Needles and a Pen » Knitting, Sewing, and Nursing School

Masthead header
Needles and a Pen bio picture
  • Welcome to my blog!

    Hi! I'm Traci. I'm a nursing student and CNA who loves quilting, knitting, cross stitch, Project Life scrapbooking, and the great outdoors. In my pre-scrubs life, I owned Real Photography, and you can still see my old wedding and portrait photography site here .

    I great big puffy heart *love* comments, so please let me know you visited! I try to always reply!

Happy Mother’s Day

A very happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and nurturers out there!  I was lucky enough to wake up to my mommy (who sadly had to fly back out before lunch).  She taught me to appreciate all the crafty parts of life, like Halloween costumes made by hand and scrapbooks and quilts.  She was 20 years before her time–she would have been the QUEEN of the mommy bloggers if there had just been an internet for her to blow away in the 1980s!  Instead, we just won Halloween costume competitions and had unique hair bows with glitter inside them and all my British friends wanted to come to my house where it was like “an American television family.”

scrap quilt

She brought her latest quilt finish with her and I made her stand out in our snow this morning for an obligatory quilt shot.  My mom taught me the importance of adding a color that ‘pops’ into a quilt–just look at that orange!  She did not, however, pass on her affinity for not buying fabric and only using what she already has.  The self control gene apparently went a different way.

Kelly - I think I took all of that gene…although it can also have it’s downside when you are working on a project and do not have enough fabric. Then you have to wait to buy it and wash it…it blows.

Love the blog!

Yo Momma - You have taught me more than I will ever teach you! And gone farther with your skills than I ever will! Potholders and straight line quilting is as far as I go! 😉

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for inviting us to camp last weekend and for the sweet Mother’s Day post. Getting to see both my girls and both of my grandkids on Mother’s Day is the best gift EVER!

The Berlin Wall Between Me and SUMMER

This week every time I say “summer” I sound a lot like Olaf. My stats final (and a whole lot of pre-company-arrival cleaning) is the only thing left between me and my first summer without either weddings or online classes in what feels like a million years. I AM SO EXCITED. I can’t really buckle down on the dumbness that is studying for this high stakes final when I could instead dink around on the internet and drink coffee.


So while I sit down and try to figure out what in the heckfire the central limit theorem actually is, I will be thinking of the studio and all that awaits me when SUMMER STARTS TOMORROW!!!!!



I have fabric ready for an Olive&S Tea Party Dress for Ellie (made from that adorable Milk, Sugar, Flower print)  and a couple of knits for me.  I WILL CONQUER KNITS THIS SUMMER!

Palmer Lake Trail Review


We enjoyed a new-to-us hike this weekend to the Lower and Upper Palmer Lake Reservoirs following the Palmer Lake Trail along North Manitou Creek. The hike to the far end of the Upper Reservoir comes in at just under 2 miles, and the elevation gain on the way up was steady, so it was a good beginning to the hiking season to break in our 5 year old’s legs.


Pros:  Plenty of views of the North Manitou Creek and the two reservoirs, good intermediate distance (I’ve noticed it’s hard to find hikes in the 3-5 mile range), ice cream nearby for an after hike treat.  The ‘ice caves’ are a detour off the main trail that we will check out next time!

Cons:  Infrastructure and wide road keeps it from feeling like a true escape into nature, popularity means it could be crowded on a day with nicer weather.

Distance/difficulty:  Less steep than Mt Cutler (my favorite beginner hike), this is a longer trail (about 3 miles if you stop when you first come to the Upper Reservoir, 4 if you continue onto the back) and so good for stretching out distance with your little hikers.  Ellie at 5 tackled this as her second hike of the season without any difficulty whatsoever–she have easily gone farther.  I’d say this would be great for an experienced 3 year old or a novice 4 year old.

Directions:  The large parking area is at the end of Old Carriage Rd in Palmer Lake (note: no restrooms or portapotties).  From exit 161 of I-25 travel west on C-105 to Palmer Lake.  Take a left on S. Valley Rd and another left onto Old Carriage Rd.  The parking and trail head are at the bottom of the hill.


Trail teaching:  Plenty of opportunities for learning on this one!

  • Purpose of dams and reservoirs (and though these aren’t producing hydroelectric power you can certainly talk about how they might–a great segue into some physics with discussion of potential and kinetic energy)


  • Lots of granite, quarts and pyrite
  • We spotted wild strawberries as well as a few other flowers.  (As always, please let me know if you can identify any of these flowers–I would love to know the names to share with the kids!)


  • Discussion of the power of water to erode and sculpt canyons when it is moving quickly, and the way it drops its load and becomes a building influence when the land levels out (you can see this depositing action as the water enters both reservoirs)
  • Boulder field-more erosion and rock talk!  This would also be a fun place to let kids scramble around if you don’t work in a hospital and see death and dismemberment at every turn.


Further reading:  Jennifer has a great description of the hike in her post here.


Everyone should have a generous friend with a long arm quilting machine


Melissa is one of the most generous people I know, and one of the things that she does that is totally crazy is pretend that family photos are a decent swap for time on her long arm quilting machine.  And I am in love with that thing.  I quilted two baby quilts this morning in the time it would have taken me to just pin baste them.  It’s amazing.  I even would have made it to drop Ellie off to preschool on time had I not gotten up to all sorts of adventures on the way over including pulling myself over because I thought I’d been caught speeding.


I haven’t had a working speedometer in my car in like two years.  Because there are apps for that.  (When you remember to use them.)  So when I was cruising down the road getting my Taylor Swift on and saw a cop, I looked down and I was going 180 mph according to my speedometer (this is also how fast my car thinks it’s going right now, as it is parked outside my house). Her flashy blue lights were on.  “ARGH.” I thought. (Or something with more swear words.)  So I pulled over.  She was taking her sweet time following me, so I bent down to get my wallet and find my insurance info.  I looked up because she was pulled alongside me.  “Is everything okay?” she asked.  Oops.  “Yes,” I said. “I just wasn’t watching my speed so I thought I was going to get pulled over.”  She laughed at me.  “Nope–you’re okay,” she said.

I think I’m an excellent candidate for a fascist state.  I always assume I’m guilty.


Anatomy & Physiology Course Tips


If you are a pre-nursing or pre-med student you’re going to hear a lot of horror stories about how A&P is the worst hardest thing ever.  And they’re a lot true.  But if I can get an A in A&P, anyone can!  Here are the things that really helped me ace Anatomy & Physiology and kept it from being the GPA-wrecker I thought it would be.  My test scores were all above 97% and I got 100% on the final A&P2 practical exam.  I’m not a natural when it comes to the sciences, so I know my success was because of these study techniques!

  • Meet Professor Fink.  This guy is your new best friend.  His videos are your new [insert show people watch these days here].  (I would have provided a show name, but I’m still watching Greys Anatomy.  Which is a show I watched the FIRST time I was in college.)  I found it so helpful to see a different take on whatever subject we were learning.  Even if he sometimes went into more detail than my professor on a topic, it was incredibly helpful to hear the more detailed version to understand the simpler version.  I highly recommend watching the video before the lecture.  In other classes I would read the chapter before going to lecture, but the A&P textbook was just too dense.  Watching Professor Fink’s lecture first and getting introduced to the topic meant that I was able to follow along with my actual professor’s lecture instead of just sitting in stunned silence. I watched each lecture several times, but always tried to do it once before class (I noticed a huge difference when I would get behind and have to watch the video after my lecture).  I like to knit, so I would watch his lecture while knitting, which made it more enjoyable.  You can also watch them while folding laundry, making dinner, doing the dishes…any chance you get.
  • Break down and buy a dumb micro recorder.  (And then put a piece of tape on it with your email address written on it for that inevitable time when you walk out of class without it.)  You can listen to the taped lectures in the car and in the shower.  If you’re looking at your notes and wondering what exactly he said that prompted you to write [ ], you can go back and check.  It’s also great to be able to help out a friend if they’re running late or miss a lecture!
  • Get this iPad app.  It was included with my textbook with A&P 1 but I ended up using it a bunch for A&P 2.  It not only allows you to look at the structures at home, but if you tap on a structure it will pronounce the name of it for you.  So much of A&P is made harder by the fact that it’s impossible to feel confident asking questions about things that you don’t know how to pronounce.
  • Don’t study, revise.  In England they don’t call it “studying,” but “revision.”  Revision isn’t a passive process like studying notes, but rather an active revising of your notes into shorter and shorter versions.  As you cliff-notes it down from 20 pages to 10 to 5 to 2 you internalize it all.  I think a lot of students get caught up in having 20 different colored pens and fancy flash cards, but at the end of the day my simple pen and paper method did the trick.  I usually ended up writing the notes about four times.  The first time, in lecture, then later that night or the next day I would rewrite my lecture notes.  The before the test I would rewrite them again, and then a final time.  Standing outside a classroom before a test I usually have a simple piece of paper with the little triggers that will help me remember all the rest of it.   In the UK they have preparing for tests down to a science.  If you’re not getting the results you want with looking at your initial or even second draft notes, try revision. :)

Would you like some nude pumps with your mesh panties?


As someone who works in postpartum and is passionate to the point of annoying about the care of new mothers, I have all sorts of feelings about Kate stepping out like some sort of movie star 10 hours after giving birth.  I know that looking great is her job, but really?  10 hours?  In heels?!  And a WHITE skirt?!  Really?!

I see a lot of women 10 hours after giving birth, and honestly, I am beyond thrilled if they are able to walk themselves to the bathroom.  If they can do it without getting blood all over the bed and floor in the process I’ll give them a gold medal.  And if they throw on a pair of yoga pants and some mascara I tell them that they are ridiculous movie stars.  BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT IT IS LIKE TO HAVE GIVEN BIRTH.

Giving birth is a natural process.  I am passionate about that.  But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  And I feel like maybe, just maybe, it’s not really fair to act like women should be walking around in heels when in actuality they’re doing well if they can maintain a decent waddle with that giant ice pack between their thighs.

Ten hours after birth is about recovery.  It’s about establishing breastfeeding.  It’s about pain management.  It’s about a nap.  It’s about making sure you can safely stand to go pee and MAYBE shower.  It’s not Business As Usual time.

We go into birth with all sorts of expectations.  Some ours, some from society…and I think the last thing women need is one more yardstick that they cannot possibly measure up to.  It would have been crazy for her to look like that tomorrow.  But walking out of the hospital ten hours after birth like nothing at all happened?  Of all the things the duchess could be a champion for when it comes to pregnancy and birth and newborns, looking glamorous 10 hours after birth is a pretty wasteful one.