Made by Rae is getting ready to release this wonderful pattern. I made two versions of the dress, one of which I subsequently cropped to make a top, when the pattern first was in Making magazine and then pattern-tested the top last year and made 5 more versions. I have nothing but wonderful things to say about this pattern. I loved making it and I love wearing my many versions. In a world of patterns that seem to all be copies of each other, this feels very original, classic, a great addition to your wardrobe. Am I a MBR superfan? Absolutely. My first garment sewing experience was Rae’s Trillium Dress (previously called Washi Dress) and that experience was so positive that it gave me the confidence to start sewing my own clothes. The rest is history.
Note: I was a pattern tester for the top version of the Emerald and received a fabric gift certificate for pattern testing. I had previously purchased the pattern when I purchased Making magazine. All opinions are my own, my blog is not sponsored and I don’t get any $ if you click on links.
Here are my 7 versions:
I hope you have enjoyed this little gratitude post for this lovely pattern. Sewing the many top versions is part of how I coped with pandemic anxiety when I had little time and energy for sewing and for that I will always be very grateful. This is just one of the many reasons I am so glad that Rae is still persevering and creating beautiful, wearable designs and well thought out, clear instructions, despite a pandemic, parenting three children and #life. You go girl!
It is December 31st and my instagram is flooded with end of year reflections and 3X3 photo grids, mostly posted by sewing friends who share their most-liked posts filled with beautiful handsewn garments. Normally that would be me but this year was like no other.
In February, after a birthday weekend spent in NYC taking a sewing workshop and staying overnight in the city with my husband, (and eating out at several favorite Brooklyn restaurants,) life changed, almost on a dime. I look back at my texts to my husband and it tells the story. Even as early as February 6th when I went to my previously scheduled doctor’s appts in NYC, I was being screened for recent travels. I was a little nervous about riding the subway and eating out in Brooklyn and bodegas were selling masks. And then the first case was in NYC and then it was in Connecticut. The hospital where I work was giving me and my colleagues daily messages, often contradictory, about how best to handle things. On March 11th, I got fitted for an N95 mask but the following week, we were told that there was a shortage and that they wouldn’t be issued to us, only ICU staff. We were told to wear surgical masks and then told that we shouldn’t be wearing them because they were in short supply. My boss asked me to sew cloth masks for staff to wear but the senior management of the hospital was telling us to not wear masks in clinic and hadn’t endorsed cloth masks for healthcare workers and I was having a hard time just managing the stress of going into work each day and didn’t have the physical or psychic energy to sew masks. To actually sew them would have meant acknowledging that the people who were in charge of keeping me and my coworkers and patients safe didn’t have the resources and information to do that and that was more than I could bear. And so for the month of March into the first week in April, I went into the hospital each day and worked in clinic without a mask. I was especially nervous walking up the 4 flights of stairs to my clinic. As I would pass other hospital employees, I would hold my breath. I pared my physical exams of my patients down to bare minimums and washed my hands constantly. I was so afraid that I might unknowingly have the virus and could infect one of my fragile cancer patients. In April, I had cold symptoms and had to quarantine for 14 days at home so overnight had to figure out how to work from home. Our clinic was short staffed as doctors got pulled to work in the ICU’s at Yale and I took over many new patients.
I realized right away that our patients, elderly cancer patients, many of whom lived at home with limited family and social support, were high risk for loneliness from social isolation so I reached out to colleagues and we created a new program where we call patients at-risk patients weekly. It helped to stay busy but the ongoing stress of worrying about my patients and family members has been a lot. Most nights this year, I have what I call responsibility dreams – I have forgotten something or someone. It has been a heavy load.
I wrote new years resolutions in February of last year because the holidays are always busy and December bleeds into January and in February after we took our weekend trip to New York, I finally had time to reflect on what I wanted me year to look like. My son lives in Chicago and I wanted to do more traveling. I had gotten him memberships to several museums and I bought myself memberships to several museums in New York and I had planned to take weekend trips to see him and to spend time in the city and thought as a sewing goal that I would plan a trip wardrobe. I had fun thinking about the pieces I would sew and how they could be mixed and matched to make different outfits. I had also started a draft of an article for a nursing journal that I wanted to finish. I wanted to read and sew some quilts. It was a relatively modest list of goals.
Needless to say, things didn’t go as planned.
I did do some sewing. I had agreed to be a tester for a new pattern and it was great to have that project to focus on in the spring and I went on to sew several versions of the pattern, the Made By Rae Emerald top.
I did sew one of the pieces of my trip wardrobe, a black sleeveless knit top that I really like.
Here is my trip wardrobe plan. I still plan to take trips and I still plan to sew these garments, just not right now.
And I actually sewed several other garments and quilts, almost completing the goal I had set last year to sew each of my children a quilt. I have one more to sew but it has been challenging to find the time and space during this second half of the year, so that project is on my list for 2021.
I spent a lot of the year planning our grocery shopping and cooking. We had three grown children back in the house most of the summer and fall and so my normal relaxed approach to cooking became much more planned and took way more time. It wasn’t all bad. I found many new recipes that I use all the time now and it was a nice thing to have family meals at the table as gracious end to sometimes challenging days when we were all working or doing school from home. You can see many pictures of many things I cooked in this post.
In December, I made the most of the experience I had cooking and feeding many adults during the pandemic by creating a cooking guide as a Christmas gift for my kids. Big kudos to Alison Roman, whose recipes and you-tubes were a comfort and a source of light during a challenging year. Here is the cover:
And here is a page from the cookbook. I handwrote most of it and then photographed the pages to make an E-Cooking Guide to be a jumping off place for my adult kids who have to cook for themselves.
An example of one of my recipes below: Refrigerator Soup. I use Alison Roman’s parsley topping on almost everything now. Thank you Alison.
We ate many meals on the porch in the summer and were so grateful to have a porch. I baked many more desserts than every before. And in August, I gave a sermon for my church (socially distanced on livestream) and talked about things my patients teach me about living with uncertainty. And the numbers of covid cases started to decline and things felt hopeful.
And then it was Fall and things eased up and I saw my daughter and son in law and grandchild for the first time in 7 months and went back to swimming at my gym and it seemed as though maybe we were coming to an end of this, at least in the Northeast and I even took a week in October and went hiking alone in Maine. After all those months of carrying my patients’ worries and my worries about my patients, it was a relief to let them go, even for a short while.
And then we had enough PPE in the hospital. We went from no masks to having masks to being required to wear masks to being required to wear masks and face shields. It has been a journey. Me on Election Day below. I phone banked for the first time in my life and it felt right to not stand on the sidelines.
And almost as soon as the election was over, I didn’t feel as though I could relax for even a day because the covid cases started climbing and the politics got even more nasty which seemed really unimaginable. I found solace in watching many different preachers preach each week. I didn’t just listen to my own church service online but several others. Digital church is the one thing that has been helping me in these last hard months of a long hard year. I didn’t have the energy for reading. Although now with the year almost over, I re-read my two favorite books from 2020 and seem to be finding my way back. They are Transcendent Kingdom and Deacon King Kong. They were even better the second time.
My year ended on a hopeful note. I was lucky to get my first dose of the covid-19 vaccine before Christmas. The VA where I work was organized and had enough vaccine for any employee who wanted one and I feel so lucky and grateful to have been able to be in the first wave of those vaccinated. I pray that many more people will be vaccinated in the next several months and that it will help make our world safer for my patients and all of our families.
Every year I write a list for myself of the things I accomplished. It is just for me. I include big things and small. It helps me to look back and see progress, even when it feels like baby steps. For 2020, the things that stand out are finishing my grandson’s quilt, which is completely hand quilted with many tiny stitches and just holding it together and showing up every day for my patients and coworkers and family. I am hoping to sew more and stress less in 2021 and I wish for you the same!
I have a goodreads account where I track my reading but I will also be tracking my 2021 reads in a new instagram account dedicated to my reading life: @nursebeanreads. Feel free to follow me there.
Wishing you a healthy new year filled with grace and peace.
I have given three sermons in my life so far. The first was in October of 2007 when I gave the annual Laity Sermon for my church on the topic of becoming an oncology nurse. My wonderful husband tracked down the audio on an old computer. It was originally recorded on CD. The audio of the sermon is at the bottom of this post, under the photo. The sermon itself is about 18 minutes long. The audio continues after with the hymn and the benediction. You can listen to my two other more recent sermons via links in this post. I am really proud of the effort that went into all three of these sermons and feel that they are the best things I have written. It was actually wonderful to re-listen to the sermon from 2007 and find it really held up for me, although part of me wanted to reach out to younger me and give her a hug for all that was in store for her future. I hope they speak to you. If you haven’t listened to any of them yet, I would start with the most recent, Making Peace with Uncertainty from 8/30/2020, then listen to 2007 and then listen to 2019. A lot happened between 2007 and 2008. The sermons from 2019 and 2020 are in the blog post just before this one. You can scroll right down or link here. I have written so many posts since I started this blog back in 2015 to track my sewing projects and books I have read, but if you are here for the non-sewing writing, this post is one that about sewing but really about life-is one that is really meaningful to me-I a really proud of it- and if you are interested in my Unplugged Sundays project, I wrote about it here and here.
I am trying to take a social media break but wanted to share that today, I gave a sermon in my lovely church (socially distanced-church is remote) and it was on the topic of dealing with uncertainty.
It is pretty ecumenical and not too preachy (thanks to my daughter for her edits and feedback).
If you want to listen, click on the link and go to minute 25.
I wore my favorite me-made outfit of the year, my Made by Rae Emerald top in white double gauze and Rose linen pants.
A funny thing was that just this morning right before I went in, I learned that I was also doing the prayer, which I hadn’t prepared. I tried googling pastoral prayers. No help! I ended up writing something inspired by something Tsh said about feeling surrounded by fog. I have followed her and loved her writing for years. If you don’t know her, you should.
Also, the Lent Devotional that I used and loved is called Every Broken Thing. It is the work of Erin Moon and her work with the bible binge podcast is bringing me joy right now. I miss seeing her posts on instagram but am finding that I really need to stay away, at least until after the election.
This is the third sermon I have given. The first one I gave was in 2007 about becoming a nurse. You can listen to it here. I gave one last year on navigating hard times. It is a bit of a tear jerker but ultimately uplifting. Maybe not what you want to listen to right now but if you are interested in listening, you can find it in this post here.
I realized after I hit publish on my Summer 2020 post that I actually have read a couple more books I enjoyed. This light beach read:
And this book that had me on the edge of my seat in a good way and transported me onto a boat in the Caribbean.
And this highly anticipated book by the author of The Mothers which I also loved.
But the thing that I have actually spent the most time on this Quarantine Spring/Summer/hopefully not Fall of 2020???? has been cooking all the things.
Some evidence below.
Ay yi yi!!!
It started because I was trying so hard to ration our food stores, not knowing if there would be shortages and trying to limit my grocery shopping to every 10 days-2 weeks during our period of social distancing here in the US and it became a creative outlet and a way to mark the end of the workday when I worked from home and work life and home life were enmeshed and every day felt like ground hog day.
I tried to create family dinners that we would all enjoy, complete with flowers, when available from the garden, and candles.
Also my workdays looked like this and I needed a creative outlet. A glass or two of wine while cooking also helped.
My primary muse was Alison Roman. I had bought her cookbooks early in the year with the intention of trying some new recipes and try I did. Here is a list of the recipes I cooked this spring that were new to me. Everything on the list is something I would make again. They are all keepers.
And more here:
In terms of my New Years Resolution to cook some new recipes, reader, I nailed it.
I am hoping, though, to be able to to read more, sew more, exercise more as life hopefully becomes a little less stressful, although in the Northeast, we are still practicing social distancing and I expect to be doing this for the foreseeable future. Our gym did reopen, though, and I am swimming my laps again which is a huge positive development. Especially in light of all the food and wine!
Life continues to be very odd in the summer of 2020 as I am sure most would agree. I am not reading at my normal pace but I loved Deacon King Kong by James McBride and can’t recommend it more highly. I actually borrowed it right before lockdown and when our library reopened for curbside service, I knew I had to read it quickly because in the interim, it became Oprah’s book club pick. She was right as always.
I am now enjoying a book I learned about through an episode of Modern Mrs. Darcy. I tracked it down at the Yale University library. They tracked it down through inter-library loan from the Columbia University library. Some day all these institutions will reopen and they will want it back, but right now, with no prospect of a real trip, I am loving traveling through the towns of Italy. This book, published in the 1950’s, is listed as THE BEST travel memoir in 1000 Books to Read Before You Die. I highly recommend The Surprise of Cremona if you can get your hands on it and 1000 Books to Read Before You Die is very fun though a bit daunting. I don’t think I have even read 100 of them, but it is a great list.
I did a little writing this spring of tiny letters that I called Love Notes, inspired by The Isolation Journals project. I posted them on instagram. They are illustrated using original drawings by by my talented husband. He draws beautiful cards for special occasions and I have quite a collection of these lovely cards. They are the original Love Notes. I wrote about what inspired me to write them on my instagram post which you can find @nursebean82. Here is a collage of some of my favorites.
Not much garment sewing happening here, but I hope to get back to it soon. I have one piece of my planned trip capsule wardrobe sewn, # 3 of my original 9-piece plan drawn up on 2/20/20 as part of my new year’s resolutions that included a trip! and a trip wardrobe!! I break my own heart sometimes when I look back at my notebooks.
These resolutions seemed so modest at the time and so impossible now but I continue to stay hopeful and will sew on and hopefully finish this project by year end and be ready to travel when it is safe to do so. I love this high-necked sleeveless Nikko top, worn newly sewn Brumby skirt. It is such a classic look.
Other than my trip wardrobe top, I sewed some quilts:
Lap quilt for a friend
Baby quilt for a friend
Baby quilt for my grandson. Hand-quilted.
And a zillion versions of the Emerald top, a new pattern to be released soon by Made by Rae. My white double gauze version is worn with some swishy Rose pants, also a MBR pattern, in a rayon floral. It is the perfect social distance visiting in the back yards of friends with a glass of wine outfit which is my current summer plan.
I also continue to cook, cook, cook. It is my new therapy but it will require another whole post since I have cooked so many things but here is a highlight, cornmeal raspberry cake, recipe via Alison Roman who is my new best friend. I recommend subscribing to her newsletter.
What are you reading, sewing, dreaming of right now?
Up until five days ago, I was still going to work five days a week in the outpatient cancer center where I work as a nurse practitioner. Life had changed for me too though not as drastically as those who were staying home. It was certainly more stressful just going to work with the daily necessary screening at the door, the social distancing, the in-person interaction with my beloved patients which is my favorite thing about my work now switched over to phone visits and the daily decontamination process that I would undertake at the end of each day, stripping, showering, daily laundering of clothes, so much wiping down of surfaces. 😳 It has been a lot.
But that being said, I am so grateful to be employed and to be doing work that is meaningful to me, even by phone. I have now switched to working from home last week along with everyone else since I can do my work by phone, at least for now.
Many of the things I usually enjoy aren’t possible right now but there are quieter pleasures I am finding in this crazy time and having a gentle, regular gratitude practice (as opposed to a rigid, regimented one) is helping.
So here are things I am enjoying in the hopes that they may also help you.
I have not included links because I am typing this on my phone and my blog is not sponsored but I promise these are all a google search away if you are interested.
1. Artists sharing their gifts. I love Mary Chapin Carpenter and have listened to her for years, since I was a young mother in Brooklyn and would play her music, (LPs, probably or cassettes?) when I stayed up late sewing. She is a gift. You can find her on Instagram. All the songs are saved. Just click on the pictures. Her dog Angus is a special bonus. I miss our dogs. We had two wonderful golden retrievers. All the love for Angus. ❤️
2. Cooking new recipes and more specifically Alison Roman recipes via The NY Times cooking app. I have probably cooked 20 or more new recipes since the new year, most them hers. It has been totally worth it to me to pay an extra $1.25 a week to upgrade my basic subscription to the Times to include the full access to nytimesfood. I have had to be so much more careful about how we buy and cook and having recipes, especially good ones, is really helping. I am also slowly cooking my way through both Alison Roman cookbooks which were Christmas and Birthday gifts. Bonus: she is delightful to watch in the nytimes cooking you-tube videos.
3. Sewing, specifically pattern testing and hand quilting. I had agreed to pattern test the Emerald Dress and Top pattern by Made by Rae before the virus was in our State and I am glad I did. I sewed and blogged the dress version twice last summer. This past several weeks I sewed three tester versions of the top and I love them. Having instructions to follow and a deadline got me into my sewing room and not thinking about the world for several long afternoons. Bonus: I have three new beautiful tops I will wear all spring.
Nani Iro double gauze:
I don’t have the bandwidth to read much but I loved this novel:
And I read and enjoyed the latest book in a cozy buddy mystery series that is set in Maine:
5. Just a little bit of writing:
Inspired by a wonderful project called The Isolation Journals that is the brainchild of a young writer I have followed for years, Suleika Jaoud, I am writing the occasional tiny piece. I am calling them Love Notes and I am posting them on my Instagram. It is really worth checking out the project and all of the art that is being inspired by it which you will find by searching the hashtag #theisolationjournals or going to Suleika’s Instagram. There is also an article about the project on vogue.com this week.
Finally, I am trying to hold onto my joy. Two weeks ago I dressed up for work. I wore my latest Zadie Jumpsuit, a pattern I love. I sewed it to wear to NYC and I know I will be doing just that, just not in the immediate future.
Sending big love out to you across the interwaves. Stay home, stay well, stay safe. ❤️
This blog is not sponsored. I recommend things that I love in the hopes that they will bring you joy too. 😊
I am sitting on my couch at 10 AM on this Thanksgiving Thursday of 2019. The year and the decade are coming to a close and I just finished reading this book which I highly recommend, if you enjoy spiritual memoirs, and I am counting my blessings.
2019 was full. We had a death in the family, a birth in the family, major injuries and illnesses for 4 of our 5 children, 3 of whom required surgery and are thankfully healed and one who (thankfully) didn’t require surgery and who healed through his own determination to do the prescribed physical therapy.
It included a planned trip to Maine to celebrate my youngest daughter’s graduation from college (!!!) and an unplanned trip in the middle of winter that started at 8PM and involved me driving 430 miles all night alone in the dark to get there for that same child’s emergency surgery which went well, she is fine, I got there in time and I didn’t hit a moose (seriously those signs on the Maine highways-stressful doesn’t even begin to describe it) and she got wonderful care in the tiny, less than 25 bed hospital in the small coastal Maine town. Her nurse that evening went from giving pain medicine to G to leaving the floor briefly to give a breathing treatment to a baby (“We’re generalists, dearie”). As an oncology nurse who specializes in certain kinds of cancer, I was in awe.
Last week we were blessed by the birth of my first grandchild who came into the world a bit early but quite big (over 9 lbs.) with a bit of a rough start but who is healthy and perfect in every way as is his mother who also had a rough time (to say that I am particularly grateful for good medical and nursing care this year is an understatement.) It is not my place to post pictures of him on the internet, but believe me when I tell you that he is beautiful.
Last summer we said goodbye to my mother in law at the age of nearly 97, who died peacefully, not in pain and not in a hospital, with Bill holding one hand and me the other. Both his birth and her death were everyday miracles, the kind that Sarah Bessey so beautifully writes about.
As the decade is coming to a close, I had the opportunity to deliver a sermon at my church, my spiritual home for 20 years. Writing it forced me to relive and process some very hard things my children and I went through during those ten years and I am grateful for that challenge and opportunity because although it was really hard to think about all of the things I didn’t want to relive, it helped me to put it into words and think about how the experience helped me to grow in so many ways.
And so today, I think about all the reasons I have to be grateful: my health, the health of my family, a loving partner with whom I celebrated 10 years of marriage this year, our five wonderful children and the opportunity to spend time with them, meaningful work, my wonderful patients and coworkers, my nursing students who teach me as much as I teach them and help me see and appreciate our calling all over again every fall when I teach, our home, our church family, the sewing community, good books, time spent in New York and visiting my son in Chicago, time spent writing (something I am trying to make more space for,) and my physical body, which I am also making more time to take care of recently. I started getting up at 5AM when the time changed (I told myself that 5 would be the new 6!) and have been going to the gym before work several times a week. It has been really life-changing. I feel so much better and motivated to keep this new habit going. I miss running, something that was a big part of my life for over 30 years, but my hips just can’t take it anymore so I am swimming and doing spin class and feeling great.
A week ago I took a day off from work to go to New York and walk all over the city. I do this several times a year to get my city fix. I went this time because a patient of mine who is a photographer told me about the Gary Winogrand exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum and I was so glad he did because it was amazing. It was a beautiful warm fall day and I walked through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden which I used to do weekly when my children were little, often with one or more along for the walk, strapped to me in a sling carrier or in the stroller.
Park Slope Brooklyn, now discovered by all and out of sight financially, was the place where all my children came home from the hospital and where we lived for the 10+ years when my children were small. I may have lived in Connecticut for almost 25 years but Brooklyn still has my heart. Bill and I spent a weekend in Brooklyn this year for our anniversary and I spent a week there on my own this fall recouping after the sermon. I go there when I need to recharge and remember who I am. I feel so luck to be a train ride away.
Another wonderful thing I have been able to do this year is to meet up with friends from the online sewing community in real life. I am hoping to do more of this next year and have already enrolled in some sewing workshops.
I am posting less frequently here but will definitely post a year-end best books of 2019 and best sewing projects as we get closer to year-end. In the meantime, I just posted many, many good books on my Instagram. I read a lot earlier in the year but spent so many hours revising my sermon that I lost a bit of steam over the summer. With that behind me, I am looking forward to Advent and quiet evenings reading in the living room with a Christmas tree and a candle. I found this to be very centering last year. I am also planning to revisit my practice of unplugged Sundays starting December 1st. In the meantime, here are my four favorite novels of 2019.
In years past, Thanksgiving meant lots of cooking of lots of dishes in our tiny Brooklyn kitchens and in our different Connecticut homes, but this year, I am lounging on the couch while my youngest daughter and college graduate does it all. She is trying new recipes and making old favorites like this pecan pie. Look how beautiful! My work is done.
Wishing you so many blessing throughout the holidays and in the next year and decade and thank you again for following along!