OT—Survived my first week

  My new desk still sits in a box as my assembly has been rescheduled again. 

My new desk still sits in a box as my assembly has been rescheduled again. 

It’s Saturday, and I’ve officially survived my first week. It still feels good. But.... I still don’t have a desk. I didn’t realize we were supposed to have Monday off and scheduled myself three meetings that day. After today, I don’t have a day off scheduled until Thanksgiving. I haven’t touched my sewing machine. I had a 90% fail rate at making dinner. 

So clearly I still have some stuff to work out. :-)

I had planned several slow cooker meals this past week thinking about not having to cook when I got home, but didn’t get the time in the morning to do the prep that would be needed. By the time I got home, most nights I was too fried to even think about standing at the stove. DH gets home later than I do as he has a much longer commute, so if we wait for him to make dinner we’ll be eating at 9p. I need to do better meal planning around my schedule, it seems. Less slow cooker, more Instant Pot.

  A beautiful bonsai from my former colleagues

A beautiful bonsai from my former colleagues

Now, that being said, I was in the office fairly normal working hours this week, and that won’t continue. Once I really get into the swing of things, my day-to-day schedule will shuffle around based on when and where I have commitments. I did go through my calendar last night and designate certain days as “no meeting” days, and some days off. This is a reminder for me to not overschedule myself all the time. It’s easy to do, and I have an emphasis on being with people. However, I do need some time sitting at my desk for planning, administration, and email or phone calls, so I’m going to have to schedule it in for myself and keep it as sacrosanct as possible. As for days off, I’ve started scheduling those in too. Eventually it’ll settle down. For now, I need the visual reminders: “Don’t schedule anything on this day!!!”

  More greenery from a member of the region

More greenery from a member of the region

I head out of town for a few days this upcoming week, and the week after that is Thanksgiving, so it’ll be early December before I can really work on getting into any sort of routine that includes gym time and sewing. (I do have a few days off around Thanksgiving so Black Friday Sew-In, here I come!)

I’m writing this post far less for all of you, my readers, than I am for myself. I’m reminding myself: Don’t overschedule. Rework meal planning. Designate days off. Sew. Exercise.

   Aug-dog   is always ready for some cuddles.

Aug-dog  is always ready for some cuddles.

And hug my dogs on a regular basis.

Letting Fabric Live

So I was all ready to “off” another jelly roll by whipping up a second jelly roll rug today. I even had in my head where it might go in my house. And, of course, since I’d already made one, this second one would go ever so much faster and turn out even better. At least in Sandy’s Make-Believe World it would, and that’s a happy place to live.

But I never got the chance to find out.

I started my sewing retreat day this morning by pulling a jelly roll out of my strip drawer that’s been in there at least eight years. Remember Moda’s Portobello Market from 3 Sisters? It was all the rage back then. I figured I’d had it so long and had never found a use for it that I might as well whip it up into a rug.

As I was pressing the strips (those darn wrinkles in the fold again!), though, I totally fell in love with the fabric all over again. I kept trying to picture it as a rug and thought, “I just can’t do that to these strips!” Too many of the gorgeous prints would totally disappear.

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So after I got them all pressed, I pulled one of my many jelly roll pattern books off my shelf and flipped through it for awhile, and now this is happening.

I’m using another fabric that’s been in my stash for eons as the background. All in all, it feels good to be using up some fabrics, especially ones that have been haunting me for so freaking long.

Of course, this is going to take longer to finish than a rug would.

And, of course, I’m totally ignoring all the UFOs I’ve already got stacked up.

Oh well.

I think I’ll be making besties with a long-armer soon to knock out a bunch of those UFOs. It’ll be money well spent!

I do still plan on making another rug—but I think I’ll use a bunch of my scrap strips on it instead and focus on color designing rather than just using a packaged jelly roll. Might be more fun, even. We’ll see.

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Meanwhile, Auggie had a couple of days at his new doggie day care this week (one only 5 minutes from my house), getting ready for when I’m back to work next week. The day care owner had told me that Tuesdays and Thursdays were her “puppy days” and Augs would probably find lots of friends to match his energy levels, so that’s what I’m shooting for. Once I’m at work, though, it’ll all depend on my schedule in any given week. He doesn’t need to be in every day—I’m mostly doing this to burn his energy so he’s not pestering Old Princess Doggie (who just turned 14 a couple of weeks ago) out of boredom. I can alternate days because it takes Auggie a full 24 hours to sleep off a day in day care, LOL. The owner texts pictures of the pups every afternoon. After several pictures of these two wrestling, I particularly enjoyed this one where Auggie (right) and his new buddy have clearly worn each other out. Yay!

Speaking of which, time to go pick my day care doggie up, bring him home, and let Princess Doggie spend 10 minutes sniffing him. Basically, Auggie being in day care is also bringing Spencer some in-home entertainment for her nose.

Look, Ma, I have a finish!

I started out with this.

  (Artisan Spirit Water Garden by Northcott.)

(Artisan Spirit Water Garden by Northcott.)

And this. Because I felt too lazy at the moment to cut strips from my leftover batting.

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Unfortunately, when I opened up the jelly roll, the insides looked like this.

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So I had to do this.

Eventually, a podcast episode or two later, I ended up with this.

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I’m sorry to say, this gave its life for the cause.

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Soon I was able to start doing this.

For hours. And hours. Sheesh, it felt like it took for-freakin’-ever.

But finally, yay! I got to this!

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I wound it into a ball as per the directions, and the final step went by speedy-speedy compared to the rest of the process. Within a couple of hours, I had this.

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Well, that and a new iron.

So, my first jelly roll rug is complete. I’ve learned a few things along the way. I had difficulty choosing thread and now that I know what really does end up being visible I’d have made different choices. But trust the pattern—when it says to wind five bobbins before starting, wind five bobbins. I went through four and some.

I did my best not to let it get wonky (kidney-shaped) during the first few passes but my first few rows were way off. I was able to beat it back into almost-submission as I continued to go around that curve so it didn’t end up as bad as it started. I’m not sure I liked the way the pattern described the initial start, but now that I’ve made one I have a better idea what to look out for.

This was meant to be a gift. I haven’t decided if I like it enough to actually send it off. On the other hand, I don’t necessarily want to keep it around, either. I like those colors but I have none of them in my house. So I’ll ponder a bit.

This is addictive. I could easily see myself making more and, next time, actually cutting the batting strips to use up some of my odd left-over pieces.

Sew Sampler Unboxing Video (and a little about life)

It was faster for me to do a vlog post yesterday. So you get to see me unboxing the October Sew Sampler box as well as talking a little about life.

And the end of the story was that I got 1 1/2 months done and started month 3. It would’ve been two complete but one of the months was missing a couple of pieces. I emailed Kimberly at Cotton Cuts yesterday and already heard back today that they’re sending the missing pieces—woo! (Great customer  service!)


Dia Active Box

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Finally! I signed up for the Dia Active box probably about two months ago. I knew it would be a wait—it was a new launch for them. But it was a longer wait than I thought. Still, as my weight is going up and down many of my work-out clothes aren’t particularly comfortable for me anymore. I wanted something I wouldn’t want to rip off as soon as possible. Thought it would be worth a shot.

Not a bad first box, all things considered!

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First off, a pretty comfortable sports bra. (Yep, I was heading to the gym shortly after I opened the box so this got used right away.) The zip front makes it easy to get on and off—a perennial issue with sports bras. I’m not sure this would be sufficient for high impact but I’m not doing that these days anyway because of my foot. VERDICT: Keep.

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Next up, the first of three tops. I’m actually showing the back here so you can see the detail. I don’t normally go for “Mad Max” decorations but it’s relatively subtle and the shirt is so soft, comfy, and a great color, I’ll live with it. Yep, also wore this one to the gym right away. VERDICT: Keep.

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The second top fit well and is a nice teal (the photo took all the green out of the blue—really, it’s a dark teal). It was a nice cooling fabric. I just didn’t like the way it looked on me. VERDICT: Return.

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The third shirt is a baseball style that I didn’t even particularly like to wear when I was in middle school and it was all the rage. It fit well enough and was a great wicking fabric. It did hang a little oddly in the sides—I think it was actually a little big on me. In any case, it didn’t jazz me enough to spend money on it. VERDICT: Return.

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Finally, the box finished with a pair of Capri work-out pants. I tried these on and immediately decided to keep them, even though I’m not usually a fan of Capri length. (Having to shave my legs just to go to the gym? Pshaw.) But these are super comfortable and a great fabric, and the design on the leg is fun and unique. VERDICT: Keep. I also wore these to the gym right away. They’re actually a bit big through the hips—when have I ever been able to say THAT before???—but they didn’t move at my waist as I was working out so it’s all good.

3 out of 5 on the first box isn’t bad! I’m getting another box in a month—I need to replace some way old workout gear that just isn’t cutting it any more. It’s nice having stuff that feels comfortable to wear! 

Stitch Fix October 2018 Unboxing

If you didn’t read the previous post about Causebox, here’s the update: Auggie ate my tripod so I can’t do a video unboxing at the moment.  

I had a flurry of boxes towards the end of the summer when I knew I’d be having to build up an actual work wardrobe, now that I’ll be out in public most days rather than working from a home office. I then put them all back on the usual rotation, so I’m getting a StitchFix now, and Natalie Attired and Dia will be coming in a few weeks. (I do finally have a Dia Activewear box coming but that’s a whole other story so stay tuned for that one.) 

With apologies for the bad lighting on a rainy day, here’s what came in this month’s Stitch Fix. I’d asked my stylist (Patience), for tops that would go with a couple of tricky-to-coordinate-with blazers I’ve gotten in previous boxes. I also asked for a roomy pull-over sweater that I could layer, and said that scarves are always favorite accessories. Here’s what she sent. 

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This sleeveless top is meant to go under my olive blazer from a couple of Stitches ago. Although I love the fabric and print, I don’t like not having wider straps to cover my bra straps, even if I’m wearing it under a jacket. Also, the lattice work down the center didn’t hang quite straight when I tried it on. VERDICT: Return.

 


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This scarf is wonderfully soft, a nice weight (pretty lightweight but not sheer), and has great colors for my fall wardrobe.

Plus, we all know what a fan of scarves I am.

VERDICT: Keep.


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This green top was meant to go with the strange-blue blazer I’ve been working on finding something to coordinate with for several boxes now. It’s a great top in terms of shape and color (it’s a pretty emerald green, even though it may not quite look it in the photo), and the way it drapes, but it’s super-sheer. You can see how much the tags are showing through. I was disappointed. This would’ve probably been a keeper if it had been a slightly heavier fabric. Yes, I could layer it over a cami, but I struggle with tops that I can only wear if I have to wear something underneath them. Even in the cooler months that can get too warm.

Plus, even though color-wise it worked fine with the blue blazer, there was something funky about the two necklines—they didn’t play nicely together. VERDICT: Return.


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Yes, I’d asked for a pull-over sweater, but although I can look at this objectively and say it’s a cute sweater, it’s really not at all me. I didn’t even bother trying it on because I didn’t want to be tempted by the “Well, it does fit” demon. Sometimes I’m so glad to have something fit I talk myself into thinking I’ll like wearing it. And then I don’t. It’s also incredibly soft and I didn’t want that demon to come into play either. So it was better for me to just leave it in the box and not even pretend. VERDICT: Return.


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Finally, this was the only item in the box that was a total loser for me even at first glance. There’s something about the colors or the way the stripe works or something that was a total turn-off for me. Other people could easily love it. I just couldn’t. (And yes, the color is actually pretty true in this—it’s sort of a dark brick red.)

I did try it on just for the sake of argument and nope, it was still a turn-off. VERDICT: Return.

So if you’re playing along at home and keeping track, out of the five items, I only kept the scarf. That’s fine by me—I’ve been adding enough to my wardrobe anyway! 

And I just got a notice today that my Dia Active box has finally shipped—woo! Looking forward to seeing how that one works. So stay tuned!

Subscription Box Unboxing: Causebox

So, two things:

1. I was gone this weekend for a work event and between going with a mild cold and ending up with bad allergies while there, I’m down for the count and not particularly up for doing a video unboxing, which is good because, in any case... 

2. Auggie ate my tripod.  

Well, to be accurate, last week Auggie chewed up the piece that holds my iPhone on my tripod to do a video unboxing.* That one little piece renders the tripod useless. I’m looking into plan Bs. Meanwhile, I have to go back to photo blogs for the unboxing. (Sorry about the odd coloring on the photos—it’s a very dark and rainy day and I was taking pictures in my dining room which has a chandelier with red shades, so everything’s a bit rosier than normal.)

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I’ve looked at Causebox for awhile and finally decided to subscribe as a gift to myself when I got the new job. Causebox comes four times a year and is a social entrepreneurship box. In other words, it contains items that give back to women who create them and/or portions of proceeds go to not-for-profits benefitting women in poverty. This is my first box. I was very excited to get it!


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The box comes with a multi-page pamphlet that describes all the items and the women supported by the proceeds. The box itself features designs by different women artists each time—I almost hate to recycle the box! If only it were archival cardboard so I could use it for quilt storage.    

 

 

 


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You can see a totebag laying on top of the box. Now, mind you, I’m not exactly needing yet another totebag. But this is a really nice one, so it’s definitely a keeper! It’s very sturdy canvas and extremely well constructed. A zipper pocket and little keychain clasp are on one interior side, and some open pockets on the other.

This totebag is October Jaipur brand, a company owned by Akash Sinha and Rabia Singh, college classmates who decided to design modern products connected to their Indian roots, employing local artisans and paying good wages. (Check out their website—they have a lot of nice products!)


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It has a nice little slip pocket on the outside, but I think it’s a bit too small for my cell phone. I’ve got my hand pushed to the bottom so you can get a feel for the size of the pocket.

The "vegan leather” handles fit comfortably over my shoulder, although I would wish they were a little wider if I had the totebag really weighed down. Still, it’ll be a nice totebag to grab for the random farmer’s or craft market trip, or to pack more for quilt retreats (if I ever get back to one, that is).


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And here’s everything that was hiding under the totebag.

The paper filler and the box are all recycled materials.


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The next item I pulled out of the box was a scarf. We all know how much I love scarves! Indeed, I have to confess, it was probably pictures of scarves included in previous boxes that enticed me the most.

This scarf is from Bloom & Give. Partha Raghunatha and Madhu Rajendran created this handwoven textile company to support projects that send girls to school. The Causebox partnership allowed them to complete funding for a camp for 50 girls in Rajasthan (India), adolescents who had dropped out of school to help out at home or on the farm, or due to arranged marriages. They spend summer in the camp to study hard to catch up with their peers so they can go to high school or sit for the GED, making them more able to get better jobs or go to college.

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This is a wonderfully soft, light-weight scarf that I will absolutely be wearing this fall!


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Paper Source is a company owned by Winnie Park. The company creates handmade paper with makers in India, Nepal, and Japan. This particular set of notecards is made with recycled cotton scraps and remnants from the garment industry. The pamphlet also states that the paper is made using “human intensive techniques and solar power instead of heavy machinery.” It feels and looks beautiful! Who knows, I might even start writing by hand again.


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I’m not typically a fan of eye shadow palettes like this as you only end up using one or two and the rest go to waste. I also don’t change up my eye shadow colors all that often—I tend to find one that works well and stick with it for, you know, years. However, I have to say this one looks promising, and I absolutely love the color names.

They also included a shadow brush from the same company, so I’m looking forward to some play time.

The company is named RealHer. It produces vegan and cruelty-free products. The founder, Bill Xiang, apparently started the company after the birth of his first daughter, and realized the “standards and messaging of the beauty industry” were not what he wanted for her. There’s a positive affirmation in each product. 20% of the proceeds go to the American Association of University Women. They’ve also donated to other organizations, such as for breast cancer research, LGBTQ groups, and organizations that provide makeovers and products for women in hospice and those who are homeless.


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Natura Brasil is a beauty product company committed to sustainability. They use mostly recycled packaging, water reclamation systems, and have been carbon-neutral since 2007. They source their ingredients from local communities, which creates better economic opportunities for those families.

I haven’t had the opportunity to try this one out yet, but I’m game.


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Finally, the thermal bottle. This is so cool, although I already have so many water bottles I’m not sure how much use it will get.

It’s not in the pamphlet because the item that was supposed to be in the box (a hand-carved wooden cutting board) had run out before they’d managed to fill all the box subscriptions, so those of us who were late to the game got the water bottle instead. It’s from Swell, the “fastest growing woman-owned company” in the U.S.

It’s very beautiful and feels nice to hold. I went on the website to check out what else they had and would’ve preferred one of the other designs, but hey, this works. I suspect this will be better for my husband tail-gating at Bills games if he doesn’t think it looks too frou-frou for that purpose, LOL.

So, all in all, I really enjoyed this Causebox. Oh—and the pamphlet includes coupons for all the companies featured in the box so I may be doing a little more shopping (ahem, scarves). I’ll get the next one sometime in the winter—looking forward to it!

*He’s clearly entering his second childhood—he’s been chewing up a lot lately. We’re dealing with it but it’s a good thing he’s so dang cute because otherwise....

Jelly Roll Rug and Thread Treat

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So here’s the most recent project that’s caught my eye: the jelly roll rug. I know some of you have been making them. And I’ve been admiring.

You may recall that one of my goals has been to use up my boatload of jelly rolls and 2 1/2” strips. I’m not sure where a rug like this would end up being used in my house but I’m sure it will be! 

I ordered the pattern and two rolls of the 2 1/2” batting today from The Fat Quarter Shop. Yeah, I know I don’t really need the pattern as there are tons of videos and tutorials out there on it, but I’m not in the mood to think at the moment, plus I like supporting indie pattern designers. Also, I know I could cut my own dang strips of batting (and have scraps I could use up) but, again, for now, there’s the “not wanting to have to think” thing paired with the “instant gratification” thing I’ve got going on. So little time to sew, don’t really want to spend most of it slicing and dicing and piecing mini batting strips together to get the length I need. Maybe for a second rug down the line... 

I have two weeks off between my jobs and yes, indeed, I plan to spend a lot of that in the sewing room.  

And maybe I’ll end up with a cute little area rug to brighten up my new office in November.  

Oh, and the thread treat? While I was on the Fat Quarter Shop website I succumbed to the lure of their Aurifil Thread Club. I haven’t bitten that hook for a couple of years now because I don’t want to end up with boatloads of odd-colored thread (I mostly use neutrals). But I’m an Aurifil girl, so maybe having pretty pretty threads hitting my sewing room every month will keep me in said sewing room, you know, sewing! 

A Life Update—Significant Changes

So for those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, you now know (although you may not have realized it) why I haven’t been posting a whole lot these last few months. I was in a process that I couldn’t talk about publicly—and that was the main thing taking up all my brain power, so I never felt like I had much else I wanted to talk about. I have just accepted a new ministry position that will start in early November. I finish my current position in late October. Although I’m still denominational staff, it’s in a very different way: the new position will be REALLY new for me—all sorts of a learning curve. I. Can’t. Wait. It feels very, very right. I’m already being welcomed in by my new networks-to-be and my calendar is already filling up with requests for my time. I’m looking forward to having new challenges in front of me.

On the other hand, I will really miss the women I’ve been working with for the last 17 years. I’ve been getting wonderful messages of support since the news went public. I joked with a friend of mine that reading Facebook and email has become a sort of “This Is Your Life, Sandra Hasenauer,” with people sharing memories and moments that I’d entirely forgotten about. It’s been very bittersweet. Fortunately, we’re a small enough denomination that I know I’ll keep running into many of them at denominational events in the future. Still, I’m going from a network of relationships I’ve grown quite comfortable with and close to, to having to build an entirely new one. We’ve talked about that introvert thing before! 

What that has meant for the blog and podcast is that I just haven’t felt like I had much to say since I couldn’t yet talk about the thing that was taking up most of my attention. I haven’t been at my sewing machine much, I haven’t done any embroidery, and there are even bigger cobwebs in my dye studio than there were when I was in school. I have been sort of living life in limbo, in a way. Funny how our mental state can have an impact on everything else. It’s not that I’ve been particularly busy or anxious. I just had difficulty wanting to focus on anything. 

And now, having officially gotten the new position, I’m still not sure what my future will look like. I strongly suspect it will be a lot busier than it’s been. I’ll have a lot more travel on my schedule, although it’ll largely be more in my control rather than being told where I need to be and when. I’ll be preaching a lot more, and bringing greetings and generally being present at congregational and community events. I think there are a lot of chicken and spaghetti dinners in my future. I’ll be on the phone a LOT, and I’ll be spending a lot of time in coffee shops with folks, and I know for sure I’ll be in meetings. And then there’s all that administrative stuff that will still be on my desk for when I am not in coffee shops or on phones or eating chicken or preaching.

I haven’t officially gotten myself to put the podcast to bed, but I will be honest with you and say it’s extremely unlikely I’ll have the time to get back to it. I think the only reason I haven’t just cut it off is more from affectionate memory of enjoying doing it than a realistic expectation it will ever happen again. (I think iTunes may have cut me off at this point anyway.) I’m trying to get my mojo back for quilting because I know that it’s great stress relief. I think I have to start putting it into my calendar like everything else instead of just thinking “well, I’ll do it if I have time.” When I have time, I’m still more inclined to sit down with a novel. 

But now that the deed is done and I have been officially voted in and notification has gone out to my current organization so we can all just move on, I am working on setting up new schedules, new habits, new plans. The podcast won’t be a part of it. But quilting and embroidery will be. So this blog will return to talking about interesting sewing stuff and not just be about clothing subscription boxes. Although there will still be some of that—after all, I’m no longer working in a home office and have needed to ratchet up the ol’ work wardrobe! 

Thanks for your patience, and stay tuned! 

Trunk Club Try-On--Input Needed!

I have extremely mixed feelings about Trunk Club, but every time I decide I'll never do it again they come through with a bit of a win. Frequently the stylist sends me things I'd never in a million years wear, and some things that, although I might normally consider them, the price point is too high. This time, however, there are several things in the box that I'm seriously debating, so I need your input.

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Here's what the box looks like when you open it up--not very fancy like some of the subscription boxes, but you're also getting a lot more stuff. It varies by box, but this time I had two pairs of shoes, two pairs of pants, two cardigans, two jackets, three tops, and a bracelet. I feel like maybe there was even more than that. Between the pics and video below, you'll see all of them.


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The jewelry included this time was a very nice gold (plated) bracelet with an interesting pull-tie type of closure. It's pretty and, if I weren't keeping other things, I might have seriously considered it.  At $35, it's higher than I normally go for bracelets (most of mine have been bought at flea markets for around $10!) but still reasonable, especially for Nordstroms. However, I don't wear bracelets all that often and I've got plenty for the times I do wear them, so although I liked it, this is a return.


I've returned to the try-on videos for everything else. Let me know what you think! By the way, I said in the video a few times I only had three days to decide. Trunk Club is actually a five day decision-period. So I'll wait to do my return until Monday. That gives you the weekend to help me decide! (And by the way, I've already decided to keep the coral "babydoll" style top--in fact, I'm wearing it today because it's stinkin' hot and muggy out!)

As I'm posting this, YouTube is still processing the video. I have to run out the door for appointments so I can't wait. If you try to watch this immediately and you can't get the video--try it again later. The video is about 12 1/2 minutes long. You can use YouTube's tools to click through faster if you'd like. When I get back from my appointments I'll try to remember to update this blog post with more information about the clothes--in a hurry right now!

 

Modeling Monday (StitchFix August 2018)

Okay, so I got some feedback that you really prefer seeing the clothes on. Much as I'm not keen with post-foot-surgery-weight-gain, here goes. 

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I got my StitchFix box on Friday and it would've been 5-for-5 except this canvas tote that was way too close to one they'd sent me the first year. I use that one all the time--in fact, it's currently my flute lesson tote--but I really don't need a replica. In the grand schemes of things, other than the fabric, color, and materials, it's a different tote--this one is more hand-bag sized and shaped, and I like the little zipper pouch, but it's nothing I really see myself using all the time at the moment. However, I have a sister-in-law that expressed interest so it's already been passed along.


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I'd asked my stylist for "transitional" items--things I could feasibly wear now in the summer but would transition easily into cooler weather in the fall.

This sleeveless top totally fits the bill! It's a Daniel Rainn Marcelle Tie Neck Top. I'm not good at identifying fabrics that aren't 100% cotton (hazards of being a quilter and not a garment sewer), but it's got sort of a silky feel to it, although it's not sheer. It fits beautifully and absolutely makes my boho side happy. And due to the colors, it'll easily work in the fall under cardigans of various fall hues. I've already worn this to a family event this weekend and was very comfortable in 85 degree heat. Definite keeper!


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Speaking of "under a cardigan..."

This is the Honey Belle Rivington Textured Open Cardigan. It does work perfectly with this top, although I'd probably usually go with a navy blue cardigan (or a rust or gold, which will go on my next "ask" for my stylist). It's arguably not the best color for me but, honestly, up here in snow country, people don't tend to quibble about what thick, comfy cardigan you're wearing when the snow is flying outside. This is a good mid-weight knit. Too warm to wear right now but won't break me into a sweat in the fall. (I have another comfy cardigan that I can only wear when it's at its coldest outside because it's too heavily knit.) This will be a good office-cardy. 


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I can't wait until I can start wearing this one! It's a very lightweight knit but it's so hot and humid today that I immediately wanted to rip it off as soon as I took this pic.

This is the Laila Jayde Bowie 3/4 sleeve Dolman Knit top. Again, it's a lightweight knit so it'll be absolutely perfect as our nights get cooler and then into the fall. I do have to wear a cami under it as the neckline is a little low--and it's a slouchy design so the neckline tends to work its way even lower pretty quickly. 

It's casual but given my normal work environment I could wear it with nicer pants and maybe a cami with a little lace on top and still get away with it for a lot of my work events, which is nice. And with a funky scarf in the fall? Sold! 


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I like this shirt, I'm not happy with the way I currently look in this shirt, but it'll be good motivation to get back on that bandwagon. If I can focus, I should be easily able to look a little more "smooth" in this shirt by early winter, and it's a shirt I'd easily wear until next spring.

This is the Daniel Rainn Darrel Crochet Yoke Knit Top. Although it's a bit clingy, it's not actually at all uncomfortable or tight. With the pleating down the front it would actually be pretty slimming, so for now I'll likely just wear it under jackets or blazers or whatnot until I can deal with some issues. Meanwhile, I like the fact that it has the crochet top but isn't as revealing as many lace or crochet tops are. The shape of the hem is also pretty flattering--or would be, anyway.

It's a basic navy top I can easily throw on with jeans or dress pants and feel presentable. The fabric is nicely breathable too, so even though this is long sleeve I didn't feel as immediately warm in it today as I did in the dolman knit top. 


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Now, back to my first Dia & Co box and the deliberation over the yellow top. I thought, as long as I was modeling clothes for you, I'd go ahead and snap a pic of me wearing the top so you can see what I mean about the color. 

Although it's a little tough to see in the bathroom lighting, you can tell I immediately look washed out. However, I just love the shape and feel of it, and I do think it would work well under a navy cardigan with some gold shiny jewelry--that would help pick up the color in my face again. The tie can go front or back but I do actually like it in the front, especially if it's under a cardigan. That would be a nice unexpected little detail. 

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting to find out if they have it in other colors. I'll keep you posted on that.

If you're interested in trying Stitch Fix, here's my referral code! Thank you in advance!

Togs Thursday--Dia & Co

Okay, so that doesn't work quite so well as "Wardrobe Wednesday." Still, I have a bit of a clothing subscription box update.

I tried out a new subscription clothing box (new for me, anyway). Actually, I talked my daughter into trying it out first and then succumbed myself. I've had a pretty stressful summer, and am unhappy with how I've regained weight from the foot surgery and all my wonderful new clothes from before no longer fit quite right, so I indulged in some retail therapy. I don't know if I'll keep this one up but I have to say I was really impressed with their customer service, regardless.

So the new one is Dia & Co. It's a subscription that focuses solely on plus sizes: 14-32. My daughter and I wear close to the same size although we have very different heights and body shapes, and we're 28 years apart in age, so I thought it might also be interesting to see how they dealt with both of us.

DD got her box a couple of days before mine, and hers was a 5-for-5. She was really happy. It had two very cute tops, a pair of dress pants, a pair of jeans, and a necklace. I wasn't as keen on the dress pants on her but she said they were really comfortable and would work great for work, and she's 25 so her choice. Everything else looked fantastic on her, though. The jeans fit her perfectly and looked great--although, like with most pants, she really ought to have them hemmed. (She's my fun-sized daughter at 5'2".) She wouldn't let me post pics on the blog--sorry about that! 

I was encouraged by seeing her box, but I wondered if the company would do as well with someone of advanced years. There are a lot of things DD and I can swap out--we have similar tastes in style, too--but I've tried other boxes (translate: Wantable) in the past that just skewed way too young for me. 

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I got my Dia box yesterday. When I first pulled the items out of the box (at 9:30 pm after just having walked in the door from a one-day turn-around flight down and back to Philly for meetings, requiring me to have gotten up at 4a), I looked at all of them and said, "meh, I doubt I'll keep any of these." Today, when I was feeling marginally more fresh and definitely in a better mood, I actually tried them on. At the moment, I'm definitely keeping two, likely keeping a third, and will only keep the other two if my daughter wants them. 

It comes in the usual bundle, with a letter from the stylist. It didn't feel overly personalized to me at first (you fill out the usual quiz when you sign up and let them know what you want/don't want), but after I thought about it, I realized she probably had tried to personalize it to me as best she could given the comments I'd made.

But none of these subscription box stylists seem to know what the words "bright colors" mean. Apparently true bright isn't the thing these days, because I NEVER get anything I think of as actually bright no matter how many times I ask.

I'm using the pics from the app of what was in my box because trust me, with yesterday's trip, I do NOT look good enough for style photos today, LOL. You'll just have to imagine what these look like on!

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This blouse is the one that sent me into a conversation with Dia's customer service. I love the blouse--it fits beautifully, it's a great material, and I love the fact that the tie can go in front or back as well as being able to adjust how form-fitting it is. It's very flattering. At least, it's flattering in terms of the cut and style. The color, not so much. This is not a great shade of yellow on me. I need more saturated, more golden yellow. This made me look even more overtired than I already am. I checked in with customer service to see if it's possible to exchange it for color. It comes in two other colors (coral and teal) but they were sold out in both of those in my size. She gave me an extension on my return date to see if they get any more in their next shipment (she has no way of knowing ahead of time). If they don't, I'll keep this one and just, in true Tim Gunn form, make it work. It would be adorbs under a navy blazer or cardigan--of which I own both--which also makes it a good transitional piece summer to fall. And if I wear it by itself, I'll just wear shiny gold jewelry and really, really good make-up that day.


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This blouse was a total miss for me. The color is worse on me than the yellow blouse above--I looked even more tired (like, totally strung out, death-warmed-over, should-be-crashed-on-the-couch-the-rest-of-the-day tired) in this color. It also had no shape on me. It just hung all over.

My daughter is going to try it on when she comes over this weekend as with her different body shape it may work better on her than it does on me. This isn't her usual color or style, but I think the color would look better on her too. The only reason I even asked her if she's interested is because, in the way these subscription boxes often work, I only save $10 if I send two things back rather than keeping the whole box, because of the various discounts you get. So for $10, if she likes it, she can have it.


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When I first pulled this out of the box, I thought, "Nah, I don't really need another dress." Then when I tried it on today, that changed to, "But hey, I really need THIS dress." I absolutely love the way this fits and feels on me. 

The neckline is great--it's pleated to have the visual effect of a deep-V which is best for my neck and chin, but it has a panel that comes across keeping it appropriately modest enough for work. The overall cut is extremely flattering, and it's a great color on me. I also tried it on with an off-white, deconstructed blazer I bought recently and it looked good, so that makes this another very versatile piece. 

I don't have a history of wearing dresses much but that doesn't mean that habits can't be changed. Dresses like this might make me tempted. So I'm keeping this one.


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I'm a sucker for a great necklace but this one didn't do it for me. Partly, it's not nearly as prominent a green/blue color IRL. It's quite a bit more muted than this photo makes it appear. And somehow this just looked old fashioned to me, and not in a good way. I already have another necklace I got over a year ago from Stitchfix that's in similar colors that I really love, so I'm not keeping this one. However, DD might take it off my hands. Again, $10 difference. Go figure.


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And now I really do have to tell all these boxes to stop sending me pants. Again, as I pulled these out of the box, I thought, "Nope, don't need another pair of navy work pants." And then I put them on. Boy, are they comfortable and they fit beautifully! They've got stretch to them but still look structured. And I think they'll travel really well. Surprisingly, some of my other dress pants wrinkle in my suitcase. Ain't got time for that on a work trip. These are more like a Chino than a formal dress pant, which means I can dress them up or down a little more easily if I want something slightly nicer than a pair of jeans, but they'd still be fine for most work events. 

For most of my adult life, I'd have gasped at spending this much on a pair of pants. $25 was my upper limit. $35 felt like a luxury pair. What I've learned over these last couple of years of subscription boxes is that, often, you really do get what you pay for. A good, comfortable pair of pants is well worth the money!

So my experience with Dia & Co is fairly positive to start. They have an athletic wear box you can do instead, so I may give that a try next time as I really don't need much in the way of clothes at this point, especially as I have another Stitch Fix on its way that I've already peeked at and am looking forward to! I also did another Trunk Club which I'm not as excited about--I don't know why I keep going back to them. Anyway--I'll give that report when it comes. 

Here's my Dia & Co referral link if you want to check it out for yourself!

Meanwhile, I really have to get back on that "healthy lifestyle bandwagon." It's amazing what a stupid thing like toe surgery does to your entire psyche. Well, that and stress. But really--it's time for me to just get over myself and get back on that elliptical!

Sew Sampler Unboxing July 2018 and some bookish sundry

I got home from my work trip Monday afternoon and have had yesterday and today as comp days. On top of the usual exhaustion of board meetings followed by running a conference, I was sleeping in a dorm room, drove four days round trip with people in my car half of both ways, and had a lot of significant interactions with people while I was there. So I've been in Introvert Recovery Mode and trying to talk to as few people as possible the last couple of days, even via social media. 

However, I did come home to Happy Mail: My July Sew Sampler box was waiting for me! If you haven't gotten yours yet, SPOILER ALERT! You may not want to read any further!

Once again, there are some very handy tools and notions in this box, although it's all built around a pattern I'm not sure I would actually make. It's not entirely my style. It's a Dresden Plate block, which I do like, but I'm not keen on the setting. However, I'm glad to have the tools to make a Dresden Plate as I could see me putting those to use someday!

I'm just dumping everything into a gallery--it's on automatic but you can also use the forward and back tools on either side of the photos to move at your own speed. If you're reading through through a blog-reader, you may need to go to the web version to get the gallery.

See below for some bonus material...

The best thing for Introvert Recovery is a cup of tea and a good book. I've been merrily sipping away at more of my Plum Deluxe teas: Oregon Breakfast Black Tea is my current go-to AM tea for after I'm done with my coffee but before I cut myself off of caffeine at lunchtime. In the afternoons, I switch to iced tea made with whatever blend strikes my fancy. Somehow, caffeinated tea does make it into my iced tea brewer but I think that's because the ice cuts the caffeine significantly so it doesn't bother me the way a normal cup of black tea does. So lately I've been drinking Spiced Berry Refresher Iced Tea Blend. I make so much iced tea over the summer that I got impatient with my former "sun tea" method using a glass pitcher on my back patio, and ordered myself the Takeya Iced Tea Maker from Amazon. Well worth it. Now I can have fresh brewed iced tea in about 15 minutes. 

In terms of good books, my almost-niece (my nephew's long-time girlfriend) and I both belong to the same Book of the Month Club so we've started coordinating what we order each month and then swap. Plus she'd belonged longer than me so she had a stack of books from before I'd started that she handed over to me a couple of weeks ago. I pass books along to my MIL, and she passes them on to Almost-Niece and/or my SIL, and eventually they make it back to me to pass along to my other-niece-from-another-sister. It's very complicated, but it keeps us all in novels! Here's what I've recently read:

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Still Lives by Maria Hummel: And here's my Goodreads review of it. I was fair to middling on this one. I liked it as far as it goes, but would've liked it better if she'd pushed some themes a bit more.


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The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs: And my short review that tells you almost nothing about the book itself. (I've been busy--sorry!) I can saw that I enjoyed this more than Still Lives, and it surprised me how much I liked it as I read it, for some reason.

I've put Pillars of Earth by Ken Follett on hold for a bit. I'm struggling to really get into it and decided I wanted to read other things for a bit. I haven't completely abandoned it, though. Maybe I'll be more in the mood in the deep midwinter when snow falls and it feels more the thing to be immersed in a slow-moving epic.

I'm still reading Us Against You by Frederik Backman. This is the sequel to Beartown and it's just as good--it drew me in from the first couple of pages. If you decide to read this, you do really have to read Beartown first as this one assumes you know everything that happened in that one. There's not a lot of time spent on backwards exposition.

Hey--did you know that if you use the Goodreads app you can super-easily scan the cover of a book to get all the information about it and add it to one of your shelves? Honest--I don't get any kick-back from Goodreads. I just use it ALL THE FREAKING TIME to decide what I want to read next, check out books in the bookstore or on my neighbor's lap in an airport waiting area, and add what I'm reading to my shelves. Their scan feature got super-fast and easy in a recent update, so I highly recommend it!

That's all my catch-up for now. I only have one short turn-around trip in August for work, and then vacation at the end of the month. Meanwhile, I'm hoping to have some quiet time for sewing and embroidery--and maybe more blogging and podcasting!

Quilt Spotting at My Friend’s House

I’m halfway to my work event and am spending the night at a friend’s house near Columbus, OH. As she was pointing out my bedroom and sundry this evening, she took me into a spare room to pick out a pillow (she had quite a selection!) and what to my wondering eyes did appear but a gorgeous antique quilt on the bed! She had planned on showing it to me anyway, as she knows I’m a quilter, but I don’t think she expected me to then spend the next 10 minutes or so fondling it, pointing out to her the difficulty of particular techniques, and snapping pictures!

I introduce to you her great-grandmother’s absolutely gorgeous Dahlia quilt. I’m guessing something like early 1920s—she thinks it may be in the 1910s given when her great-grandmother lives. (Apparently her great-grandmother died at age 51 of a heart-attack—tragic.) I’ve strongly encouraged her to get it appraised for insurance purposes, but also so she can hear the story of the fabric, pattern, and time period that I was so fascinated by why I had my family quilts done. 

Check out the border and what it must’ve meant for binding!  And be sure to take a gander at the beautiful hand-quilting!

Because I’m on my iPad and in a hurry to go to bed (another long day’s drive tomorrow segueing directly into meetings), I’m just sort of dumping these pics up there. Sorry if it freaks out your blog readers! 

 

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Gorgeous colors! The lighting makes it a little yellow but you can still get the beautiful color combo. 

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Look at this corner! I mean, Shut the Front Door!

 Here’s the border close-up. I pulled a part of it up onto the bed to show it better. The room was small so I couldn’t get a good shot of the whole border. The binding has frayed significantly—I told her she could have that repaired if she wanted to but I actually sort of like it with the original. Shows it’s well-loved.   

Here’s the border close-up. I pulled a part of it up onto the bed to show it better. The room was small so I couldn’t get a good shot of the whole border. The binding has frayed significantly—I told her she could have that repaired if she wanted to but I actually sort of like it with the original. Shows it’s well-loved.

 

 And a really poorly lit picture of the hand-quilting. There were so many beautiful spots I couldn’t decide where to get the picture and I could’ve easily taken about 10 more detail shots but, you know, bedtime and all that.  I love seeing beautiful antique family quilts. I don’t see myself ever collecting/buying those that I don’t know, but seeing them in their natural habitat, with family history attached, is just lovely.    Now I’ll sleep well and dream pretty quilty thoughts... 

And a really poorly lit picture of the hand-quilting. There were so many beautiful spots I couldn’t decide where to get the picture and I could’ve easily taken about 10 more detail shots but, you know, bedtime and all that.

I love seeing beautiful antique family quilts. I don’t see myself ever collecting/buying those that I don’t know, but seeing them in their natural habitat, with family history attached, is just lovely.  

Now I’ll sleep well and dream pretty quilty thoughts... 

Welcome and Upcoming Schedule

With thanks to Martingale Press, I suspect, I have gotten a bunch of new blog subscribers in the last few days. Welcome! That’s so exciting! I’m glad you are interested in checking out my blog! 

I just wanted to post a quick note that I’m leaving town today for a work trip and won’t be back for about 8 or 9 days....and then recovery time...so it’ll be a bit before I post a new blog entry. 

But after this trip (it’s our major work event every year that takes a huge amount of time and energy), and after I get a few days of sleep and introvert recovery from having been “on” for a full week, I swear I’ll get back to my sewing machine and have interesting things to say again.  

I swear it. 

I do also see a new podcast episode sometime in the not too distant future, although that aforementioned sewing should probably happen first, just so’s I have something to actually talk about, donchaknow. 

Meanwhile, have you been listening to Frances Dowell’s Quiltfiction podcast? It’s a good one! 

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I’ll leave you with a picture of my bubby, Auggie, who just got home from a two week vacation at the lake with my daughter. He’s a little smelly from all his fun, and very sleepy, but I’m glad to have him home. He and I are overdue for some bonding time—lots of cuddles when I get home again!

For Your Summer Reading List—Some Books I’ve Enjoyed

So, the secret’s out: I haven’t been doing much (read: any) sewing lately. May was a busy month with lots of travel (all fun, but still) and tons of evening conference calls when I was home. June has been almost as busy with a couple of work trips and more evening conference calls. I’m finding myself, when I do have unscheduled time, just wanting to bury my nose in good book. So bury I have! Here are some books that have stood out for me over the last year or so—some from BOM, others I just bought on my own. I figured I’d share them in case you were looking for a new read! 

A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles)--This book had a very well-done literary device of exploring Russian history through the eyes of one man who never left the inside of a hotel. I really enjoyed this. My short review on Goodreads

Circe (Madeline Miller)--Circe takes a Greek myth and creates an entire fictional world around it. I wasn't sure I'd take to it and ended up completely engaged, to the point where I put Miller's other books of the same ilk on my to-read list. My review on Goodreads

Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng)--My review of Everything is here on Goodreads, I gave Little Fires 5 stars but didn't write a review. (I was still working on my thesis while I was reading some of these and didn't have time for reviews!) Both of these books address family ties, the realities of immigrant life, and the realities of living in American (suburban) society. Characters are well-drawn and the story line kept me engaged.

The Underground Railroad (Coleson Whitehead)--I have a very short review on Goodreads. This is my most recent finish on the list and it was a very moving book with an intriguing premise--the Underground Railroad is a physical railroad. Whitehead uses a Gulliver's Travels-esque motif to look at slavery's history and continuing impact. It's obvious why it's an award-winning novel. 

All the President’s Men (Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward)--My review on Goodreads and see my previous blog post.

The Peter Grant series by Ben Aaronovitch (Book 1: Midnight Riot, Book 2: Moon over Soho) Here's my short review of Midnight Riot on Goodreads--my review of the second book was just that I still really enjoyed the series. Sort of a fantasy-cozy mystery blend, very fun. These are definitely great light-hearted summer reads.

The Astonishing Color of After (By Emily X. R. Pan)--I gave this one 5 stars on Goodreads but never wrote a review of it. I was surprised at how much it grabbed me. It felt honest and mystical at the same time. Wonderful book. Sad but redemptive.

The Philosopher’s Flight (by Tom Miller)--I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads but never wrote a review. I was expecting this to be a rip-off of Harry Potter so I was actually expecting not to make it through. However, although it has a similar feel, it's a completely different story that I thoroughly enjoyed. It's in the fantasy genre. Another good light summer read.

Anything by Frederick Backman (i.e., A Man Called Ove, Beartown)—I just yesterday discovered he’s got a new book out, Us Against You, the sequel to Beartown, and started reading it today. He's a Swedish writer and his books always get at least 4 stars from me on Goodreads. He's got a very spare, clean writing style but wonderful characters and believable emotions and reactions. Most of his books are fairly light, even if dealing with difficult topics. Beartown and Us Against You are significantly darker, but still excellent.

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women (Kate Moore)--Nonfiction. Gave it 4 stars on Goodreads but didn't leave a review. This wasn't an easy read as it has some graphic detail of illness that can be a little tough to get through, but this is a part of American experience (and particularly women's experience) that I had never heard of before. Pretty incredible stuff.

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President (Candice Millard)--Nonfiction. Short review on Goodreads here. Really interesting questions raised about who really caused President Garfield's death.

SeaBiscuit: An American Legend (Laura Hillenbrand)--Nonfiction. Goodreads review here. And no, I've never seen the movie--but I thoroughly enjoyed the book!

And some that I read a long time ago but still stand out for me as some of the best nonfiction books I've read: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (You haven't read it yet? Really?? Here's my Goodreads review) and Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David von Drehle (Goodreads review here).

And, of course, my usual favorite authors: Frances Dowell, Marie Bostwick, Louise Penny, and Ann Cleeves.  

Hope this helps add to your own to-read list! Friend me on Goodreads so we can swap recommendations. If you're not on Goodreads (and why aren't you?) let me know what your most recent favorite read has been in the comments below.

 

 

OT: On a Watergate Kick

I’ve been going through a whole bunch of new-to-me podcasts in recent months and one of my surprise favorites was one named Slow Burn: A Podcast About Watergate. It was a miniseries of episodes featuring stories behind the story of Watergate—things related to the main story that were the lesser-known stories. I found it strangely fascinating. 

Mind you, I was about 7 when Watergate actually happened, so my main reaction to it was “But I’m tired of watching the news, Dad!” I do always say, though, that by “cutting my political eye-teeth on Watergate,” I have a deeply embedded cyncism about politics. I was a little too young to see “All the President’s Men” in the movie theaters when it actually came out but I vaguely remember seeing it somewhere in my older teen or college years and finding it fairly boring and very confusing. I mostly just spent the movie appreciating Robert Redford.

After listening to Slow Burn, though, I decided I really wanted to read the book All the President’s Men so I had a better handle on the history. Honestly, I didn’t expect to be able to finish it. I thought I’d be bored silly, skim to get the gist of things, and probably end up abandoning it before the end. Instead, I was hooked. It’s not a political book so much as a journalistic who-dunnit. I loved following Woodward and Bernstein’s trains of thought, following threads, hitting dead-ends, making mistakes, and making critical discoveries sometimes almost by accident.

Fascinating.  

The book honestly had me almost on the edge of my seat, even though I knew the story.  

Once I finished the book, of course, I treated myself to some Redford and Hoffman. The movie wasn’t as confusing this time around. And it’s Redford and Hoffman. So there’s that.

All in all, I’m glad I just learned more about something that so totally shaped my attitudes towards politics from such a young age. It’s impossible not to see how much history repeats itself. But Redford and Hoffman. Hmm. 

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately—fun reading. It’s so good not to have to worry about citations and notes and just plain ol’ enjoy reading. I’ll do another blog post sometime soon about what I’ve been reading because I’ve got some recommendations! 

May Sew Sampler Unboxing

I'm really catching up on posts this weekend. I got my May Sew Sampler box a couple of days ago and didn't have time for a video unboxing, so here's another photo gallery of pics. 

I'm going to keep doing Sew Sampler for awhile. I'm loving the tools I get! Aurifil thread! Woot! Creative Grids rulers! Woot Woot! (And in a size I don't already have, which is pretty amazing given my collection.) Not entirely sure how the label letters work--I have to do a little research into those. The pattern doesn't really flip my switch but the fabric is cute. It's a new pre-cut size to me: 5" by 10" (or half layer-cake size). There was a pattern specifically for that size rolled up in the fabric so technically I got two patterns this month. I don't know if I'd make the pattern that came with the fabric either, although it would be a relatively fast project if I needed a quick gift or something. We'll need to brew on that one. 

(Remember, you can use the controls to forward photos faster than their auto-rotation. If you're reading this on a blog-reader, you may have to go to the website to see it.)

Graduation!

Since most of y'all have been with me on this journey over the last few years, I thought I'd share a few of the photos from my graduation on May 19 with my Doctor of Ministry degree from Boston University School of Theology. Good times!