Sweet Athena turns 4 today! Since Linz and I are not in the same place to celebrate, we decided to have a virtual party and invite all of you! To help us get down, our guest blogger friends have been kind enough to bring a “gift”. We have asked each of them to give us a fun question to help us share a little bit more about the blog and ourselves. Oh boy did they come through, what creative, thoughtful ladies we have worked with.
Let the festivities begin!
Lauren: How did you two first meet and what sparked your friendship?
Jess: Linz do you remember the first time we met? I don’t have that memory. We knew and hung out in the same groups in the 8th grade, but our individual friendship didn’t spark until the 9th grade when we had our lunch at a different time than every other friend we had. It was a tragedy. But somehow we managed to survive that dreadful, socially awkward lunch period together and our friendship was stronger from it. Likely because we learned we both like plotting and scheming…which we have been doing ever since.
Linz: I don’t remember the specific moment, but I do remember feeling an instant sense of camaraderie with you because I was new to town in 7th grade, and then you were new in 8th grade. There weren’t a lot of new people in our school. I remember thinking, “I’ve got to know this girl better” after you did some awesome Jerry Springer guest impressions while on a field trip for that science and math club for girls. You were really, really good at those.
Lauren: Over these 4 years, what has surprised you most about blogging?
Jess: How much blogging has become a part of my life. I crafted, cooked and sewed before the blog, but having a blog is like having a diary I am wanting to make sure stays updated. It pushes me to be always thinking of new ways to try just about everything. I love that.
Linz: Something that constantly surprises me is how much work blogging is! For me, it definitely fits into the category of “challenging fun,” which The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin describes as “the most rewarding, and the most demanding…Challenging fun takes patience, time, energy, perseverance, and a long time horizon.” That said, I love how it pushes me to do things that I know I like to do, but that I often push to the side in my life. It’s a constant reminder to have a good time, to try new things, and to take pictures as I go!
Another surprising thing we have learned from blogging-how few “good” photos we have together. You would think we were constantly giving the camera the old razzle dazzle with our sexy faces, but they often go something like this photo below.
Lauren: What has been the reader fave of all time?
Jess: I think it is safe to say one of the all time favorite posts of Sweet Athena is The Asparagus Cake. It is a fun example of how Linz and I work together. I showed Linz a recipe for that cake from Sweetapolita and she at first was uncertain if she could do it, but I pushed her (or was pushy—I am known for that) and in the end she made one of the coolest cakes I have ever seen. It also works the other way, Linz knows how and when to put the pressure on me as well.
Linz: I was really happy to see how well-received Jess’ photos from India were, as well. Obviously, we try a lot of different kinds of posts here, and we’re never sure what people will think of them. This was a really cool example of Jess sharing an experience she was passionate about, and it turned out beautifully.
Nisha: When you started Sweet Athena, where did you think it would be now, four years after you started?
Linz: This whole thing started while hanging out on a rainy weekend afternoon (as I’d imagine many of the very best ideas do.) Jess and I both loved Etsy a lot, and figured starting a blog would be a good first step toward establishing a successful online shop. With that in mind, I guess I would have thought that we would actually have an Etsy shop at this point.
Jess: Oh yeah, the blog was actually started to promote our Etsy shop! I kind of forgot about that. We were even making a lot of jewelry at first, experimenting with what we might sell. We really did not understand the blog world…it honestly seemed easy. It makes me laugh now to think we thought being a popular blogger would be a simple way to showcase what we were selling. I like that we had no idea what we were getting into when we started Sweet Athena, it’s made this journey more of a challenge and of course more rewarding. Geesh, it’s hard to answer these questions and not feel cheesy. Linz and I put a lot of energy into SA, talking about it in this context brings out that side of me.
Linz: Jumping back to our early high school days, Jess and I always talked the day when we’d be in business together sometime down the road. While this isn’t necessarily the idea we had in mind back then, it’s definitely a fun collaboration and an incredible way to stay connected to each other.
Nisha: And what do you think Sweet Athena will be four years from now?
Linz: This is a hard one, because Sweet Athena is so much a labor of love for us that I’m more interested in having fun, sharing what I learn, making a record of our projects and recipes, and working together than I am in any real plan or vision. In other words, I think I’d be completely happy if we continued on the path we are on, trying new things and writing about our adventures. Now that I’m starting a family and have my first house, I’m also excited to work on all of those fun kid and house projects that I’ve been storing away in my head, too!
Jess: I think you nailed in Linz. We think more about how the blog reflects our current interests and so we are never quite sure where it will take us.
Sara: What single memory in your life could be used to sum up why you are the kind of woman you are today?
Jess: Yikes! One single memory to sum up all of me?!?! Sara, way to lay down the tough questions. I’m totally cheating and saying my Grandmother. Her influence is all over this blog with my love of baking, cooking, sewing and crafting. I grew up doing those activities with her and still to this day email her photos of projects I have been working on. But more than that, growing up I saw her always pushing herself and those around her to learn more, question everything and strive to be constantly growing. I like to think I embrace this space with that same drive, always willing to evolve and learn. Plus, she may not label herself as a feminist, but in my mind she was a pioneer of her time and always believed that women should be able to make their own choices. I feel lucky to have such an amazing person be a large part of my life. And fingers crossed I got an ounce of her artistic talent.
Ashley: What are your thoughts on the pressures to achieve perfection that come from increased networking sites and DIY websites? More specifically, what advice do you have for not getting overwhelmed with attempting to “do it all” or feeling inadequate? How do you extract usefulness from the internet without allowing it to burden you?
Jess: To be honest I do in fact feel overwhelmed at times with wanting to be “perfect” or at least constantly better. The blog world is filled with amazing talent. While that is super cool, it is also a lot to handle at times and I can get a bit green with envy. I really think it is easy with a blog like ours where we dabble in a lot of different mediums to wonder why we are not better at this or that, but the truth is we are doing so many different things. I’ll look at a sewing blog and think, wow she is so talented and does so much. I have to remember for me I like working a bit on my cooking skills one night and then knitting the next and then trying out photography over the weekend. (That’s not to say that someone with an awesome sewing blog isn’t a kick-ass cook too.) Basically it is about recognizing what you value. How much time do you want to put towards the projects you do and then photography, writing, editing and networking. It’s about being comfortable with that goal you set.
I think in part Linz and I have a lot of series on the blog because it sets a pace for us (or at least me). Challenging myself to do one Foodie Friday post every other week works. Since adding the series I have felt less of this urge to do more and have actually just been doing more posts. Funny how that works. I am a big dreamer type and am constantly coming up with ideas, so it’s nice to have realistic goals to ground me.
The blog world is just like the real world, you can look at others and be jealous or excited for them (and acknowledge we are all at times guilty of the first), set goals that work for you (not others) and most important be kind to yourself. You are rocking it everyday in your own way.
Sara: Where in the world would you travel to right now for crafting inspiration?
Linz: I can’t pick one place! I always find that travel refreshes and inspires me in so many ways that any location would be influential. I really loved how Jess learned about jewelry and weaving when she visited Ecuador. If I had to pick one area, I think it would be particularly interesting to visit southeast Asia, perhaps Indonesia or Thailand. That said, I have to resign myself to the fact that I cannot jump on a plane right now due to being pregnant, and probably won’t be traveling very far for a while.
Check it out, we managed not to look like complete goof balls for a picture of us in Paris.
Jess: I am with Linz that you can really find inspiration wherever you are at, buuuuut, traveling to a new place is an exciting way to rejuvenate that spark. I could really over think this question, so I’ll just say the first place that came to mind: Japan. I can’t exactly say why, in my head it is beautiful and full of style in arts and crafts that is not like my own, which at the moment I find inspiring.
Mariko: What has been your favorite item that you have cooked for the blog?
Jess: The dish I have fantasized about eating the most, but have yet to make again is the Orange and Ricotta Pound Cake I made two summers ago. When I made that cake there was actually enough for two cakes and I ended up eating half of one in a day. It was either that good or you all have learned I have no will power. I’ll let you decide.
Linz: I keep thinking back to the granola I made once. I remember telling myself, “you must make this on a regular basis,” but of course, I never made it again! I actually have the ingredients in my cabinet to make an spiced apple-pecan batch, so maybe I will follow-through soon and do it. Oh, and that pound cake Jess made was that good. I’m pretty sure I helped eat a bunch of it.
Mariko: Share a hilarious story of crafting gone terribly wrong.
Jess: I don’t know if this counts as hilarious, but I do remember when Linz, another friend and I were decorating your (Mariko’s) sweet 16 survivor themed cake. Once we finished and without thinking I immediately put saran wrap over the top and completely ruined it. And then of course I burst into tears because I was your typical 16 year-old-girl. My mom came to the kitchen and helped us fix it. It’s funny for me to think of now because I remember being so upset, but now I mess up all the time with crafts and baking and just go straight into “make it work” mode without blinking. Also, we made invitations for the party out of brown party bags that we crumpled up and burned around the edges to give it a pirates map look. I remember we were laughing on Linz’ back deck so hard we couldn’t blow out the fire on the invites we were burning and almost set the whole deck on fire…three times! Oh to be 16!
Mariko: What is your favorite material to craft with?
Jess: I think any regular reader of the blog knows about my chalkboard paint phase. I’m on the hunt for a new material to drive Linz up the wall with my 50 different craft ideas (cue maniacal laugh).
Mariko: What is your favorite ingredient to cook with?
Jess: I be adding mad red pepper chili flakes to everything.
Jess: The outfit she will wear when she comes to visit me in Baltimore this summer!!! Just kidding (sorta). Animal outfits she can wear in the summer. I love babies all dressed up like animals (just putting two of my favorite things together), but they are often outfits better suited to keep babies warm. Forget practicality, let’s see this babe as an animal all year long.
Linz: You know I’m a big fan of ridiculous baby hats, so that’s my pick. Perhaps something like this beauty.
Mariko: If money/resources were not an issue, what would be your dream theme for a party and how would you decorate?
Linz: I’m not sure if this was originally my idea, or if I’m stealing it from you or Jess or someone else, but I keep fantasizing about a Childhood Dream Party. The premise: each attendee lives out a very specific childhood dream during the party, and everyone present works to make each others’ dreams come true. Think pony rides, an impromptu musical involving all of your friends, a full-out food fight (Jess), and so-forth. How adorable would that be? As far as decorations, i think a lot of inspirational quotes and fantastical accessories would be involved. Probably a lot of glitter, too.
Sara: If you had to choose just one recipe to keep while all others in your recipe box, cook books and memory were erased; what would it be and why?
Linz: I’ve been a bit of a broken record about this, but Sweetapolita’s dark chocolate cake recipe is superb, and I don’t ever want to forget it. If my cooking memory were erased, I could probably get by with learning new recipes for regular food, but I never want to give up the dark, rich, subtly sweet dark chocolate cake of this recipe. A boxed cake could never replace it.
Lisa: What craft have you been dying to try but just haven’t gotten around to yet?
Jess: Silk screening has been on my list FOR-EVER. Linz and I have talked about doing it, but all the supplies needed and the work of coordinating the project has stopped us from seeing it come to fruition. Hmmmm, sounds like a bunch of excuses, I should get on this one.
Linz: All true, but if we tried silk screening, we’d no longer need to try silk screening. What would be left with?? Kidding, but I think having that looming task is sometimes comforting, because I know there’s always something else on the horizon for us. I suppose if we try silk screening, we would pretty much only have that Etsy shop left. Someday we’ll have that Etsy shop…