Amanda Sue Howell

7 Creativity Boosting Coloring Books (that will look cool in your pillow fort)

I love coloring books. There. I said it.

Just kidding, that really didn’t need declaring, yet somehow we feel the need to clarify that we’re using “adult coloring books”, or “Prismacolor pencils”, or *insert expensive art supply here*. Or it’s declared, but as a defiant joke… “I’m tired of adulting, so I’m gonna make a pillow fort and color!”

What if you can color, without needing to justify? What if I told you, that it’s a perfectly legitimate creative outlet? It’s a great thing to do with your kids? You can even use it to practice things like shading, or color theory. Shocking right?

Of course not. You’re a freaking rockstar unicorn, so you already know this. I’m just going to tell you a few of my favorite things coloring books, so you can join me in the big coloring party in my pillow fort. (Shhhh there’s even Play-Doh, and cookies!)

1. Lost Ocean

I know, you thought I was gonna go for Secret Garden, but I actually like this one a teeny bit more… I think maybe I’m a pirate at heart. Arrrrrrggh!!

2. Creative Coloring Inspirations

You can actually find that first page for free, but there’s 29 other adorable designs inside, and best of all? One sided! So if you want to pull these out (and they’re perforated!), you can color these with marker (just put some scrap papers under, because it WILL bleed through).

3. Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Animal Designs

I just picked this one up, so I haven’t done much with it, but I had a blast with an eagle design inside. It’s not quite finished, but you can always stalk my Instagram to see the completed page.

4. Secret Paris: Color Your Way to Calm

This is one of the very few on the list I didn’t buy myself (one I don’t own at all yet, and another is on pre-order). My sweet friend/client (aren’t those the best clients?) bought it for me when I went to go see her at CreativeLive. She bought coloring books for all of the audience members, but she carefully chose which ones went to which person!

5. Vive Le Color! Japan

Okay, fair warning… I don’t own this book, YET. I actually just found it when I was pulling up the other books on this list. You should know (since some of the reviewers didn’t read the info) that this is 7″ x 7″, so it’s smaller than some of them had anticipated. But why I’m super intrigued? It’s rubber-glue bound AT THE TOP, so it’s leftie friendly too! And these are single sided, so if you want to take them off and marker/watercolor, you can! (Again, put scraps underneath, because I don’t know how thick the paper is.)

6. Magical Jungle: An Inky Expedition and Coloring Book for Adults

This is the second Johanna Basford coloring book on the list, and I don’t own it. But to be fair, it’s not even out yet… I’m pre-ordering it, and it comes out just before my birthday (it’s my birthday present to me!).

7. Day of the Dead Coloring Book

Okay no one ever said that unicorns can’t dig the weird and wonderful, right? I’m totally fascinated by Dia de Muertos (which for the record is a wholly misunderstood holiday), and these sugar skulls are a blast to color. It’s a great opportunity to go crazy with colors!


Okay, so give me the goodies… what’s YOUR favorite coloring book right now?

**Yes. If you buy from these links, I’ll get a tiny kick-back. Enough for extra pillows, crayons, and world domination.​**

What Happens When You Learn That You’re An Artist?

Quite frankly, I don’t remember what it’s like to not be able to read. I don’t remember what it’s like to not know my colors, or numbers, or how to cook. Education is an incredible thing… it not only changes your future, but it re-shapes your past.

Me reading
Wasn’t I cute?

A similar (and most interesting) thing happens when you go on a voyage of self-discovery. You’ll take a personality test, or someone will make an off-hand comment that brings something to your awareness, and all at once you’re both shocked to discover it’s true, and boggled that you never realized it before.

For example, I recently had a session with my business coach where she pointed out that one of my number one hindrances to my personal productivity, is that I feel compelled to solve everyone‘s problems. Right now you may be thinking that it’s my job to handle my client’s problems, or my family’s problems… but no…

She really does mean everyone. And it’s true.

If I overhear someone ask a question, I want to help them find the answer.

If someone off-handedly mentions that someone in a TV show looks familiar, I have to look it up.

If someone in a Facebook group asks a question that even begins to be in my random storehouse of knowledge, I want to help them.

If one of my friends creates a program, I want to jump in so I can support them.

At one point, I was in almost half a dozen Instagram challenges, because I wanted to support every friend of mine that was running one. Did I mention that I was running my own at the time? You know what happened? Almost none of them got done, including my own. Boooooo hisssss.

When I told my Mom about the conversation, she started laughing. “Boy she’s really got your number”, she said. I would have protested, but I’d already realized it was true. Over the course of the next week, I had to tell myself “no!” on about half a dozen courses, 3 month-long challenges, and a couple more Instagram challenges. I have issues, man.

In another conversation with that same business coach, she mentioned me being an idea person, and how I need to really focus down and keep my eye on the prize. It may come as a shock to you, but despite the fact that I’ve brainstormed half a dozen courses, a dozen future Cheeky Guide topics, a monthly Instagram challenge, and any number of other things… I was blissfully unaware that I’m an idea person.

It gets even more hilarious, if you know that I’m an INFP. An INFP is literally categorized as an “idea generator”.

I can’t make this stuff up… don’t you feel normal now?

So something I’ve never grasped for myself, is being an artist. I’ve been called an artist (or artistic) probably most of my life. When I was young I was praised for my very neat coloring, and it won me a stuffed animal (can’t recall if it was my Mickey or my Big Bird… I had a lot of stuffed animals as a kid). I had a book about drawing horses and prided myself on how quickly I picked up drawing them… I even showed them to our hometown artist (who specialized in drawing/painting horses).

I paint, draw, doodle, crochet, knit (a little), photograph, write, sing, story-tell, quill, cross stitch, hand letter, color, write calligraphy, cook…

Crocheting | What Happens When You Learn That You're An Artist? | Amanda Sue Howell |


Okay so I’m not trying to brag here…. I really just want to paint a picture, because it should have been obvious to me, but it wasn’t. Not until I wrote about the undervaluing of artisans last week. It’s a topic I feel very strongly about, and I’ve ranted about it in person dozens of times, but never really on my blog. And when I did, I had an instantaneous response. One person even asked if they could gush over one of the sentences. Gush. Over something I wrote?

The more I thought about my post, and the more response I got to it, the more I realized why it’s such a fire-inducing topic to me. Because I am an artist. Me. An artist. Who knew?

Uhhhh basically everybody but me.

I am an artist.

Seriously though, there’s something special that happens when you step into what you’re designed to do. In my case, I’ve colored more in the last week than I have in months. And you might say that coloring isn’t “technically” an artistic endeavor. In which case I’d say that I dare you to google “johanna basford coloring tutorials” and tell me some of those people aren’t freaking artists.

Lisa Frank Ship | What Happens When You Learn That You're An Artist? | Amanda Sue Howell |

But it’s not just the coloring. I’m feeling inspired to step back art forms I haven’t played with in months, or even years, because I didn’t feel like I could justify it. It was something I could do in my “spare” time. Have you ever noticed that spare time doesn’t really exist? We humans are experts at finding ways to whittle away every second we have with busywork.

So I ask you, will you join me in this journey? We’re closing out the first quarter of March, and I’m ending it with a beautiful discovery. I plan to spend the rest of 2016, discovering what my true bent (or bents… yay for multipods!) is/are. If you’re a fellow artist, I’d love for you to declare it in the comments below… shout it out, loud and proud. Link to something you’ve made!

The Undervaluing of Artisans

I always hesitate when telling someone that I’m going to do a rant post. In the back of my mind I feel like they think I’m about to launch into a Peter Griffin style “you know what really grinds my gears” type rant. So at the risk of someone thinking I’m a Family Guy fan (which I’m not), you know what really grinds my gears? Our culture’s undervaluing of artisans and creatives.

Undervaluing of Artisans | Amanda Sue Howell |

Once upon a time artists were appreciated. In medieval times, parents took their children to be apprenticed to artisans & craftsmen, because “masters” of the craft often had a higher social standing in their community.


Because only the wealthy could afford such luxuries, and the more skilled someone was, the more desirable their goods were. You could end up making things for a wealthy landowner, or a lord of the court, or even a king.

So artisans were prized. Valued. Appreciated.

Fast forward to today. Now we have companies selling shirts that say “Aspiring Young Artist President”, as if being a politician is somehow a worthier plan than pursuing your God-given creative giftings.

We have people commenting on people’s social media posts, to inform them how unimpressed they are with their college degree, because “you only have a lib arts degree”. Firstly, everyone goes through the same core stuff. Secondly, you have no idea what they minored in (or if they double majored). Thirdly, why is a liberal arts degree a thing to be demeaned?


How can we fix this?

First, we need to stop putting creativity/artistry into a box. For some reason, people say things like “I’m not creative… I don’t paint”, or “I’m not creative, I can’t draw a stick figure”. Let’s take a second and look at some of the things that fall under the artistic umbrella…

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Sculpting
  • Photography
  • Woodworking
  • Sewing
  • Embroidery
  • Knitting
  • Crocheting
  • Tatting
  • Macrame
  • Beadwork
  • Smithing
  • Gardening
  • Pottery
  • Baking
  • Cooking
  • Brewing
  • Candlemaking
  • Carving
  • Glass blowing
  • Calligraphy
  • Quilting
  • Leatherwork
  • Pyrography
  • Scale modeling
  • Decoupage
  • Collage
  • Scrapbooking
  • Rubber stamping
  • Origrami
  • Quilling (also called paper filigree)
  • Writing
  • Videography
  • Graphic design
  • Comedy
  • Singing

I could go on, but I’ll stop there. You’re seriously telling me that you can’t do any of those? Maybe, but could you learn even one? Yes. I know right now you’re thinking “but Amanda, some of those are learned skills… glass blowing? You can’t just jump up and do it!”

True. That’s the point. Any of these can be learned. No one wakes up knowing how to do quilting. Are some people more bent towards a certain skill? Maybe. I think it could be argued that some people are more persistent in pursuing certain skills.

Secondly, practice is an astonishing thing. Back a year or two ago I read an article in Huffington Post about the value of practice. The differences people made in 6 months, or a year were amazing. And yes, the people who have put in decades of practice are putting out seriously incredible work, but everyone starts somewhere.

Thirdly, stop defining your skills by someone else’s creations. If Picasso had tried to paint like Monet, the world wouldn’t know his name. Many artists struggle with feeling appreciated… over the years the world has lost many bright stars because they didn’t realize how needed they truly were. And the tragedy is that they never truly learned to appreciate their own work.


It’s become almost a rite of passage for being a creative.

I hear it all the time…. “Oh I just hate my own work… you know how it is, you’re an artist”. Why do we feel like it’s mandatory to dislike our own work? Are we trying to achieve perfection? Are we afraid of being called out for cockiness? Whatever it is, our own inability to be own our own best salesperson has caused a culture where no one understands how precious creativity is.

So here’s my plea… stop saying you’re not creative. I guarantee that you are. And if you can’t figure out how you’re creative, you can email me, and I’ll help you out.

Running a Business With School-Aged Children: Boundaries & Mutual Respect

Running a Business With School-Aged Children: Boundaries & Mutual Respect

For the month of February, I’ll be chatting about different ways to run a business when you’ve got kiddos. The first week was running a business with a baby, the second week was running a business with a toddler, and today I’ll be talking about will be school-aged kids.

In general I’ve had the typical parenting experience… I’ve been been barfed on, pooped on, and drooled on. I’ve had peanut butter smeared on just about every dark shirt I’ve ever owned, and I’ve learned that if you cheer when your toddler falls on their butt, they’re much less likely to freak out.

But the one thing I have never dealt with, is a child in the bathroom with me while I’m bathing or peeing. Watch the video and find out why. 😉


Like I said in the video… I don’t want my children to think the world revolves around them, but I want them to know that they come before my business. Additionally, I want to be providing a good quality example of what entrepreneurship looks like for my children. Not only am I raising future adults, but I hope that I’m raising future entrepreneurs, and I would want them creating healthy boundaries too.


What are your tips for creating boundaries with your children?

Running a Business With Toddlers: Busy Boxes

Running a Business With a Toddle

For the month of February, I’ll be chatting about different ways to run a business when you’ve got kiddos. The first week was running a business with a baby, next week will be school-aged kids, and today I’ll be talking about running a business with toddlers.

Last week I gave 14 tips for running a business with a baby around. Many of those tips translate to running a business with toddlers, but I want to talk about something specifically for this age group.

Recently I’ve started reading up on busy boxes/bags. I don’t even recall where I ran across the term, but the concept is pretty simple. It’s a box (or bag) of toys/games/etc., to keep little hands occupied. When I see work at home mom’s talking about it, they have a box or boxes that are for use only when they’re working. Especially for things like conference calls, when you might need a little extra help keeping them entertained.

Since I’ve only just started looking into this myself, I can’t give you any cool photos of the ones I’ve created. But I promise to do a follow up post with what I come up with. For now, here’s a quick round up of some places where you can get some amazing ideas!

Teaching Mama – Busy Bags 101

Powerful Mothering – Ultimate Guide of Busy Bag Ideas – 100+ Ideas Sorted by Category

Little Bins For Little Hands – 25 Low Prep Busy Boxes or Busy Bags Activities

Intentional By Grace – Why I Use Busy Boxes For My Toddler & Baby

The Domestic Four – DIY Quiet Time Busy Boxes

Some children are more tactile than others, and some children have trouble properly processing their senses (SPD). For these children, sensory bins are a great twist on the busy boxes/bags concept.

Love Play and Learn – Sensory Bin 101

Kids Activities Blog – Over 200 Sensory Bins For Tactile Fun

Play At Home Mom LLC – 50 Sensory Bin Ideas


Have you ever used busy boxes/bags for your children? What were some of your favorite items for those boxes?



14 Tips For Running a Business With a Baby


Abigail - 1 Day Old
Abigail – 1 Day Old

For the month of February, I’ll be chatting about different ways to run a business when you’ve got kiddos. Next week I’ll cover working around toddlers, week after will be school-aged kids, and today I’ll be talking about running a business with a baby.

2 weeks before Christmas 2014, I was told that the sonographer might have miscalculated my due date, and I might in fact be having the baby on Christmas Day. She didn’t end up arriving until the 2nd week of January (my originally calculated due date), but the lesson is clear: Make sure you’re ready, well before the baby actually arrives.

It’s human nature… there’s 9 months to prep for a baby’s arrival, but rarely do we feel prepared when it’s go-time. So if you’ve got a sweet bundle on the way, try to be as ready as possible before their arrival.


Every baby responds differently, so your mileage with each of these may vary.

1. Baby swing

Just like any tech, these have come a long way over the years. When I was a baby, the swings were a bit noisy, and they’d run through batteries pretty quickly. I remember younger siblings being manually pushed periodically as the battery’s drain caused the swing to go slower, and slower.

Now they last longer than ever, some of them can be plugged into the wall with an AC adaptor, and my very favorites swing 2 ways. They can sing forward/backward like traditional baby swings, but also side-to-side.

Of course, the cooler the swing, the more spendy it is, but you can get one with all of the above features for just under $150.*


2. Cradle

Cradles are super portable, and this allows you to work but still have the baby near you. Sometimes all they want is to be able to see Mama, and hear her voice.

These have a very limited time that they can be used, because as they get bigger and begin rolling over, the cradle is no longer a safe option. So if you can get one on sale, or just pass it on when you’re done so it continues to be useful, that would be a great way to go.

3. Baby wrap

I’m definitely not an expert on this topic, so I’ll link you to some resources for this.

What I can tell you is that there are tons of options for baby-wearing. You can use sling wraps, stretch wraps, woven wraps… you’re sure to find one that will work for you and your baby.

Also, you can often find local babywearing groups, many of which have a “lending library” so you can test out different baby wraps/carriers.

Babywearing 101

Babywearing Safety

Kinds of Carriers


4. Flexible (but set) hours

Okay so now you’re probably wondering… how can you have set hours, but still be flexible? Okay… what I mean by this is, be prepared to work around your baby (and if you have other kids, then be prepared to work around all of their individual needs).

But while you’re working around your baby’s feeding/sleeping/clingy schedule, make sure that you’re not working 24/7. Set parameters to work within. Hours that you will not be working.

If you wake up at 3am to feed the baby, don’t try to check your email. You might be awake enough to read it, but you run the risk of not being awake enough to answer it clearly. Make your off-work hours sacred for baby snuggles, kid cuddles, husband-time, Netflix binging, and (hopefully) sleep.

5. Batching

One simple way to be super productive, is to batch your tasks. For example, if you get ready to schedule your social media posts for the day, go ahead and schedule your posts for the week (or the next 2 days, or however much you have time for).

6. Work in Cycles

If you (like a lot of creatives) like to bounce around from project to project, a good way to make sure you stay focused is to use an app like 30/30.

Based on the Pomodoro technique, this app lets you create a set of tasks (and allot an amount of time that you want to spend). I also schedule in fun things like dance breaks, or a coloring break, and I schedule in Facebook time.

If I schedule in fun time, and social media breaks, I’m more like to stay on focus for the rest of my tasks.

7. Maximum Impact/Minimum Time

If you’ve only got a short time amount of time (which isn’t unusual for moms) figure out what will give you the biggest result for the least amount of time.

Here’s a hint for figuring out your most likely focus: what are your money makers? Answering emails is quick, but probably not your biggest bang for your buck.

If you’re an author, then put that small spot of time into writing. You may not be able to write a whole chapter, but if you get a page or two done, that’s one step closer than you were. If you’re a photographer, work on editing a session, or create an ad for your next season.

8. Automate

This works really well in coordination with batching. Write a bunch of blog posts over a weekend, and schedule them out for the rest of the month. Write up your social media posts over an hour, and schedule them out for the next week.

The more you can batch/automate, the more time you’ll have for focusing on your maximum impact activities… painting, editing, writing, etc.

9. Discuss Family Roles

Having a family meeting before the baby arrives can help answer questions, and set minds at ease. This gives you the opportunity to reassure your older children that they’re still important, and discuss with your husband what a good schedule will be.

You can use family meetings to plan out set days off, or make everyone aware of upcoming calls/appointments/creative sessions. These are also a great time to discuss plans for your next family day… will it be a game night? Movie night? Are you ordering pizza?


Self Care

10. Plenty of Sleep

It should go without saying, but we’re Moms. So it bears repeating. Less sleep doesn’t just mean less energy. It means slower reflexes, reduced logical thinking, and less patience. All of these are vital for a business owner, but they’re extremely important for a mom.

I tell my kids… “Mommy needs a nap so she won’t be cranky later”. Simple, but true.

11. Accept Help

Some people accept help readily.

I am NOT one of those people. I’m stubborn, and fiercely independent to my own detriment at times.

But especially when the baby arrives, you need all the help you can get. So if someone offers to bring food, LET THEM. Soon enough everyone will go their own way and you’ll find yourself staring at the clock, wishing the pizza fairy would stop by your house.

And if your husband or older kids want to help around the house, LET THEM.

I have a bad habit of wanting to go back behind my kids and re-do what they’ve done. I used to do this to my husband too… he has his own style when it comes to folding the laundry.

But when I redo what they’ve done, they notice. And they think they shouldn’t even try… why bother, Mom’s just going to redo it anyway. I don’t want to foster an atmosphere where my children (or husband) no longer feel like their efforts are appreciated.

I also don’t want my children to be come extreme perfectionists either.

12. Don’t Start Back TOO Soon

If this is your first baby, this advice goes triple for you. Babies take more time than you’ve probably even considered. And this isn’t bad at all… these are precious times, and if you dive fullbore into your business, you can miss some amazing times with your little snugglebug.

Feel free to ease yourself back into work. This isn’t a 12-week maternity leave job. And your business doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

13. Time For You

Sometimes we over complicate this one… “Oh I’ve got a full day, there’s just no time for me.”

Alexandra Stoddard* talks a lot about creating little moments throughout your day… making things (even mundane things) as pleasant as they can possibly be.

So maybe you don’t have time to go get your hair done, or have coffee with a friend, but you can create moments…

  • Get handcrafted soap and turn your showers into an experience
  • Turn email into an experience by having your favorite tea while you go through it
  • Buy a wonderful coloring book, and some nice pencils, and pause periodically for a coloring break (you don’t have to color an entire page… you can do pieces at a time)
  • Pause for a dance break!

14. Support Network

I can’t underline this one enough. Having a support network can be a serious lifeline.

Some people don’t have supportive husbands, and I hate that, because mine is wonderfully supportive. He’s more supportive of me, than I am. Ha! Seriously though…

But even if your husband is awesome, one person doesn’t create a network. So you need to have several peeps that you can go to. Try having one or two people for different areas of your life… a family member that you can vent to, a business associate who can give you perspective (or feedback on a new project), a friend you can go on coffee dates with…. your network can be as big as you need it to be.

I’d love to hear you from YOU now. What are your go-to tips for running a biz with a wee one around?

*anything with an asterisk indicates an affiliate link. Money received from affiliate purchases goes towards coffee, books, and world domination.