5 Creatively Cool Art Books


5 Creatively Cool Art Books via Lil Blue Boo / Ashley Hackshaw

1. Let’s Make Some Great Art

2. This is Pollock

3. Meet the Artist: Alexander Calder

4. Typography Sketchbooks

5. Sketchbooks: The Hidden Art of Designers, Illustrators, & Creatives


(click here for more of my art book picks)


One Must Wait Until the Evening

Boo: I think I want to be President one day.
Me: I think that’s great. Can I come live in the White House with you?
Boo: If you pay rent.

Last week we decided to make an impromptu trip to the Reagan Presidential Library.   She watched every video and listened to every audio. She stumped a few of the docents on trivia I didn’t know she had studied. She soaked up every inch of the place and treated it with more respect than I ever imagined.  I saw a different side of my child amid all of this history:


Boo: Did you know that one of the escape tunnels for the Berlin Wall was in a graveyard?

No, I did not know that.

She refused to look at any interior photos of Air Force One before stepping inside because she “didn’t want to ruin the surprise.”

In the hall of heroes we were all in tears. She asked question after question about the Challenger explosion:

Boo: Do you think they knew they were going to die?


She listened to Reagan’s Alzheimer’s letter with tears streaming down her face.

…let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future. I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead.


She stood transfixed at his funeral procession…and in return she had an entire audience transfixed on a 7-year-old girl soaking it all up with raw emotion – no political ties, just human.


Boo: I would have gone to President Reagan’s funeral….if I’d been born yet. I couldn’t even know him.



I completely related with Reagan’s diaries and quote obsession. He kept inspirational quotes on index cards, organized in photo albums. I like his organization….now if they would just publish his albums:

Just one word of advice…..don’t wear the same color green as the green screen at the Reagan Library….or you’ll be a floating head:


Holding Nancy Reagan’s hand:

After we had finished seeing every last inch of the library we let Boo pick out something from the gift shop….she passed over all the toys, clothing, and tchotchkes…..and selected a small simple book: Quotations of Ronald Reagan.

And when we left Boo said it was her most favorite place she’d ever been …but she’d need to visit the other twelve libraries to be sure.



We drove down the PCH from Malibu to Newport….just because…

I know I'm the parent but sometimes I feel like I'm being led by a 7-year-old.  Just human.  Connecting dots. Quote by Sophocles


….and we stopped at the USS Iowa even though it was closed for the night.

I stood in awe of this ship because all I could think of was my grandfather.  My grandfather served on the USS Grumium during the Battle of Okinawa.  The USS Iowa was also in that battle.  It connects dots for me.  A conversation I wrote down years ago, the words of my grandfather:

We had many kamikaze planes in the area where the Grumium was anchored. The kamakazes hit a sea plane tender and a combat hospital shope very close to our ship. They hit an amunitions shop that was loaded with bombs and shells of all kinds. The ship blew up instantly. The kamakazes also hit a tanker that was near the entrance to the harbor. It was burning from stern to stern with flames going up several hundred feet. Our planes had to bomb the ship so it would sink because the fire was illuminating our anchored ship locations to the enemy at night.


If that hull could talk……




The next day we went to the Natural History Museum.


And the Space Shuttle.

But the entire time Boo was kind of distant.  She asked if we could just go back to the Reagan Library….or the USS Iowa.

Brett: What happened to our kid?
Me: I don’t know. It’s like a switch was flipped.
Brett: She grew up today.



We are lucky to have 2 Presidential Libraries in Southern California: Nixon and Reagan. I gave her a choice yesterday: pool or Nixon Library. She chose Nixon. So we hopped in the car and drove an hour and a half to Yorba Linda.

During the 28 minute introduction video Boo kept nudging me to write stuff down in my journal throughout Nixon’s farewell speech:

We think that when someone dear to us dies, we think that when we lose an election, we think that when we suffer a defeat that all is ended. We think, as T.R. said, that the light had left his life forever. Not true. It is only a beginning, always. The young must know it; the old must know it. It must always sustain us, because the greatness comes not when things go always good for you, but the greatness comes and you are really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes, because only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.


A friend, Paula, passed away a few days ago from a long time battle with cancer.  I couldn’t hold back tears watching the film. I looked over at Boo and she was crying. She said Nixon reminded her of Grandpa.

If you don’t know some sadness…you miss a great dimension in life.



Boo in the East Room:

Boo: Wow, there are FOUR fireplaces. We don’t even have one fireplace.
Me: The White House is colder than our house.
Boo: Did you know that Dolley Madison saved a portrait of President Washington before they burned the White House down?

No, I did not know that.


We spent at least an hour in the Watergate section. I’ve never seen anyone so excited about Watergate.  I don’t think the library staff had either because they were a little taken aback when she ran into the room as if she’d been waiting for it her whole life.  (Watergate is her favorite scene in Forest Gump.)  Yes she’s actually telling me to be patient in that last photo below as she listens to interviews:


The Nixon Library is pretty incredible because the original Nixon home, where the President was born, is still standing and has much of the original furniture. As everyone exited I motioned for Boo to leave too but she whispered that she had a question for the docent.

Boo: You said they had an ice cream machine. Where is it?
Docent: It’s in the other room. (unhooks the green velvet rope and motions her to follow him) This will be our secret.

No fair. I didn’t get to see the ice cream maker.

Docent: There are 13 seats on this helicopter.
Boo: Um, I think there are 14?  I mean, if you count the one in the back. It’s the same as President Reagan’s.



I watched Boo very carefully through both Reagan’s and Nixon’s libraries.  I watched her as she saw Secret Service push President Reagan into a car during an assassination attempt, and then watched as her eyes widened when she realized she was looking at the actual suit that was cut from the President’s body that day.  I watched as she tried to understand the concept of the Berlin wall and why a government would want to keep people from leaving. I watched her as she learned for the first time about POWs and what they endured in prison.  I watched how she listened so deeply to a Russian prisoner describe how the code of smiling kept her fellow prisoners from losing hope.  I watched her try to wrap her mind around how a piece of steel from the WTC was snapped in half like  twig.  I think what struck me is how everything disappeared around her as she immersed herself in history, so much so….that Brett and I began to do exactly the same.  We imitated our child. Instead of just quickly passing over exhibits we sat down, picked up the audio receivers, watched the videos, read all the words….becoming increasingly unaware of the clock.

As we neared the end of the Reagan Library, we stood and watched President Reagan address an audience of D-Day veterans on the northern coast of France, Pointe du Hoc, where Allied soldiers had stormed ashore to liberate Europe from the Nazi’s:

Forty summers have passed since the battle that you fought here. You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all the men of the armies that met here? We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love.

Listening to that I couldn’t hold back tears…and I looked over at Brett and he couldn’t either. An elderly gentleman diagonal from me, stared into the screen as if remembering something from long ago, his chest rising and falling unable to contain his deep emotion.   And then….at that moment a boy ran through the exhibit cackling….and that boy took off his hat and swooshed it in front of that man’s face to block the TV as if to taunt him.    But the man didn’t flinch, because….he never saw the boy or the hat.  He was on that cliff….with the veterans at Pointe du Hoc.  Then I looked at Boo and realized that she, too….was on that cliff.

I know I’m the parent but sometimes I feel like I’m being led by a 7-year-old.

Just human.

Connecting dots.




P.S. All of this started when I bought a bunch of the DK Eyewitness books. Boo’s favorites in order:

Presidents (this link is updated through current President)

First Ladies (updated through current President)

World War II

World War I

Civil War

American Revolution


Each book sparks more and more interest in her…

Boo: Why would Hitler kill himself?
Me: Probably because he didn’t want to be caught.
Boo: Do you think he went to heaven?
Me: I don’t think so. He did so many awful things, killed so many people.
Boo: He killed them, and THEN EVEN STOLE THEIR STUFF!
(I read her an article from Vanity Fair on the $1billion art stash recently found.)
Boo: Do you think he would have killed Jesus, if they lived at the same time?
Me: Yes.

I feel like I have a lot of catching up and refreshing to do on my history.

(only 11 more Presidential Libraries to go….)

The Physical Book

I started packing a few books today…I’ve been holding off until now.  There are stacks hidden all over the house. I get anxiety about having to pack them. What if I need one?  I packed and wrote every title down in the first box. Because that’s what I do….I write things down. Of course it took me 5 times longer to pack a single box than it would if I didn’t write things down….


I just can’t go digital. I love the smell of books. I love folding down pages and knowing exactly where to flip a certain book open to a certain passage.   I love sharing and passing books on. And I love book covers. I love old books….especially ones that have been handed down through generations. I want my books to be handed down through generations too.

Also, I’ve seen Book of Eli. Books are like currency in the future. Especially when all the iPads and Kindles and Nooks run out of battery life. I’ll just have to refer to my handwritten dewey decimal index in my journal to find the one I’m looking for. And then I’ll trade it for food.

I just like being old fashioned.


In some of the lowest-income neighborhoods in the country there is only one book available for every 300 children.

-from Overcoming Illiteracy

Seeking New Landscapes

It’s been a few days since I’ve written anything…I took a few days off for a family road trip. Actually I didn’t realize I hadn’t written until my mother called and asked if I was okay because I dropped off the face of the planet. Sorry Mom!  Boo is on spring break and I’ve been trying to keep her busy. Hoping to catch up on writing tomorrow and the next few days.

From the Reagan Presidential Library:

Proust Quote via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo


We did get a project done….worked on these patchwork infinity scarves for the SNAP 2014 Conference. I’m teaching a sewing class….so I needed samples.  I took photos for a tutorial too….should be up in 2 weeks after the conference.


This Is a Great Truth: Life is Difficult

Reposted from Facebook:

I’ve never done a “throwback thursday” before because, well, it’s just strangely heavy to look at photos pre-cancer, photos before my dad died, photos before infertility. It’s like I’m looking at someone else’s life, not mine. But I was wiping clean a computer drive tonight and found this random photo c. 2010.

This is a Great Truth: Life is Difficult via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo

I swear for a second I didn’t know who it was. This happens a lot. I see a photo that looks familiar to me, but the familiarity is more like seeing a stock photo in a frame. My mind tries to track backwards and acknowledge who it is, but there are gaps in memory, almost like the recording has been altered, as if someone cut out sections of reel tape. Someone edited my life! But the pieces I start to remember over time begin to feel extraordinary, little events woven together in such a way that when I start to try and digest them I’m aware of this force, a force bigger and more powerful than anything I could ever imagine. Huge. Powerful.

When I look at the old me I realize how hard I was trying in life, doing everything I was told I was supposed to do, exhausting just to think about really, and I feel like I was uprooted and chewed up and hastily spit back out. Tornado-like. But that force (surely God and grace all wrapped up and swirly) makes me feel like I can just be now. Just BE. And I’m not scared anymore. That girl in the photo…SHE was scared of life. Phew, that girl was ticking off every box, as if missing a single one would be the end of the world. Ticking off every box so no one would be disappointed in her. Good education. Check. Good job. Check. Big house. Check. Nice car. Check. Gym membership. Check. New electronics. Check. Vacations. Check. And now I realize why it’s so heavy looking at those old photos, because that life was h-e-a-v-y. But I’m not her anymore. Now I feel like I can just be. Don’t hold it in. Stop trying to hold it all together. What’s the worst that can happen? I mean, I guess I could get cancer, lose a loved one, quit my job, and become infertile overnight, but I’m on the other side thinking that can end up being okay too.


From a favorite book, The Road Less Traveled:


This is a Great Truth: Life is Difficult via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo #quote M. Scott Peck Road Less Traveled


I can’t wait to hear Nick Vijucic speak this weekend. I’m taking Boo and the whole extended family. If you live in the Palm Desert Area: tickets are going fast but you might be able to snag one….all proceeds benefit the Salvation Army.  Maybe we’ll see you there.

Nick Vujicic Life without Limbs speaking in Palm Desert via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo #inspiration #nickvujicic #salvationarmy #lifewithoutlimbs

[Read more...]

How to Cut Rounded Corners in Large Quantities

This is probably one of my most favorite tools.  It’s a bulk paper cutter. It cuts rounded corners, diamond corners, etc.  I use it to cut round corners on everything from postcards to business cards to invitations. It allows me to purchase the more economical square corners and round the corners myself.

I’m addicted to corner rounding.


The Akile Diamond Cutter:

How to cut your own rounded corners on photos, scrapbooking, business cards and invitations via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo #wedding #diy #scrapbooking


A stack of about 750 postcards took me about 10 minutes to cut:

DIY Die-Cut Rounded Corner Prints and Photos via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo



The cutter has guides that you can adjust so that the paper can be placed quickly into position each time for each stack:

Rounded Corner Prints and Photos via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo


Easy to press down (i.e. no blisters):

How to Round the corners of wedding invitations, holiday cards, photos etc with a DIY die-cut


The clippings fall into a small container underneath the cutter.  There’s a small drawer to hold different attachments and replacement rubber pads:

Use a Table Top Punch Corner Rounder to round corners on paper and plastic  via Ashley Hackshaw / Lil Blue Boo


I’ve saved an enormous amount of expense by ordering printed items in bulk with square corners and then rounding the corners myself:

(My “Year at the Hemlock” cards…brand new and so pretty. I hand these out when people want to read why we are moving…makes the posts easy to find.)

Order economical business cards and round the corners yourself with a DIY Corner Rounder that punches bulk die cuts


This is how I made my cute little “Lil Journal Project” prompts:

Journal Prompt Set - I made these using business cards and a DIY corner rounder

Cute quotes on the back: [Read more...]

Cleaning House: My Favorite Household Cleaner

In my attempt to simplify our lifestyle I’ve also been making a huge push towards greener, healthier home as well.  I’ve always used things like vinegar, lemon (half a lemon for my garbage disposal!) and baking soda but sometimes you just want something a little extra.

This is one product that I can’t get enough of: Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Basil Scent

My Favorite Household Cleaner: Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Basil Scent #mrsmeyers

I love the clean and fresh Basil smell so much that I wish I could eat it.  (please note: don’t eat it)

I swear someone will buy our house because of the Basil herb scent.


All product picks, reviews and opinions are solely my own.  I only share things that I use in my own home.

How to Antique and Age Wood Instantly for a Weathered Look

How to Antique and age wood instantly with items you p (weathering wood with vinegar and steel wool)

This is one of my favorite tricks that I use with home decor….a simple solution of white vinegar and steel wool.  You can use it to age brand new wood to varying degrees depending on how the solution ages.

White Distilled Vinegar
0000 Steel Wool*

For the sign:
8″ Oil Board Stencils
Black spray paint

*I prefer the fine graded because it disintegrates faster.

Aging Wood: Vinegar & Steel Wool Solution (steel and vinegar wood stain directions) #diy #tutorial #distressed #antique

To make the mixture you pour vinegar into a bowl or jar and add steel wool (without the soap kind!):

How to faux paint barn wood or antique wood with Vinegar & Steel Wool Solution  #diy #tutorial #distressed #antique

The trick is figuring out how long to age it.  A solution left to age just 15 minutes will produce different effect than a solution left aging for hours, months or years.

Here is a solution left aging for 15 minutes where the vinegar has just started to disintegrate the steel wool.  One or two coats of the mixture leaves just a light gray barn-wood like finish:

Aging and Antiquing Wood (Faux Barn Wood) - 15 minute solution #diy #vinegar #barnwood

Leaving the solution to age a few more hours will produce a darker gray finish:

Leaving the solution to age a few more hours will produce a darker gray finish (steel and vinegar wood stain directions)

I keep varying solutions in jars because if you leave it long enough the steel wool disintegrates completely and the mixture is allowed to produce rust, adding a reddish brown tone.

Aging Wood: Vinegar & Steel Wool Solution  (if you leave it long enough the steel wool disintegrates completely and the mixture is allowed to produce rust, adding a reddish brown tone)


Here’s a ten minute sign I made using a pre-cut piece of wood from the hardware store and 8″ Oil Board Stencils:

Making a sign with pre-cut piece of wood from the hardware store and 8" Oil Board Stencils:


I spaced the letters out and taped them into place together: [Read more...]

Things I Wanted To Tell You About – Knowledge, Remains, Type Rider and Layers of Color

Armed with Knowledge

Brett and I were invited last week to hear Dr. Ben Carson speak.  He spoke about his view of what America should be.  He had an amazing story to tell…he was the first doctor to successfully separate Siamese twins who were conjoined at the head.  I didn’t agree with absolutely everything he said, but that was one of the points he made….that it’s okay to disagree with people, but disagreeing should open the door for discussion not ridicule. It’s about being respectful.  I thought about that one line as a few couples stood up to leave before he was finished speaking….so that they could be first in the valet line to pick up their car.

What really stuck with me was his challenge to the audience to spend 1/2 hour every day learning something new: world history, religion, physics, civics, algebra, etc.  At dinner with our extended family afterwards we all made a pact to start doing that even if it’s an episode of How It’s Made, a game of trivia or watching a documentary.

As we accumulate knowledge, we begin to solve our problems.
Armed with knowledge, you become a friend of truth.

Maybe I should start a new series around what I’ve learned…since we all know I can’t be trusted with something like a “what I wore” series.

You can read more about Carson Scholars here.


Remains of the Day

Friday was Lisa’s last day. She’s been with me for 4 years. Big changes ahead for her family and mine. Gicela is still working for a few more days but then she’ll be moving on as well. It all seems a little surreal right now.  I spent the weekend trying to figure things out for myself again. The house seems so quiet today.  Maybe I’ll spend another 30 minutes learning something new?  A little look back at behind-the-scenes with Lisa.

Over the past 2 weeks Lisa shipped out over 2,000 pounds of fabric, supplies etc.  Yes 2,000 pounds. There’s hardly a thing left in the studio.  We can’t sell off the furniture or large art pieces until the house sells, but I am still listing smaller items as I go through cabinets and boxes.  Gicela is helping me cut a bunch of fabric for a class I’m teaching at the SNAP Creativity conference.  If we have extras we’ll make them into little kits….because it’s the cutest infinity scarf.


Starting to list some of the big art as I figure out shipping. The Cinderella Button Collage is now listed. Hard to let it go, it’s been a conversation piece for so long.  It’s the first thing people gravitate to in our home when they notice the button detail. Proceeds will help finance some of the new projects I’m working on!

Listing here.

Cinderella button Collage by Lil Blue Boo / Ashley Hackshaw


Lost and Found (by himself)

Last weekend I found this sweet little dog scampering onto the highway.  I slammed on the brakes and ran after him, he stopped right at the curb just as he was on the highway. He sat down and let me pick him up.  Poor guy was overheated….and missing an eye!  After picking Boo up from school I got him some water and put him on a leash, taking him out for a walk to see if anyone might be looking for him.  After a while I was giving up home and started devising a strategy for making some “found dog” signs.  Then, just as I was ready to turn back, he started to pick up his pace like he knew where he was headed.  I let him lead and eventually he led me right to his owner’s door!  She was so happy to see him, she wasn’t even aware that he’d escaped.  We thought for sure his name was “Pirate” but he was actually a “Harley.”




I read really fast, usually finishing a book in just a matter of hours. But apparently my reading comprehension isn’t very good. I already knew that because I used to just pick “C” on tests in school. Take the “How fast do you read” test here on Staples.com

Then, just for fun I took a screenshot of the reading and THEN answered the questions….still didn’t qualify as speed reader:


Marcel the Shell

I’ve probably shared this before but it never gets old.

I also have shoes and a face, so, I like that about myself and I like myself and I have a lot of other great qualities as well.




I love this poster of typewriters over the last 100 years.  It’s available through Pop Chart Lab here.


Image from Pop Chart Lab


Free Libraries and Typewriters on Bikes [Read more...]


I found an old jar of my “antiquing” mixture the other day. Over a year old it was a nice dark reddish color….and it inspired me to put it to use on some pieces of wood we had laying around. Here’s coat 1:

DIY vintage antique sign


Once I figure out where to hang it I’ll share the finished product.

Hope you are having a good weekend!

I’ve got a few posts over at Babble this week:

Ice Breakers: The Best Way to Get a Party Started (with Printable)

What My Grandmother’s Bracelet Taught Me about Writing



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