every weekday.  I pray, read scriptures, write 10 dreams and 1 goal, what I am excited to do that day, 1 hang up might arise and how I will overcome it.  I read from a book, instructional or inspiring.  Then exercise.  This makes my whole day go amazing.  If you can do those things everyday, you will be ready for the rest of your day.

How do you define success?

Waking up in the morning-being excited about your day.

His hard work and determination inspire me every day.

100 day challenge: round two

I finished my 100 day challenge. I challenged myself to go without sugar (desserts, candy, ice cream, chocolate, etc…) for 100 days. I posted about it here and here. My last day of the challenge was on October 30th. I hadn’t planned for Halloween day to arrive in celebration of the end, but it did. I thought I would be excited- but I was actually kind of bummed it was over. I loved it. It really changed my perspective and habits around treats. I didn’t even want Halloween candy- which was a shocker for me given my previous obsession with chocolate and ice cream. It was gone. I loved the challenge so much-I decided to start a new one.

For my next challenge I was ready to give up another bad habit. As a few days wore on…I started thinking about adding a new habit instead. I do think sometimes it’s easier for me to kill an old one but I was ready for a challenge. My new 100 day challenge:


More about my dream journal here and here. We are taught from so many sources to seek gratitude in our lives: every self help book I have read (and I have read an embarrassing pile), scriptures, faith leaders, athletic coaches, therapists, financial advisors, motivational speakers, artists, our parents…nearly everyone agrees-

MORE GRATITUDE is what many individuals and groups need.

Some of the inspiration that I have found lately:

this video was our “life coach lesson” last week

this podcast…

this talk

this book…that isn’t specifically about gratitude…but incorporates the benefits of a grateful mindset over and over again

our family quote board

Dedicating myself to a challenge (eliminating most refined sugars from my life) completely changed my mindset and habits. It strengthened my confidence and clarified my perspective. It was actually fun too. I am hopeful that this new challenge will improve my life in even greater ways! Are you interested in a 100 DAY CHALLENGE!? Send me an email @ and I will email over my 100 DAY CHALLENGE checklist. You can modify for any challenge you are up for. I would love to email it to you!

J + J + the cutest Winston you will ever meet

The very best part of choosing to be a photographer over 14 years ago, is the friends it’s brought into my life. Some of those friends have been in front of my lens, others a seat in my classroom and others (fellow photographers) shooting alongside me. Many of you fall under one of those categories-and I am so grateful ❤️ Jamie and I met because of our mutual love of photography. I have had the privilege of capturing this trio several times…and I have loved every minute of each of those opportunities. They are beautiful to the core…inside and out. These are some images we created in and around Snowbasin Ski Resort.

Thank you friends for spending a beautiful fall Saturday morning with me.

6 benefits of quitting sugar

I am over half way into my 100 DAY CHALLENGE that I shared yesterday. I don’t want it to end, which is crazy…because you don’t know anyone who loves ice cream and chocolate more than me. But this challenge has created a shift in me that I AM SO GRATEFUL FOR. I want to share 5 benefits I’ve seen from quitting refined sugar.

#1 CONFIDENCE, Each day that I color in a square, I reaffirm to myself that I have my own back, that I do what I say I will do, that I can count on me.

#2 HEALTH, my clothes fit better. My BMI was at 26.4 before I started (normal is between 18-24). I have lost 6 pounds. Weight isn’t my objective, but it is now going in the right direction. I hope to see this improve gradually over time.

#3 ELIMINATE EMOTIONAL EATING, the drama is gone. (I want to shout this from the rooftops!) This is my favorite aspect. Previously I had a lot of chatter going on about what I should eat, especially where treats and sugar were concerned. It’s gone. Infact I have noticed that almost all cravings, wanting certain foods from specific places is significantly diminished. Frequently we celebrated little things with ice cream…or going out for treats. Now, celebrating life’s little things are definitely more about celebrating than treating. Food has become fuel, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

#4 EXAMPLE, I am a mom of three daughters. I have no drama about sugar. I am not shaming anyone for eating it, but they are watching me. And their sugar intake has gone down (definitely not completely) because we aren’t making it part of our routine’s or celebrations. AND they are watching me complete a goal!

#5 ALL SHIPS RISE, there is a saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats” It doesn’t matter what goal you choose to conquer…as you excel in one area, the other areas of your life follow. Have you noticed that when you focus on financial health, you tend to start eating better? OR when you improve time management, your house and organization improve…which helps your relationships. I have seen growth in: finances|spending, time management, personal & professional development, exercise & strength, and family relationships. In most of those areas I had been feeling stuck. I feel like walls and barriers are crumbling and clarity is rising in my life.

I haven’t decided what to do about sugar after the 100 days are over. I will either stay with it…or give myself an option of a treat once a week (planned at least 24 hours in advance so that I don’t lose my progress in eliminating cravings and urges.). I’ll let you know when I get there!