How a Quilter Takes a Hike

I recently moved from Houston to Napa Valley, driving nearly 2000 miles solo (with three dogs in my backseat). It was challenging, but looking back, I wouldn’t have done anything differently.IMG_0679

I did have two offers for co-pilots, but frankly…as a pet-loving quilter with a lot of precious cargo, I responded to them, “Where the heck would I fit you in the car?”

A Quilter on the Move

What I refused to put on a moving truck, nor put in the temperature-controlled cargo of an airplane:

-3  Dogs


-1 thermofax machine

-An enormous suitcase containing my most precious quilts, some made by family, some purchased, one by me.

-Jewelry that had a lot of sentimental value

-Crucial documents

-A backpack with jeans, t-shirts, a toothbrush and other essentials.


For every night I was on the road (and no, I didn’t drive past sundown), I brought all of this cargo into the hotel room. It meant a lot of trips from car to room between pets, dog food, supplies, quilts, and docs.


The  hours of driving each day–and being on guard while driving–were pretty exhausting for all of us…



But we saw some very interesting sights along the way, including this Exxon station in West Texas, where, understandably, while I filled the gas tank, I couldn’t let the dogs out to relieve themselves:

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We encountered a wreck on I-10, 90 miles east of El Paso. I would have been stuck in this for five hours (plus) while they righted this semi that had tipped over and blocked both lanes, but with the help of some empathetic truck drivers, I was directed onto the feeder, and again on my merry way.

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After about 23 hours driving and two nights in hotels, I encountered this sign (below).  Admittedly, seeing this was emotional, and I cried. It had been 26 years since I drove my own car in my home state.

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The next day, after driving up I-5,  I was on my property in Napa and saw these pink little flags whipping in the wind. They mark the art barn for Crafting a Life.


I cried again.



The next morning, I woke to this greeting.


And I cried. Again.

I found this cluster of lemons on a tree on my property.


You’ll be happy to know, I didn’t cry. (I just plucked ’em.)

Later, Clarence discovered his first hot air balloon and…he cried. (Video can be found on my Instagram feed.)



And I let the dogs out to run run run. And we all cried…tears of sheer joy and gratitude.


Great news! I’m done crying. And better yet…I’m almost done unpacking! And soon ready to get busy and on with the Next Big Life and Business Adventure, here in Napa Valley.

We made it.

Cheers all around,









Looking Forward and Looking Back

I have gotten a lot of great business and life advice in 2014, but the below quote I spotted in Magic Kingdom might be one of my favorites:




2014 was a crazy, whirlwind year for me, yet ended on a very high note.



I traveled the world; met one of my favorite actors in London when I accidentally ran onto the set of “Downton Abbey;” I witnessed my high school best friend get married in Maui to the greatest guy; and also nearly lost my hand to a hungry swan in Zurich. I also decided to take a leap of faith and go home to California and start a new endeavor, after 26 years away.

This past year Allison Stilwell left all of us with vital advice: Do what you love—nothing else matters.

That’s damn right.

And my college friend Fr. TJ Martinez also had a motto that he said over and over and over: Do the difficult now, and the impossible soon after.

I feel they bear repeating:

Do the difficult now, and the impossible soon after.

And do what you love- nothing else matters.


My best wishes for a very happy new year!

Bring on 2015,




Demystifying Walking Foot Quilting

Confessions of a bad Godmother: a few months ago I completed a quilt top in Red Sox colors for my 11-year-old Godson, a devout Red Sox fan, but I’ve been procrastinating on the quilting because I have been waiting for that brainstorm for the perfect quilting motifs that will give the quilt a clean, masculine look–one that a budding baseball star would be proud to have in his bedroom!


Johnny at a Red Sox game (I think) when he was about seven.

 Fortunately for me, Catherine Redford has come to my rescue with her new DVD for walking foot quilting:



I bought a walking foot last year and I can’t rave enough about it–it has made my quilting so much easier– but there was a lot I didn’t know I could do with walking foot quilting until I watched Catherine’s DVD.

In the DVD she discusses:

• Mastering the walking foot to create even, straight, and curved quilting designs
• Creating gridded quilting patterns, including straight grids and plaids
• Adding texture and interest with perfect square and round spirals 
• Finishing your quilts with professional results


Having had Catherine as a guest on Quilting Arts TV as well as being a seasoned demonstrator in Open Studios, I can vouch that Catherine has a natural, easy-going teaching style that takes the fear and stress out of quilting, (including quilting those pesky perfect spirals).

After watching the DVD, I have decided to use plaid quilting for this Red Sox quilt. The quilt wont be done by Christmas but it WILL be done by Opening Day!



Go sneak over to Catherine Redford’s blog as she is going to be giving away a copy of her Modern Machine Quilting.

I’d Rather Be Printing Than Packing

Well, I have a bit of an update: I have decided to fast-track my move to the Frisco Bay and make the drive next month. This is a bit sooner than I had originally thought, but I just don’t rest well on my laurels and I am ready to embark on the next leg of my life adventure. I know I will make quicker progress out in Napa, “glamping,”  than trying to build the business remotely from my house in Houston…so California here I come!

What’s slowing me down as I pack is a dilemma I know other surface design aficionados face:  I am surrounded by bubble wrap, corrugated cardboard, styrofoam peanuts for goodness sake…all great stuff with which to low-tech print!

I recently received Julie Booth’s book for review, Fabric Printing at Home, a great starter book for those new to fabric printing, and a wonderful refresher for those of us who need a little coaxing and coaching to re-evaluate everyday items as potentially exciting objects for printing.

Fabric Printing at Home

All of the ideas in this encyclopedic book are creative and low-tech (meaning they are on the cheap), and for those with restless kiddies at home over the holidays, this is a comprehensive resource to inspire an afternoon (…or two or three) of indoor printing activities.

I do have a copy to give away, and I’ll randomly select a winner early next week from those who respond to the following question:

What is the object you have used to print with that has yielded the most surprising results? (I will say I am particularly eager to hear this answer!)

Now back to packing…






Oh, the Places You’ll Go!


I am honored to share that I am a part of the “100 Artists to Fight Cancer” to help Virginia Spiegel reach her overall goal of $250,000 for the American Cancer Society! She’s just $10,000 away! Mark your calendar—10:00 AM CST on February 4, 2015 is when you could win a piece of art from one of your 100 favorite fiber artists. (Details can be found here.)



If you have just a couple of minutes to read further, I’d like to tell you about the piece of art I am going to make, and why.

For 100 Artists, I am making a piece in honor of my college friend Fr. TJ Martinez, who at the age of 44 lost his battle against cancer just this past Friday.


TJ’s smiling face was was one of the very first to greet me when I arrived at Boston College. During our college days, we were both rather involved in our undergraduate government; both were a part of a two-year leadership program; both helped run a student center for activities on campus; and even dated for a short spell (but realized we were better as good friends). He was also my confirmation sponsor, and when the confirmation mass was over, he gave me a giftwrapped book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss.

And the places he went. He earned not one…not two…not three…not four…but FIVE post-graduate degrees, including a law degree from UT-Austin and a Master’s at Harvard (where, not surprisingly, he gave the commencement address).

A man of deep faith, TJ eventually became a Jesuit priest, and his most stunning feat to date: raised millions of dollars in Houston to found a college prep school for children from impoverished families—children who otherwise most likely would never have dreamed of going to college.


His school, Cristo Rey Jesuit has had two graduating classes thus far…and, wonderfully, all of the students have gone on to college!

This past January TJ invited Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, to keynote a luncheon at his school that I was fortunate enough to attend.



The Dog Whisperer’s presence in Houston caught the attention of the local media. Here’s a video clip of TJ with Cesar:

At that luncheon TJ said something so funny, so embarrassing to my entire table. With his arm around me, he shouted, “Hey everybody, this is my friend, POKEY! We went to BOSTON COLLEGE together! We dated but she turned me DOWN…so I had to go to JESUS!”

(TJ could be cheeky too.)

That is the last time I saw my friend. In the spring, TJ was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer, a diagnosis he accepted with grace. His message to all after he was diagnosed was not to be sad, but to live joyfully.

I am choosing the joyous colors of TJ’s school (with a little pink thrown in) for my 100 Artists piece:

TJ's Fabrics


I don’t know what I am going to create yet, but I know what the title will be: “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

That title feels pretty perfect, just like my perfect, always smiling friend.


Homecoming Dance, 1990. (TJ wasn’t just an incredible scholar but he could cut up the rug pretty good, too!)


I promise I’ll do right by you with my artist piece, TJ!

In loving memory,















Celebrating Allison Stilwell: Do What You Love

I feel very blessed, I was one of the lucky ones who was able to go to Florida this past weekend to celebrate the life of Allison Stilwell at the Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery in Sanford.

Tribute sign

A whimsical and colorful outsider artist, Allison had a huge fan base, and her art graced the pages of Cloth Paper Scissors, Quilting Arts, Studios, Art Doll Quarterly, among other publications. She and her sister Tracy also were hilarious(!) guests on Quilting Arts TV. Simply put, Allison’s humor, her unwavering joy de vivre were evident in every piece of art she made, and people couldn’t get enough.


Artgirlz and sisters Tracy and Allison Stilwell in Houston at Make It University a few years back.


When I found out Allison passed away this past May, like so many, I was devastated. But like artist Lyric Kinard had written to me online: our lives are better for having known her. I try to hold onto that thought, and I also think about the motto that Allison lived by:

Do What You Love

The celebration this past Saturday was extremely well attended; people came from near and far to celebrate and remember her. Below, people are starting to gather in the art gallery.

Crowds arriving


There were a lot of much needed hugs…



Every wall in the gallery was adorned with art by the Artgirlz.



And tables overflowed with fabric hearts, art dolls, pillows, pins, buttons, and other arty bits:

Display of goodies



art dolls







After the ceremony where poetry was read and people tearfully–yet joyously–spoke, I gathered with Tracy and Allison’s life partner, Midge Baudouin in front of Allison’s fabric collaged self-portrait. It was hard to look at this portrait and not lose it (which I did). Allison started this self-portrait but never finished it, and like so many of us can relate with our own UFO’s, she had rolled it up and put it away.  After Allison’s passing, Tracy and Midge desperately scoured the house, and when they unearthed the half-finished canvas, completed it together.

Kiss from Tracy



Love to Allison


This life celebration–I know–is exactly what Allison would have wanted.

And she will live on in all of our hearts.





My Update & a Napa Fabric Giveaway


Nellie, Clarence, and Tyrion chillin’ on the front porch.

I have not updated this blog since mid-September, and it isn’t because I haven’t had much to write about. On the contrary, I have so much to write about…beyond quilting. (And yes, I’ll get back to focusing on textile arts, but for right now I have a lot of other things on my mind.)


Vines along Highway 29 in Calistoga this past weekend.

I am hyper-focused on launching Crafting a Life, LLC, a media and retreat business that I will base out of my newly acquired digs in Napa. The issue is, I am going to have to exercise something that I am horrible at: patience. I’ll akin this construction process to the slow cloth/ slow stitching movement. This is slow building, which means I have to enjoy the process. (I am trying very, very hard but it isn’t easy!) I envision the end result so clearly in my mind: after a day of creating (with a lunch-time hike thrown in), sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch, stitching and taking in the views, and later collectively cooking poolside on a cool California evening. I am also trying to devise a program for children, too, and that has been a lot of fun drafting a mini-sewing and quilting curriculum together.

When I am a bit further along, I will post pictures and share more details, but in the meantime, Judy Coates Perez posted this behind-the-scenes blog of the photo shoot from September.

Since I am horrible with a hammer and a nail, right now I’m working on a lot of the boring business-y stuff to cross off my list: meeting with lawyers, website peeps, and insurance folks.

I am also trying to do something I am not very good at: slowing down and enjoying some time off.  When I went to Quilt Festival (which was so fantastic this year) several people came up to me and told me how relaxed I looked…and they’re right. I feel a sense of calmness, purpose, and focus that I haven’t felt in a long while.

I hosted an impromptu party when many were in town, which was so much fun…

IMG_0162And I invited some former co-workers from Quilts Inc. who have since chosen different work challenges but wanted the opportunity to reconnect with their quilting friends.


Left to right: artist Leslie Jenison, Amanda Schlatre (now Coordinator, Exhibits & Attractions at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo), artist Jamie Fingal, and Carmen Beck (now Manager, Convention and Meeting Services for the Pediatric Academic Societies).

We took a lot of photos that night but this is one of my faves:


This shot includes Allison Cooper (left) who is turning her wish of being a chef into a reality and now going to culinary school.

This past weekend I flew back to the Bay Area for some meetings and to visit my grandmother, but took in some downtime too. A must in the Valley is this little restaurant in Calistoga, the Calistoga Kitchen. If you order the grilled cheese sandwich, the cheese is melted literally into the slices of sourdough bread. I think it was the naughtiest thing I have ever eaten, and the ambience outside was pretty terrific, too!
IMG_0318 I also spotted four community tag olive trees that cracked me up. The first of four, the “I Want Less” tag tree:


The “One Thing I am Grateful For” tag tree (more populated with tags):


The “Past Loves” tag tree, also well decorated:


I loved this past love in particular:


And “The Best Decision I Made Was” tag tree:


My favorite response:


While at Quilt Festival, I visited with my friend Wendy Richardson of Quilt Tapestry Studio. I bought up the rest of her over-dyed Napa fabric and would like to give one yard of it away to a randomly selected responder to my question below, inspired by the Napa tag trees:

Question: What has been the best decision you have ever made?

I’ll keep this open through this Thursday night and randomly select a winner.


Happy creating!

**Blog update 11/17/14**

Giveaway winner: Congrats to Craftygoofy49! I will email you for your mailing address. Thanks to all who answered…I LOVED reading them. :)

Can you move it a smidgeon to the left, no wait…to the right. OK, now move it back.

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Small pink flags mark the general location of where they will pour the foundation. The stakes will be moved back about 15 feet from this location so I can accommodate more hammocks and grapevines in the front!


Great news: After repositioning a couple of times on the property to optimize views, plans and permits have been approved for the art barn! I am breaking ground next month and it should be completed by the end of this year. However, I know how building goes, so I won’t actually launch the retreat part of Crafting a Life until late spring.

With the approval to break ground, I celebrated by having a few bites of the world’s best sticky bun, compliments of Sweetie Pies, the bakery at the Napa River Inn (my favorite place to stay).

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If you are a guest at the Napa River Inn, breakfast is included. Not only can you order a choice of breakfast sandwich (e.g. egg whites with spinach and tomato on whole grain), you additionally get a choice of a bun or muffin to counterbalance a healthy attempt at breakfast. This gooey, cinnamon treat is simply sublime.


I also met my new accountant in Napa to discuss next steps. I was a little envious of his business address…




And then later I drove down to Los Altos to my grandmother’s to meet my cousin’s newest enterprise, her first baby.

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All in all, a fantastic trip with headway made and a lot to celebrate. And for the first time, my dream of launching this gig is starting to feel very real.

Dream Retreat Fabric Giveaway Update:

Congrats to Corliss Eden, your name was randomly selected for the huge box of fabric. (I’ll email you for your shipping address.) Thanks to all who spent time sharing their ideas for a dream retreat! I have printed them all out and have gotten a lot of fantastic ideas, Thank you!

Shaken But Not Stirred: Napa Update & a Fabric Giveaway

You know when someone tells you, “I have good news and bad news…which do you want to hear first?” I always want to get the bad news out of the way.  So here goes with the bad news: I had earthquake damage on my recently purchased Napa property where I am planning my new business next year.

The good news (actually the GREAT news): It is not that bad in the scheme of things, can be fixed, and it is not going to set me back time-wise for construction and renovations.

What didn’t fare so well were some of the historic buildings downtown (mostly with brick and stone facades) that hadn’t been retrofitted to withstand a quake of this size. After I flew out to Napa and assessed my place, I drove downtown and saw that one of my favorite older buildings that houses The Vintner’s Collective withstood a lot of damage and was red tagged.



The above picture looks bad, but they are rebuilding and will be back in business, just like most every other business that was hit. Napans (or as some refer to as “Napkins”) are resilient!

Having lived in California, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Texas, I have learned that Mother Nature can morph into many forms, whether it be a snow blizzard, a flooding, a hurricane, a tornado watch, a hail storm, or an earthquake. You just have to take your pick!

Besides feeling all shook up, the nascent stage of launching a new business has been an exciting project to take on, and I was very happy this summer to host a few sets of moms and daughters to show them my vision:

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Above is my best friend from high school, Cindy with her two girls, Maggie and Lily. I thought it was just my adult friends who would ask me when my place is ready so they can come stay, but nope…Maggie wanted to know if she could have her birthday slumber party at my place next month. Sorry, Mags…next year!


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You may recognize these two former Quilting Arts blondes above: my sister-in-law Sally and my niece Lindsey who came all the way from Massachusetts to visit me. We had a fun time together and they were very excited to go the Kendall-Jackson winery, the “Mothership” as Lindsey affectionately refers to it.


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And lastly, Judy Perez and her daughter Indigo (taking pictures in the distance) came to check out my digs too. Indigo, an amazing artist like her mom, is helping me with artwork for the business.

Judy also proved to me that if her art quilt gig doesn’t work out, she is a very gifted pool cleaner…

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While I prepare to relocate next year, I am paring down my art supplies, including a sizable box of fabric:

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This lot includes hand-dyed and screened fabric, some really adorable prints, and upholstery fabric that would be GREAT for over-dyeing. Just answer the following question by midnight this Friday, September 12, and I will randomly select a winner. (I am very sorry to all my international friends, but this box is sizable, and because of the weight, I can only ship to a U.S. resident.)


A part of Crafting a Life, LLC, will include retreats. What would your dream retreat be?








“When You’re Tired, You Take a Nap-a, You Don’t MOVE to Napa!” (…or maybe you do)

I love the above borrowed quote from “Sex and the City.” (Thanks to a good friend for recently reminding me of it!)

In reference to this quote, I’m not tired exactly, but I have been restless for a long while and I’m ready to run my own gig again. I’ve leaked via social media what my initial plans are, but here’s the full deal:

In 2015 I am moving to Napa and I’m launching a media and event business.

The name of the business is Crafting A Life, LLC. It will focus on quilting, sewing, mixed media, cooking, journaling, fitness and of course—being in Napa—oenology (wine). There are  also plans for children’s crafting programs too (sans wine).

fabric fence

The initial phase of Crafting A Life, LLC, will consist of boutique-style retreats—small classes in an artful, inspiring environment. For these retreats—while learning skills and perfecting techniques—there will be fun diversions, short hikes with incredible views of Napa Valley, music breaks, great food and drink, and discussions (taking place in rocking chairs) to collectively share studio and art tips.

I am also building an art barn to host retreats (date TBA ). However, the website for Crafting A Life, LLC, will launch within a few weeks.

So if you would like to join me for these retreats starting next year, and maybe take a nap-a while here, you are welcome to. After all, I plan on investing in a number of hammocks. :)




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