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.


Nursebean Reads: Winter 2019

I have really been enjoying reading this winter and have lots of new books to recommend. All the books below were terrific reads. I have a hard time singling any of them out because they are so varied and all so good but if I had to choose one it would be Chemistry, a spare, beautifully written book that is darkly funny, occasionally heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful. It is amazing what this author does in so few words-I am in awe of her talent and can’t wait to see what she writes next.

I loved Dani Shapiro’s latest book Inheritance. I would suggest not googling it. Just read it and let the story unfold. I read Devotion afterward and loved it even more and was so glad I had read them in that order.

Washington Black is a great read. The story and characters drew me in. It felt a bit like a cross between The Underground Railroad and The Signature of All Things-both excellent books themselves if you haven’t read them.

Once Upon a River was a great winter read. I loved the characters and the setting and the story. It started slowly but once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down.

Freshwater is an exploration of one woman’s experience of mental illness but it is not just that. She explores spirituality, culture, sexuality, family. She takes you on a trip that gives you a sense of her experience of the world. It is hard to do it justice describing it. A totally original voice.

I continue to read and love Patti Smith’s work. She makes me want to read and travel and write and seek out beautiful things.

I have also been reading my way through Joan Didion and loving her beautiful incisive prose.

In the same vein, I really enjoyed Alexander Chee’s collection of autobiographical essays. I love his writing and look forward to reading his fiction.

The Great Believers is a hard book in terms of the subject but I am glad I read it.

Waiting for Eden is short, beautifully written, heartbreaking.

The Line Becomes a River is the experience of a journalist who works for several years as a Border Agent. It was inconsistent but the last section was worth the wait. I am glad I read it.

I also listened to this book in audio. The narrator is amazing. I have listened my way through all 10 books of the series-I highly recommend them.

And I read this book along with the rest of the country. I am glad I read it. It was a little bit like reliving those years right along with her which was a bit depressing but it is well written and thoughtful and worth reading.

My to-be-read pile is overflowing and I couldn’t be happier. I just started Bowlaway. I love the premise and the quirkiness of the characters. I can’t wait to see where the story goes.

Winter and books. A perfect combination!


2018 Me-Made Wrap-up

I sewed 30 garments this year, 28 for me and 2 for my daughter. These are my most-loved and most-worn.

They include the Beatrix blouse, the Isla dress, the Jade top, the Gemma tank and the Josephine blouse, all by Made by Rae, the Grainline Patterns Tamarack Jacket and the Helen’s Closet Blackwood Cardigan and York Pinafore. Details on each of these and most of the other garments I sewed this year are on the blog. Pictures of all of the 30 garments are on my Instagram ( #nursebeansews2018 ).

True to form, what works for me is to find a pattern that works well for me and sew it in multiple versions. I sewed 7 Islas to add to the many others in my closet and 7 York Pinafores. Those two patterns have become wardrobe staples. I have sewn both warm weather and cool weather versions. They both use just 2 yards of fabric and can be hacked to make very different looking garments using the same pattern. The Blackwood Cardigan is a quick sew and I wear my 4 versions all the time. The Tamarack Jacket was such a fun project and has gotten tons of wear. I have a second version cut out and ready to go.

I am looking forward to sewing some new to me patterns in the new year. Here is a picture of my #2019makenine plans. Can you guess the patterns?


New Year New Make

I kicked off the new year with this Berlin Jacket (pattern by Tessuti) in boiled wool. Love it! I highly recommend this pattern! It is a quick and satisfying sew. I found it true to size but would add length next time ( I am 5’9″.)

Looking forward to a year filled with sewing and books. Happy 2019 friends!


Nursebean Reads 2018

I am on book 100! A good year for reading. I enjoyed them all but these were the best of the best. To see what I am currently reading, you can scroll to the bottom on my blog where my Goodreads account is linked. I have posted many times this year and over the last three years with book recommendations. To find those posts just search using the terms books, reading or nursebean reads. This year I read more paper books and fewer on my kindle but I love them both. Happy reading! Linking to @annebogel whose podcast about books and reading is a wonderful source of wonderful books!


Nursebean Reads: Fall 2018

I have continued to do a lot of reading this fall across a wide range of topics and genres. I find great new books through several trusted sources: Anne Bogel, whose Quick Lit post I am linking to today, the Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia, a small independent bookstore- the owner’s taste generally matches mine (I follow her on Instagram and subscribe to her monthly Shelf Subscription) – and more recently I have followed Austin Kleon and find that many of my favorite reads have been recommended by him. Here are 14 recent reads and a couple I am currently reading.

I liked all of these books and would recommend all as good reads but my favorite was The Overstory, a bit upsetting in places but such a good read-it really has stayed with me. It reminded me a bit of The Nix which I read and loved earlier this year. I also loved Florida and Awayland, two short story collections, A Spool of Blue Thread, a backlist title by a favorite author and two memoirs about living in New York City in the 1960s and 70s: Just Kids and Arbitrary Stupid Goal. I also really enjoyed several mysteries.

I loved both Florida and Awayland. Each collection of short stories is beautifully written, inventive, a little weird and each contains a couple of absolutely stunning stories that take your breath away,

I rediscovered Anne Tyler this year when Clock Dance was a Shelf Subscription book. I had read almost all of her books years ago but missed the last few when I was back in school. I really enjoy her quirky characters and A Spool of Blue Thread did not disappoint.

I love Kate Atkinson’s writing so had to read her latest book as soon as it was published. I definitely enjoyed it but it didn’t blow me away as the last two did. But certainly worth reading.

I read both the Penelope Fitzgerald and Ali Smith books because I somehow went down a rabbit hole on the topic of books about libraries. I enjoyed them both.

I love memoir and found Arbitrary Stupid Goal and You and the Road and a Bike, both of which I enjoyed, through Austin Kleon. Arbitrary Stupid Goal gave a window into NYC and specifically Greenwich Village in the 70’s. In the same vein of New York memoirs, I finally read Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids which I highly recommend. What a life she has led. And I really enjoyed listening to Rick Bragg’s stories about life in the South.

I read several good new mysteries: the new Cormorant Strike book, Lethal White, which is great on audio, an older Tana French Dublin police squad mystery and the first book in a fun new British mystery series: The Word is Murder.

Finally, I read the latest Michael Lewis take on the Trump transition team ( or lack thereof). It was really interesting and didn’t depress me, although maybe it should have. I found his profiles of scientists really interesting and really learned a lot reading his book while being entertained.

I am listening to Middlemarch. This will be the year I finish it. I am loving it on audio narrated by Juliet Stevenson (thanks to Modern Mrs Darcy for the recommendation) and plan to read the text version next year because there are so many passages I will want to go back to.

What are you reading and loving?


Me Made May 2018 Week 1: Sewing with Knits

img_0476May is off to a great start in the Northeast. The weather is finally beautiful after a winter that just wouldn’t quit and with spring, my sewjo has returned. I spent some time the last few weeks testing a new knit top for Made By Rae and this has gotten me back into sewing knits. I finished 4 (!) garments the first week in May and I love all four. Rae’s new pattern Jade, soon to be released, is a knit top with four sleeve options. The best part for me is that the sleeves are designed to work with the Isla knit dress. I have made many versions of this dress, which you can see here, here and here. I couldn’t wait to try one with sleeves. This is Art Gallery fabric that I originally bought planning to make a maxi dress, thinking that it would be navy, but is more of a teal. img_0515When the fabric came in the mail, I decided that it was too similar to a teal maxi dress I made last year and cut out an Isla. And there it sat for months until the Jade pattern testing. Since I had bought a bit more yardage than I typically do since I had planned a maxi dress, I had enough for sleeves and was even able to match stripes. I finished it this weekend and wore it to work today. The fit is perfect and adding sleeves is actually quicker than finishing the armholes with binding. I have two more versions of Isla’s with sleeves cut and ready to go. I can’t recommend these patterns more highly. I mean check out the fit. Spot on! img_0588I was given this beautiful striped cotton knit by Cloud 9 Fabrics to sew my tester version of the Jade pattern. img_9987I sewed a couple of versions using scraps of knits I had on hand to make sure that I had the fit down but it was pretty perfect from the start. I added one inch to the length and one inch to the 3/4 length sleeves. I would add one more inch to the length the next time I make the pattern but it was otherwise perfect.  img_0088The fabric sews up beautifully and it is lovely to wear. So soft and comfortable. I used my regular sewing machine with a walking foot and used a stretch stitch. img_9986All the tips I use to sew knits can be found in this post.  I had to re-learn how to sew cuffs since it had been so long. Here is a visual. You turn it inside out and sew it on the inside.  img_9990I was really happy with the finished shirt and have worn it several times already. The fit is so good! img_0084Back view:img_0081-1Sewing the Jade inspired me to finally sew a pattern I bought last year and that I have been meaning to sew for so long: the Blackbird Cardigan by Helen’s Closet.img_0119 I had bought some sweater knits on sale from Rachael at Imagine Gnats last fall (word to the wise: her sales are amazing and you should be on her email list). I had an afternoon of cutting out various patterns and had the pieces ready to go Saturday morning when the weather cooled off (we had a brief 85 degree temp heat wave for a day or two) and it was only a couple of hours of sewing. img_0173I basically haven’t taken it off since. SOOOOO GOOD!! Here it is with a double gauze Gemma Tank and Luna pants that I sewed during last year’s Me Made May.

img_0154Here it is with the Jade striped top and jeans. img_0200I have a couple of other versions planned, one in the same grey and white striped Cloud 9 knit that I used for the Jade top. Stay tuned. I also sewed up an Isla in awesome Cotton and Steel octopus fabric which I finally found at Alewives Fabrics after searching the internet (I think it was so popular that it is sold out at many stores). I am glad I persevered because I love it as an Isla. I didn’t have enough for sleeves but I like it as is. Sleeves might be too many octopi; although is that a thing?


Note: I was gifted the Cloud 9 striped fabric to help test the Jade pattern. All of the opinions expressed in my blog are my own. This blog is not monetized. I provide links to resources that I have found useful but I do not earn any money if you click on the links. The Jade Pattern will be available soon from Made By Rae Patterns.


Nursebean Sews a bit and Reads a lot: March 2018

I have done a bit of sewing since the new year began. I finished some long-standing works-in-process in time to mail them to my daughter for her birthday. See Exhibit A below. I love making Ruby Blouses with a patterned yoke and white double gauze for the rest. I finished two and mailed them off. The Ruby yoke can be made with a single fat quarter of quilting cotton so it is a great stash-buster.I also have spent a lot of time planning sewing projects and some time shopping for fabric with the lovely Christmas gift from my husband who is also quite the artist as can be seen in Exhibit’s B and C below. I am not sure what I will use it all for but I love both the In the Folds Peplum top and Rae’s Gemma Tank peplum-ized with this tutorial. I think I will try them both.img_9176I also bought this knit (couldn’t resist) for another Isla dressimg_9149 and some double gauze because when I imagine my ideal fabric stash, it is basically all double gauze. I don’t know what I am going to use it for but I do like the Hadley Blouse in double gauze (check out Teri’s version here) and I like the juxtaposition of a more tailored look with fun fabric, hence the teal below which I bought with the Hadley in mind.img_9115-1I also spent some time and money on finding some new PDF patterns with which to sew up some of the many yards of fabric that I already own. I was inspired by the #makeyourstash instagram challenge and am looking forward to learning new techniques from pattern designers who are new to me: Closet Case Patterns, True Bias Patterns and Tessuti Patterns in Australia (word to the wise, the exchange rate with Australia is very favorable if you live in the US. The two bottom rows are Tessuti patterns.)img_9088-1But with all that being said, I have done very little sewing and have just been reading, reading, reading all the month long. So many good books, most of them recommendations from this podcast and this bookstore.

I loved Heating and Cooling which is prose written by a poet. Beautiful, funny, spare. So good.

Educated is going to be the book everyone is reading, mark my words. It reminded me of The Glass Castle. I couldn’t put it down. Just read it.

I read Frances and Bernard, a beautifully written story told in letters that I learned about when it was recommended as a comp title to Fire Sermon, my January shelf subscription book. I loved Fire Sermon and really enjoyed listening to the Love it or Loathe It discussion  on the From the Front Porch podcast after I read it.

I read Prairie Fires, an extensively researched history of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family. It was well written and compelling. The Little House books were the first chapter books I read to myself as a child and this brought all the details back to me and filled in many parts of her story.

Text Me When You Get Home was my February Shelf Subscription book.  I loved this exploration of female friendship. It is a book I might not have found on my own and I am so glad I read it.

I had never read anything by Kazuo Ishiguro and I found The Remains of the Day to be a beautifully written, understated, hauntingly sad book.

I found Forty Rooms again from the From the Front Porch podcast, (notice a theme?) where I find many of my books these days. It was the story of a woman’s life told as a series of stories and memories that take place in each of the rooms in which she has experienced significant events. It was an interesting premise and a good read. Another novel written by a poet, beautifully told.

I read this collection of short stories because I really enjoyed the writing in Fire Sermon and I liked these even better. The writing is beautiful and compelling and sometimes a little weird. I expect to read these again. I love Jamie Quatro’s writing. She also made me miss running which was a big part of my life up until a few years ago.

Stay with Me was beautifully written, gripping, drew me in, made me cry. Read it!

Priestdaddy. I didn’t know what to expect but I loved it. A poet writing a memoir. Hysterically funny, beautifully written, such a command of words. I will read this again. Not for everyone. A bit crass. But so good. Another great book recommended by From the Front Porch and another great Love it or Loathe it discussion.

Far from the Tree: a young adult novel that drew me in and kept me reading. I read it in a sitting. Loved it and highly recommend.img_9074

I had fun going to the new Brooklyn location of this independent bookstore this past  weekend where I picked up two new-to-me titles by Ali Smith, whose recent book Winter was really excellent. I also picked up 4321 which I had heard about and haven’t yet read, figuring that it is so long, I would never be able to read a library copy, and The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch, whose memoir The Chronology of Water was incredibly compelling and beautifully written and I am also (slowly) working my way through Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo da Vinci.

I read this cozy mystery which takes place in Maine.  I have enjoyed Sarah Graves’ mysteries for many years since Maine is basically my favorite place. It is a light read and I enjoyed the characters and the sense of place. img_9178

I am working my way through this collection of short stories which is my March short story collection (I am reading one each month in 2018.)img_9180

I read this novella which has sat on my book shelf for years. I am trying to work my way through the inventory of books I own but have not yet read. I enjoyed it and plan to read more of Michael Chabon’s books, one of which I already happen to own.img_9179

And I am listening to this mystery on audio book. The narrator for this series is spot on. So much fun, though a bit gory for anyone with a weak stomach. img_9181

Yesterday, I got my March Shelf Subscription book in the mail. I had hoped this would be the one because I loved Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty. So one of these days I will switch back to a bit more sewing and a bit less reading but I am loving reading all the books these days.

I will be linking up to Anne Bogel‘s Quick Lit, a wonderful monthly summary of new reads. Her podcast What Should I Read Next is a must-listen for me every Tuesday. So many fun guests and book suggestions. Highly recommended.

What are you reading and sewing these days? Only one more week until spring. I can’t wait!