Category Archives: Favorites

Springtime

We had a really fun weekend. Lots of chores but also a good dose of family time.   Have to balance things out, right?  The biggest project happening at our house is ripping out the lower deck.  On the east side of the house we have decks that run the length of the house both upstairs and downstairs.  My husband has had his eye on the lower deck for a while now because he knew the redwood was getting old and starting to rot.

He talked to a cement contractor and they came up with a plan to pour a patio and get rid of the redwood deck.  If you have a wooden deck, you know how much maintenance they can be – it is a ton of work to keep the railings painted. Especially in our climate where the summers are quite hot and winters very cold.  The paint just peels constantly with the contraction and expansion of the wood each season.

To save on the cost, Ray is tearing out the deck and getting rid of the piles of wood he is removing.  It is a lot of work, but also a lot of money saved. My father came over Saturday to help with stacking the bad wood and cleaning any re-usable boards (pulling the nails and stacking in a different spot.) My job was to clean the junk off the deck, and provide lots of water and lunch.  (I know, I got off easy!)

By Sunday afternoon, Ray had made significant progress.  He thinks he is just over 30% done.  He has two more weekends to finish and then they will start to build the patio in the beginning of June.  I am really excited about this project. It is going to be so pretty. We have mature rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas that will form a lush border along the edge of the patio.

Other activities this weekend included celebrating Julia’s birthday and Julia’s Junior Prom.  She went to prom with a group of kids in her class and had a wonderful time. I am sharing a picture of Julia and her sweet friend, posing with their shoes.  My daughter is very pragmatic and said she didn’t want to wear heels because they would hurt by the end of the night. Try as I might, I couldn’t convince her otherwise (she is a person who knows her mind and this is actually something I admire in her!) What do you think?

Julia fears the cake is a disaster!

For her birthday, Julia asked for a vanilla cake with strawberry filling and chocolate frosting.  I got to work on what turned out to be one of the ugliest cakes ever made!  (More importantly, it tasted delicious). The problem was I tried to split the round layers and the cake crumbled.  I had cheated and used a cake mix (c’mon, it was such a busy day!). Making a cake from scratch would have resulted in a denser cake and probably would have split fine.  This cake was too light and didn’t hold up to ‘construction’.

We were laughing so hard at this point.  It was hysterical.  Once I got to this stage, I put it in the fridge for a while to let it firm up a bit before icing it.  Also, I was praying that somehow a miraculous repair would occur and the cake would no longer look such a mess!

Icing the cake helped a little bit but If I am honest, the cake ended up looking like a six year old made it. The walnut cake plate Ray made for me added some beauty to an otherwise ugly dessert!

No matter though, it tasted really good and we had fun singing to Julia for her 17th birthday. As always, I found myself wondering how 17 years could possibly have gone by.

Each year on Mother’s Day, I have conflicting feelings of joy and bittersweet nostalgia.  Back in 1994, my first husband (my boys’ dad) passed away suddenly from an aneurysm in his brain stem.  He was only 36 and it was tragic beyond description. I haven’t ever mentioned it here. because how does one fit this sort of story in?  Anyway, to make awful things even worse, he died on Mother’s Day. For his mother, this was truly awful.  Time went by, I remarried and we had Julia.  When I found out I was due the second week of May, it sort of nagged at me. I kept thinking I didn’t want her to be born on May 8th because that was the day my husband passed away. One day I was talking about this fear to my mother in law (the second one, I am lucky to have two great mother in laws!). She very wisely told me I shouldn’t worry.  She said the birth of this baby was going to take this sad time of year and make it joyful.  She was exactly, completely, and utterly correct and I am forever grateful to her for her wise words. Celebrating Julia’s birthday each year, sometimes actually on Mother’s Day, has turned the whole thing around and made this a very joyful season for me.

I hope you also had a great weekend. I haven’t done any sewing since last week.  Yesterday was spent with a migraine so I am hoping today or tomorrow I will find my way into the sewing room. I have projects all over that I want to be working on!!  Just look at the mess that is my sewing space!  I need to take control in there and get things cleared up.

Tomorrow I will share the May Blogger Bundle.  Curated by Jayne Willis of Twiggy & Opal, it is another beautiful bundle!  See you tomorrow.

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Needle and Foot blog, podcast and newsletter recommendations

Podcast and Newsletter Review

Lately it seems that almost every blog I open has a pop up asking if I would like to sign up for the related newsletter. I rarely sign up for them. My email fills up fast enough and what with reading and commenting on blogs, I don’t really need to start adding newsletters to filter through. Except for one. There is one newsletter that I do subscribe to and I truly look forward to receiving it each week. It arrives on Wednesday at 10:00 am PST, like clockwork. This is the newsletter that is published by Abby Glassenberg of While She Naps.


I am not sure exactly when I began reading Abby’s weekly newsletter but it has been quite a while now.  I haven’t a clue how she finds the time, being a full-time mom to three children, pattern designer, blogger, and book author but each week Abby puts together an amazingly helpful and interesting newsletter.  She gives a rundown on the most current happenings in the crafter’s world and provides tips and links that are very relevant to blogging. It is basically a one stop shop for all things crafter, blogger, and social media related. I appreciate that while she naturally uses the newsletter as a place to introduce her most current blog post and what her next podcast will include; it isn’t just an advertisement for While She Naps. Abby curates a fantastic selection of links each week and I don’t think, even one time, she has included a link that I have already seen somewhere. I have come to the conclusion that Abby must run on very little sleep which is how she is able to spend so much time on her patterns, blog, podcasts and newsletter. She often publishes new opportunities for bloggers (that’s how I found out about Blogging for Books, the source of the books I have recently reviewed) as well as an abundance of useful information on blogging tools and the best use of the latest social media tools. I am so grateful for this weekly flow of information.

Since her blog and newsletter apparently doesn’t consume all of Abby’s time, she also has a weekly podcast. I only recently started listening to it. I have such a love of podcasts and had gotten into a routine of listening to my favorites. (If you want ideas, see this post.) For whatever reason, I finally listened to one of Abby’s. I am so glad I did. She has an affinity for selecting very interesting people to interview so my time spent listening is well worth it. Working my way through her library of podcasts while sewing over the past couple of weeks, I have listened to many wonderful discussions. Here are some examples.

  •  Malka Dubrawsky – Malka is one of my favorite fabric designers. In fact I used her line of fabrics in the Aurifil Block of the Month quilt I did a while back. I love her sense of color. Listening to her talk about her process of dying fabric, designing fabric, and running her business was a treat.
  • Alisa Burke – Alisa is a talented artist and the interview covered her decision to leave her day job and live her dream of being a full-time artist (in addition to a homeschooling mother) and the challenges she faced and successfully dealt with.
  • Amy Marston – the publisher at C&T Books. Hugely interesting discussion of what it is like to publish a craft book, what the company looks for, and how the process works. Even though I don’t have any desire to do something like this, it provided great insight into what the quilters who do publish books go through to get to their goal. Tons of work and not always a huge financial return. If nothing else, it has taught me to buy a quilter’s book directly from their website as that is where they get the most return (as opposed to buying it at Amazon.)
  • Stephen Fraser – one of the founders of Spoonflower. Great discussion of how Spoonflower got their start, what it is like to work there, how they choose employees, the work environment, where that technology is heading and even a fun talk about the esthetics of the Spoonflower offices.
  • Etsy – Abby has interviewed several people that work for Etsy. As an Etsy seller, these episodes are relevant and helpful for me. Her very direct interview style gets right to the topic at hand so I learn something each and every time.

There are so many more. I strongly encourage you to go to Abby’s podcast archives and browse the many episodes. You will surely find one (or twenty) episodes that will appeal to you. A unique feature of Abby’s interviews is the recommendation topic at the end of the episode. She asks the person that she is going to interview for their recommendations on books, podcasts, videos, websites, anything really – and they all discuss their favorites for just a few minutes when they wrap up the interview. I have a little notebook on the sewing table and it is filled with my penciled in notes from these discussions. Maybe someday I will have some time to check out all of the suggestions! There is only so much time in the day. Abby has somehow managed to turn her day into a much more efficient twenty-four hours than mine!

A Few Favorites

 I am pretty crazy about listening to either music or podcasts. There are various times during each day that I turn on one or the other. Weather permitting, I try to walk most days and love to listen while I walk (honestly, it helps distract me so that I walk a bit longer!) When I am working on a project that doesn’t require a lot of focus or when I am cooking, I will turn on a podcast. These bits of my day add up to lots of opportunity to listen during the day. Fortunately for me, there are about a billion amazing podcasts available.

While there are many amazing podcasts that are related to crafting, sewing or quilting, these are (surprisingly) not ones that I listen to regularly. Most likely, this is due to the fact that I read blogs on those subjects rather obssessively. I love the blogs I read and think that the visual media normally included with a blog post is perfect for those topics. Instead, I subscribe to a variety of non-sewing related podcasts. I wanted to share a few of my favorites. Maybe you’ll try one and love it. Or, possibly you are already listening to some of these and can share your favorite episodes in the comments.

My all time favorite is This American Life. This well known podcast is hosted by Ira Glass and subscribed to by millions of listeners. For years, TAL has been recording essays on various topics that are part of life in America.  Some of the episodes are politically based, some are hilarious bits of humor, many are just based on day to day life. They are creative and highly entertaining.  Essays have been done on compulsive gambling, summer time, Santa, holiday traditions, the process involved in selling cars, the abuse of the disability insurance system, what is a sociopath, siblings, babysitting, inner city high schools in Chicago; the list is both endless and fascinating.

It has only been a couple of months since I began subscribing to 99% Invisible. This fantastic podcast is hosted by Roman Mars. The podcast explains the origins of things that you never really think about and are then surprised to hear how they came to be. Examples of recent podcasts are the origin of consumer credit and credit cards, the origin of the Monopoly game, how fortune cookies came to be (and why they are standard fare in American Chinese restaurants but you won’t find them in China), and what the ‘use by’ and ‘sell by’ dates really mean on our food. I love listening to Roman talk about such ordinary parts of life, explaining how they came to be. It is fascinating. Remember back in the 1980’s when pictures of kidnapped and missing children were printed on our milk cartons? There is an excellent podcast on how that bgane and whether or not it was effective. So very interesting.

OK – here is another one. I love listening to Note to Self, hosted by Manoush Zomorodi.  Topics that Manoush covers are related in one way or another to technology. While I am not one to buy the latest and greatest gadgets and devices (case in point, my laptop weighs a ton. It is huge and several years old, but it basically works – so why replace it?) I do like knowing what is going on and how things work. Recent favorite episodes discussed how much is too much with regard to social media, whether multi tasking is actually helping us (it doesn’t help me – I tend to flit around and accomplish less if I don’t stay focused on a task), teens and sexting (that was a crazy good episode), video games and how they are developed and what the developers are trying to achieve (this one reminded me of the original behavioral psychology experiments with Pavlov’s dogs.) Another current episode talked to the people that coined the acronyms FOMO and JOMO. I had never heard of these and found it interesting to listen to them talking about the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) vs the Joy of Missing Out (JOMO). I won’t go into detail here; it is better to listen to them. Are these acronyms that you have heard of? Am I totally off my game here? Anyway, all of the episodes are relatable, current, and important.

Just one more – I also like the podcast, Death Sex and Money.  The title clearly describes the subject matter covered by Anna Sale on this podcast; important topics that aren’t always easy to discuss. I like this podcast and listen regularly though there have been a very few episodes that I skipped over. I am not into raunchy language and there are (just a few) episodes that were a little bit crass. Most of the topics are really interesting though. Some of my favorites include an episode about growing up and working as an undertaker in the family mortuary business, the story of a very young woman who adopted her sister’s six children, a heartwrenching interview with Jonathan Clark who lost his wife, Laurel, in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle explosion, and an interview with a ‘sex worker’ where they talk about why she does this sort of work, what it all means, and how it makes her feel.

There are many more podcasts out there but these are at the top of my list lately. They both enlighten and entertain me.It is the perfect way to balance my sewing time and listening time. Watching TV or movies while in the sewing room doesn’t really work for me; I find it too distracting. Listening to podcasts is perfect. There are lots of ways to access them and instructions are on each of the websites. I use a podcast app on my phone which makes it easy to access them when I want.

I would love suggestions for other podcasts. Be sure to let me know if you already listen to any of these and which episodes you’ve enjoyed!