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Spring-Summer 2020: A few more books and a lot of cooking

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Citrus bounty

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:

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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.

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And this highly anticipated book by the author of The Mothers which I also loved.

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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.

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Also my workdays looked like this and I needed a creative outlet. A glass or two of wine while cooking also helped.

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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.

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And more here:

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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!

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Reading, Writing and Sewing, July 2020

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.

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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.

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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.

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Other than my trip wardrobe top, I sewed some quilts:

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Lap quilt for a friend

 

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Baby quilt for a friend

 

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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.

 

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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.

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What are you reading, sewing, dreaming of right now?

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April 2020: Things that are giving me life 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.

Lightweight cotton-linen:

rayon-linen blend:

Nani Iro double gauze:

4. Books

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. ❤️

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This blog is not sponsored. I recommend things that I love in the hopes that they will bring you joy too. 😊

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favorite books 2019

With two weeks left in the year I am short on my goal of 100 books so I adjusted my goal down and am just enjoying reading what I like and I loved this book.

It was nothing like I expected. I inhaled it in 24 hours. Highly recommend!

It is always hard to choose my favorite novels of the year but I so loved these four. They are all very different and all wonderful reads. Highly recommend.

Here are other fiction reads that I gave ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars to. Beautiful writing, compelling characters and narratives that made me think hard about my own life. So good!

I love memoir and these were all wonderful. I include The Library Book here which is non-fiction, not memoir but so good.

And here are more wonderful fiction reads that I gave ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. All wonderful stories that you can immerse yourself in.

I just read this spiritual memoir which I really loved.

And I am enjoying this collection of essays by some of my favorite writers.

I am so looking forward to the winters weekends after the holidays when I have more time to read. So many books on my to read pile! What books have you loved this year?

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Thanksgiving Gratitudes 2019

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wishing you so many blessing throughout the holidays and in the next year and decade and thank you again for following along!

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My blog is not monetized. I provide links for convenience but I don’t make a fee if you click on the links.

 

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Fall 2019: Burnside Bibs, Quilts and Doing Hard Things

One of the patterns on my 2019 #makenine plan was the Burnside Bib pattern. I had been meaning to make it for such a long time and I am so glad that I finally did.

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I bought this mustard linen blend at Joanne’s earlier this year with a Cielo top in mind,  but the weight was a bit heavy for a top so I bought a bit more and was able to squeeze out an ankle length version of the Burnside bibs.

I added 2 inches to the bib because I have a long torso and otherwise sewed a straight 12. I plan to size down and will probably take an inch out of the bib for the next version because it really wasn’t necessary.

I used a fun quilting cotton for the facings and added a couple of inches to the length of the legs  by sewing a pre-folded circle of fabric to the bottom using the same technique that Rae uses for the hem in her Cleo skirt pattern.

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It turned out great and was fun to sew. I have some khaki green brussels washer linen set aside for another version which I will probably make a bit longer and definitely with a bit less ease but these are completely wearable and I have even worn them to work. They are such a sunny color that they improve the mood of the wearer and those around her!

Some detail shots below. Really a fun, not too complicated project with great directions. I love the pockets!

And as worn:

I love the flowy legs!

Most of my sewing this fall hasn’t been garments, it has been quilts. I set myself a goal to sew a quilt for each of my children and step-children and there are five of them (!) and I am expecting my first grandchild. And then a dear cousin had her first baby girl so I made her a quilt (so for those of you who are counting, that is 7 quilts!)

I am loving sewing flying geese. It is really fun to just sew a bunch of triangle blocks in different color combinations and see how they come together. The reason I am able to even think that I will sew this many quilts this year is because I discovered the secret that is crinklelove. Sara long-arm quilts my quilts so beautifully. It is fun to look at all of her patterns and find the perfect one. For Ana Lucia, I chose dragonflies. So perfect!

The front: (I have collected many of these fabrics for years:)

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And the back which I pieced because I didn’t have enough of the main fabric for the whole back. I actually love it pieced.

And after binding and washing and ready to go off to its new owner:

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I made a second flying geese quilt for my step-daughter. She loves blue and white.

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I included fabrics from many garments I have made and included fabric from her first hand-sewn garment which you can read about here. It just came back from crinklelove today and I can’t wait to bind it and put it in the mail to her. I chose a quilting pattern called “love doodles” and it couldn’t be more perfect.

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This summer and fall, much of the time that I would normally spend reading and sewing was taken up with editing a talk I gave in October. Earlier this year, our minister asked me to give our annual Laity Sermon in which a member of the congregation gives the sermon. Writing it and then giving the sermon was one of the hardest things I have done recently. I probably went through 100 rewrites. I started in June and most of the month of September, I was just rewriting over and over again in all my spare time. But at the end of the day, I was really glad that I agreed to do it and that I spent the time to really nail what I wanted to say. It is about using faith to navigate difficult times. You can listen to it here if you are so inclined.

I  have so many things that I want to sew, but I am up to my eyeballs this fall because I teach for 12 hours every Saturday in addition to my full time job, but I am hoping to sew a stretch velvet version of this dress for the holidays. I did read two books that I really loved.

This one:

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And this one:

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Next up, I am working on a Looper quilt.

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So much fun!

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This blog is not sponsored. I provide links to products I enjoy but I do not earn any commission if you click on them. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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April Reading List

I have been trying different strategies to be more centered this year and have been using the screen time timer on my iPhone with great success. It makes a big difference to set a daily limit and have that visual reminder when you get there. But I am feeling that I need to do this in a bigger way. My brain functions differently when I force myself to take a break from the screens. So for the month of April I will be offline- reading, sewing, writing and most importantly exercising and spending time outdoors. Here is my stack of current reads which I hope to read this month. I will report back with book recommendations and some new garments to share. Spoiler alert: I already finished and loved Daisy Jones & the Six. It was the perfect easing into spring read.

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