A Place of Refuge

There’s a thunderstorm in the mountains tonight.  The clouds roll in so quickly up here…it can be sunny one minute and the next minute:


The past week was a blur of activity as we explored the Smokies. I don’t know how it will be possible to see everything we want to in just a year’s time. At dinner each night when we tell guests where we’ve been many are surprised at the number and range of activities in the area, most of which are free.

There were 2 highlights to my week…and both firsts for me:

1. I went to a decoration day (which deserves its own post)

2. Donna, one of the cooks at the inn, invited me to a revival at her church.

Of course I showed up to the revival.  And who did we sit in front of?  The sheriff and the local bail bondsman. Donna introduced me to both of them in case I ever get in trouble. (wouldn’t THAT be an awesome post….)  So, I’d never been to a revival before….and had no idea what to expect….but I’m always up for anything remotely interesting.

Fact: the revival was overflowing with interesting.

It was led by Bill Saye….who was sent to prison in 1982 for first degree murder….and then completely turned his life around.  I pretty much wrote down everything he said in his testimony…including his description of “old fashioned holy ghost preaching.”  At the end of the night I was kind of sad that it was over. The revival singing was beautiful and haunting….true mountain church music.  As I left a man said to me:

You need to know….that in these mountains…..you are in a place of safety and refuge.

It was strangely profound because I’d just been thinking that moments before he said it.  It could have been coincidence or maybe it was God trying to hammer something through to me. This place is a place of refuge. And yes I feel that here.

We stayed up at the inn late tonight so that Boo could play with some new friends.  Brett stayed down at the cottage because we’d had a roof leak and he wanted to check his handiwork (almost narrowed down!).  Walking home with a small flashlight and jumping over puddles Boo and I weren’t so jumpy as we’d been in the past few weeks. The darkness wasn’t something to be feared so much anymore.


P.S. My little sister Perry went into labor tonight.  Please pray for her and her sweet baby…and an easy delivery!


A Few of My Favorite Things

A few of my favorite things this summer….shoes, games, gifts and bug spray! Links are at the bottom of the post.
My favorite things this summer - Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo via lilblueboo.com


1. The Donna Hemp Sanuks in Natural.
I wear these pretty much everyday. Super comfortable and match everything….plus they are washable. I think they fit very true to size.


2. Girls’ Donna Sanuks in Pink Poncho
Boo’s favorite shoes…and everyone asks where we got them.  The Pink Poncho fabric reminds me of those woven aztec belts you know you loved in the 80′s. I replaced her flip flops with these because she’s so accident prone!

(Note: Brett has a pair too.  We all match. Dorks.)


3. Gap Always Skinny Jeans.
My new favorite jeans. I hoard them. I roll the bottoms and crop them when it’s warm….and roll them down if it gets cool at night.


4. Spot it
This was a gift Boo received from a family we are close to.  It can be played anywhere and by almost any age.  Between any two cards there is always one and only one matching symbol. Whoever spots it first gets the card.  Love that it fits in my handbag easily and takes up very little space when it’s being played (great for restaurants!)


5. RayBan New Wayfarer in Tortoiseshell
My go-to sunglasses. Always a classic.


6. California Baby Insect Repellent
My friend Grace brought this last week when they visited and now I’m hooked. Nothing ever works as well as the super toxic stuff…but who wants to put that on?  Not perfect but a much better alternative to the gross stuff. I also like one that I picked up from a local garden store called Don’t Bug Me. Smells amazing and they have soap too.


7. Waterproof Fuji Camera
Best purchase ever. We bought this as a camera that Boo would be able to use on hikes.  Now she’s 10 times more interested in what we are looking at instead of “oh another waterfall” reactions.  She’s constantly looking for things to capture (even under water).  It’s waterproof and shockproof…AND it has a wristband that floats in case it falls in a creek.


8. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
My friend Eric gave me this just a few days ago and I’ve already devoured it.  i’ll never enter an art museum again without thinking about this book.  Also, The Secret History by Tartt was one of my favorite books I read as a teenager. If you haven’t read it…you are missing out!


9. Expecting Adam by Martha Beck
Just reread this for a second time. I love her writing….and her story. It’s witty and dark all at the same time….my favorite kind of book.


10. Keeping a Journal You Love
This is probably the tenth time I’ve reread this book.  It’s more of a guide for me and a glimpse into some beautiful writing.  If you are a writer, a journaled, both or neither….I think you’ll love it. I don’t think it’s in print anymore but I linked to the used books…you can get it for almost nothing.


Disclaimer: Sometimes I use affiliate links. All products were picked by me, purchased by me, used by me and loved by me.


Neutral Nursery Decor Ideas – Restoration Hardware Inspired

My sister Perry and her husband Justin are going to have a little girl in mid-July.  I’m so excited to have a niece! We visited their house last weekend and the nursery just blew me away.  I love the neutral look of it….so serene and peaceful.

A Neutral Nursery - Neutral Nursery Decor and Ideas - Click through for paint colors and details #diy #nursery #nurserydecor #baby


The crib is the Roselle Crib that she picked up at Restoration Hardware Finale Sale:


Neutral Nursery Decor - The Roselle Crib Restoration Hardware Baby


The wall color is Edgecomb Gray from Benjamin Moore:

Neutral Nursery Wall Colors - Restoration Hardware Inspired - Edgecomb Gray from Benjamin Moore


The cute wall prints behind the crib are vintage Winnie the Pooh book pages from an Etsy shop called Cloud Nine Prints. The frames were from Home Goods.

Neutral Nursery Wall Decor Ideas - Vintage Winnie The Pooh Book Pages


A cute little chair and ottoman that was a gift:

Neutral Nursery Decor Ideas - Restoration Hardware Inspired


I love this vintage Winnie The Pooh that was a baby gift. It’s the Kids Preferred Giant Plush Winnie the Pooh.

Vintage Winnie the Pooh (where to buy)  - Baby Gift Ideas


The chair is the washed linen camelback swivel glider chair with slipcover:

Neutral Nursery Chair for Restoration Hardware Baby Nursery


A sequined pillow:

Neutral Taupe Nursery - Sequined Pillow



The vanity was our grandmother’s.  Perry re-painted it with Annie Sloan Chalk paint in Old White.  The mirror was from Marshall’s and she painted it to match:

A Neutral Nursery - using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint - Old White


I love how she painted these to look old and uses the vanity as a changing table: CONTINUE READING

A House of Windows

When I was at my sister’s house last weekend she had a huge pile of old windows sitting outside her garage.  At first I was like: hey can I take one of these? But that turned into: hey, can I take all of these? So…on a trip to empty out the rest of the items we had in our trailer we ended up bringing back a truckload of old windows.  Brett sure lucked out when he married me (when it comes to accumulating free junk).

I love this photo of my 8.5 months pregnant sister Perry blowing off the window for me as Sienna darts after a ball. Chaos.


I started searching for projects that used large quantities of windows and I came across this:


I love the video by Half Cut Tea:


Now all I need is a few acres of land and lake!


What I Want To Be

For our move cross country to the Hemlock Inn, we took Boo out of school 2 weeks early. Her teacher Mrs. Mayfield sent us a large package today with a letter, work missed and awards from the end of school. Included in it was this essay that Boo wrote for a local essay contest in Palm Desert:


Boo's essay on growing up "What I Want To Be" via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

In case the scan doesn’t show up here is the text:

What I Want to Be…
(By Boo Hackshaw)

When I grow up, I want to be a writer. My mom writes in her journal and she writes a blog about our family. I love my mom and what she writes. I like to write stories too. I like to write stories about how my day has gone and how my year has gone.

When I grow up, I want to be kind. I want to be a person who is helpful and who has a smile on their face. I will try to have good manners. I won’t smoke or litter or lie. I would like to be a person who respects others.

When I grow up, I want to be a mom like my mom. My mom gives me gifts of love. She helps me with my homework. She likes to write stories with me.

Growing up is going to be inspiring and imaginative.


She gives me way too much credit in her essay. It’s Brett that does most of the parenting around here.  I feel like I’m mostly hard on her when I need to be giving more gifts of love.  I’m often deep in thought in another universe before I realize she’s talking to me.  Earth to Mom.

I do have three things going for me: I don’t smoke or litter or lie.

Oh, I can’t wait to grow up too…it will be inspiring and imaginative.  That’s a lot to look forward to.

I loved this essay.

Thank you Boo.


Beautiful Things Don’t Ask For Attention

It was a rough day for Boo yesterday…she was grounded. I don’t know what got into her….maybe it’s all the freedom. There’s a wedding tonight and the bride and her family were here yesterday setting up and Boo was so excited to help…and she was a great help…but then she began to get a little snooty, too big for her britches as they say, and then she was disrespectful to the inn’s intern Harper and that was the last straw.  I confined her to the house and then witnessed a full blown tantrum and I’d never seen her so defiant before. She is well beyond her years in being able to turn arguments around on a dime.  After being grounded and realizing that her actions had serious consequences (like not being able to run freely around the inn) she turned back into my sweet, down-to-earth child.

But she is me. She wants to do and see everything.  She craves freedom and independence. She wants to disappear and wander aimlessly. She never tires. I get it…but when it affects others it’s time to reign it in.  I guess that’s why we need boundaries, right?

I stayed up way too late last night…reading Thoreau of all things.  I hadn’t touched Thoreau since being forced to read it in high school but something deep down was urging me to revisit it. I kept having to turn on the light to write down page numbers of quotes to share:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest.”

“It is life near the bone where it is sweetest.”

“In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

“The life in us is like the water in the river. It may rise this year higher than man has ever known it, and flood the parched uplands; even this may be the eventful year, which will drown out all our muskrats.”


let us spend every day deliberately - quote by thoreau


Yesterday was the first day I took my big DSLR camera out…and I only took a few photos.  We watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty the other night and there’s that scene where the rare snow leopard emerges from its hiding place and Sean O’Connell doesn’t press the shutter button.  Watching it I’m thinking: PRESS THE BUTTON. PRESS THE BUTTON!

Walter Mitty: When are you going to take it?
Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
Walter Mitty: Stay in it?
Sean O’Connell: Yeah. Right there. Right here.

(loved that movie…except I have been singing the line non stop “This is Major Tom to Ground Control….I’m stepping through the door.”)

I’m in these moments…I haven’t felt like I needed to capture them all for the first time in a long time.


I was a little uncertain for the first few days living here….the moisture of the mountains, the spiders and healthy insect colonies of the forest. It was all so new. I wondered if maybe I just wasn’t made for the outdoors. But yesterday, as Brett and Boo were skipping rocks into the river yesterday afternoon (her request) I found this place along the shore where the powerful Tuckaseegee river was flowing backwards because of the current. He leads me beside the still waters. I’m in awe of this place.  The richness of the land and the area. It’s humming with life all the time.  I find strength in the trees and peace from the water.

A year ago I would have needed the perfect office to write from, now I’m writing from the floor of my bedroom huddled next to the dog for the best sunlight. It’s quiet here and Diesel’s sweet panting breath is soothing. And other than that there is no sound whatsoever except for an occasional bird song. I could be the only person on earth right now…..except I know there is a flurry of activity up the hill for a young couple getting married on the property tonight:

rustic wedding

The Road to Nowhere

There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.
– Jack Kerouac

This morning we took a wrong turn and ended up on the Road to Nowhere. It’s a 6-mile-drive into the park that ends abruptly at this tunnel. (you can read the story here).  There’s not really anywhere to turn around so we just kept going.  Why not right?  We were the only ones there when we first got there:

Things to do in Bryson City - The Road to Nowhere Tunnel in Smoky Mountains


Boo and Brett talked me into going in. I walked behind them holding Diesel. One foot in front of the other…careful to stay right in the center…totally focused on the light ahead of me. I felt like I was going to be snatched into the walls. My heart was beating a million miles per hour and I just kept saying the Lord’s Prayer so it echoed throughout.  Funny how things can be scary and amazing all at the same time.

the light at the end of the tunnel

Things to do in Smoky Mountains National Park - The Road to Nowhere Tunnel


Here’s a photo Brett too from the other side:


exhilarated….until we realized we had to walk back through.


a graffiti compliment


So the Road to Nowhere actually does lead somewhere…to an eerie tunnel that feels sinister, earthy and breathtaking all at once.  I totally recommend walking through it…first thing in the morning (that’s the safest time of day in scary movies).

On The Road

As I write this we are somewhere in Illinois and have driven 2,165 miles so far in our trip. We are headed to Nashville today where my aunt lives.  I will wait to give you a recap of our trip but a few things we’ve learned so far:

1. You can’t take a 16 foot box trailer across the Hoover Dam.

2. You can’t sneak a dog through an X-ray machine at a national monument.

3. Uploading photos through a car Wifi can easily eat up your entire phone plan in a matter of minutes.

And most of all:

Everyone should take the time to drive America, especially the back roads.



Trailers and Tornados

I’m finally back! After a few crazy weeks!  I’ve never gone that long without writing. It took me a few days to figure out how to log into my WordPress from the road, mostly because my passwords were buried underneath a ton of stuff in the back of the truck.

And now I’m typing this in the car connected to the Internet. Sending info to space and back from the truck from somewhere around Topeka, KS. Amazing.

We are on our 4th day cross country to the Hemlock Inn.  Brett has been driving mostly because I am a disaster with the trailer.  It starts swaying when I drive it.  The truck even flashed “sway alert” at me a few times.  I could drive it all by myself and I’d be fine but something about having people in the car causes stage fright:


I meant to write the past few days but the cell coverage has just been really spotty and then I couldn’t remember my password it had been so long.  Then yesterday as I was trying to wrap up a post: TORNADO.

What are the odds that we run into a Tornado?! I kept looking at the doppler and all the weather was way north until a small patch just appeared on the screen suddenly.  Like a bad dream. We had just gotten into Kansas and we were relieved that all the bad weather seemed to be north of us. We were in the middle of nowhere, and it was beautiful:

Then somewhere along the way….where there was literally no civilization for miles and miles…I was teaching Boo how to pee on the side of the road…and she burned her bum tailpipe. (of all the places to sit down she sat down against the tailpipe?!) Before we started out again I took a photo of the clouds and sunset behind us:

Slowly, for about an hour, the clouds were starting to rotate and form a wall:


Brett: That looks circular to me.

Me: I think we might be okay. Anyway, if that was a tornado it would be about a category F100.  That thing is huge.

But then as I watched it I wasn’t so sure.  I crawled across the seats to get a better look of the clouds and what looked like little finger like funnels forming off of it.  It looked like we were in front of it and from the animated radar I pulled up on my phone it seemed like we were too.

As we pulled through the small town of Lakin and just as we did the radio started emitting the emergency broadcast signal.

“a tornado has touched down in Lakin”

Me: We are IN Lakin. That is the tornado!

We kept going because there was no place to take shelter but as the road turned north we soon found ourselves in the middle of it.  Everything was purple and just like the movie Twister farm debris was moving across the road. It was chaos as we tried to determine the best plan of action. Then suddenly we passed a gas station and it gave us an option. and Brett flipped a u-turn and we headed back.

We pulled into the parking lot with the trailer. The only sign of life was an 18 wheeler with its lights on.  I grabbed the dog and Brett grabbed Boo. Boo was so scared she began vomiting all over the pavement. That’s when I snapped this photo:


We left the truck and the trailer in the middle of the parking lot and ran to the door. The gas station had already been locked down…a woman came to the door and quickly unlocked it. Inside she directed us to a small janitor’s closet. The tornado alarms kept going off every few minutes.  The locked doors began to shake and hiss and squeal and we stayed there until it all quieted down. And my life flashed before my eyes and I pictures all of ouse being sucked up into a tornado as the building disappeared around us. And we just prayed that God would keep us safe.

And he did. Thank you God.

And today, except for some hail damage to the truck windshield, everything is back to normal again.

The crazy thing is a few days ago I had an eerie premonition of trying to outrun a tornado. In a matter of a few days we traded earthquake country for tornado country. The difference is that I know exactly what to do in an earthquake… but not in a tornado.

More tomorrow.






Still Here

Yes I am still here.  Just trying to fit a few months of work into just 2 weeks.  Here is my progress:

Becoming Minimalist....literally

Oh and I took a day off to attend Elevate this year too.  It was nice change and I got to see some old friends and make some new ones.  I think this photo proves that I just can’t be serious…I sat next to Ashley Stock (Little Miss Momma) for most of the conference and we had a little too much fun. I so glad she posted this photo….even though I have sideburns from trying to grow my hair out a little:


I finally got a chance to meet Lisa Leonard too.  Love her inspirational message:


Desiree of 36th Avenue was so funny and inspirational too but I spaced out on photography for the 1st half of the conference.  I love that Elevate started at 10:30am and ended after dinner.  That’s my kind of conference.  Oh, and I sold my car so I had to hitch a ride with my in-laws to the beach where Brett was working so he could watch Boo. Just a little hectic…but I tend to thrive on chaos I guess.

So June 1st is our departure date for moving to the Hemlock Inn! Still need to finalize our stops…and yes I might be emailing a few of you still.  Thank you for all the offers of hospitality. I can’t think of anything cooler than staying with readers along the way….even if it’s just parking in the driveway. So we’ll see what works out!

Brett and I drove to Beaumont today to look at a trailer to bring with us cross country.  We won’t be able to fill it anymore because we’ve gotten rid of so much stuff but with a few “renovations” it will serve as a great “writing” room if I need more quiet space at the Inn.

My friend Megan is coming over to help me tomorrow prepare for the moving sale on Saturday.  I’ve still got a “maybe” pile that I haven’t decided on yet.  I pulled some sentimental items out of the pile to help raise some funds for a few readers in need tonight and tomorrow.  You can view those items here. Wish I could help everyone that asks but we are running almost on empty over there. Maybe you need some artwork or a Tiffany bowl? Thank you!


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