About Me, unplugged

Nursebean Unplugged: Welcoming 2017

I am not someone who chooses a word for my year, although I respect the thought that many give to this and I learn from their choices. I did have some plans/goals/intentions for my new year and most of them revolved around health-daily yoga, less sugar, etc. On January 1, 2017, I worked a day shift at the hospital and walked out into sunshine-a rare thing because this time of the year it is usually dark when I leave work. So I decided to start my year with a walk on the beach. I am so lucky to live within driving distance of Long Island Sound. I love the late afternoon light. It is truly the golden hour.

In 2016, I made a resolution to have unplugged Sundays. What this meant for me was that I did not sign up to work any shifts at the hospital on a Sunday and I tried to stay off social media. The work part of this was actually a big shift for me. For almost ten years, I have worked 6-7 days a week which was a financial necessity. This has been challenging and so making the commitment to keep this day free was a huge positive shift. Working Sundays kept me away from regular church going which I missed and in 2016 I was able to return to this which truly fed my soul-for me it is my weekly re-set button. I had thought that my unplugged Sundays would enable me to sew more, read more and do more of the things that I enjoy, and it did. But what I didn’t appreciate until I was actually living these days and documenting them (I posted a weekly picture on instagram with the hashtag #myunpluggedsundays) is how much keeping the day totally unscheduled and unplanned and having time to just think and be spontaneous would be healing for me and would inspire new ideas. This was probably the best part of keeping this commitment to myself. This and having weekly early morning quiet time to read.

2017 started off so beautifully. I was still pondering my resolutions and had jotted down some ideas. I wanted to take time each day for yoga since I have neglected my physical body amid work and other priorities. So after my beach walk I came home and did Day 1 of Yoga with Adrienne’s Yoga Revolution series. I did about half of her 30 Days of Yoga earlier in the year and loved it. We had a nice family dinner with my husband and the three children who were home for the holidays and I went to bed feeling excited for a day off on January 2nd and the time and space to start the new year right. And then life happened as it so often does. I got up and went for a short walk and started to feel worse and worse and went home, went straight to bed and stayed there for 2 days with fever, chills, sweats, nausea. My daughter was sick as well.

I had to laugh. Whenever I try to strongly impose my will on life, life pushes back and reminds me that I am not in charge. A bit of a spiritual re-adjustment. But interestingly what this next week of not avoiding sugar, (all we could do was drink ginger ale), not doing yoga (ha!) and not doing all those things on my to do list (take down the tree, finish some sewing projects, write my new years resolutions) did for me is to give me time to think. And what I thought about is that the best thing that my 2016 unplugged Sunday project did for me is to help me see that creating space in my life for thinking, creating, following my spontaneous idea in the moment-whether it be to take a walk, cook a nice dinner, sew up an unplanned project-was way more valuable than I had realized. The phrase “create space” is something that many yoga teachers I have studied with use and in 2016, I learned that it is something that I need to be intentional about because I reap tremendous benefits when I do it. In 2016, I got some ideas for writing pieces, one of which is going to be published next month, that came to me as I went on a spontaneous walk after church. I made connections about relationships, my own life’s goals, ways I want to grow. Life is so full of great ideas, images, content that is coming at us from all directions. I love it all. I love the books I read, the bloggers I follow, the photographs and amazing projects and ideas I see on instagram and the great conversations I have at work and at home but I know now that I also need quiet. I need space to think. Even when I don’t think I do. So in 2017, my resolution will be to Create Space for myself in a systematic way by scheduling it into my week. These are some ideas I am going to try out to make this happen.

I am going to continue to keep Sundays unplugged from work, media and plans whenever possible. In 2016, I did this for about 6 months straight and then work got busy and I ended up going in most Sundays to catch up on paperwork. Part of the challenge to keeping Sundays unplugged for me is to be more time efficient during the week so that all the paperwork gets done and I don’t have to go in on a Sunday. This also applies to other chores, errands etc. I try to get them done on the weekdays so I don’t have to do them on Sunday. I have found that this is really worth doing. I should mention that this blogger who I follow religiously recently talked about the concept of a monthly think day on her podcast. I think many of us are trying to figure this out.

I am going to try to have a Quiet Hour each evening before I go to bed to read, write, think. I have trouble sleeping and I have found that if I get into a big conversation with a family member as I am getting tired, it works against my ability to fall asleep. I also am going to try to keep that hour free from media. I also plan to read this book to see if I can gain some insights into improving my focus. It was recommended by this book whisperer who I have written about so many times before and whose podcast I listen to religiously.

I am going to try to do yoga daily and do some form of physical activity outdoors most days. I need to get outside and I need to make that a priority.

I am going to try to find time to write a couple of times a week. What that looks like for me could be blog posts, handwritten letters to people who live far away from me, maybe another piece for publication. When my children were little and we spent summers in Maine, I started a weekly letter writing night. I was inspired by a book I read. It might have been this one by Elizabeth Berg but I am not sure. Each Tuesday evening after dinner, each child wrote one letter to a family member and one letter to a friend and could write more if they chose. I made it fun by buying a bunch of postcards and other pretty stationary which I kept in a box. This was before email was a big thing and in any event we were intentionally screen-free all summer. They could walk the stamped mail over to our big mailbox at the end of the driveway and were very happy when they got mail back. It was one of the things I did as a parent that I am so glad I did, along with family dinners, quiet reading before bed and nature walks/hikes. So much of the time you are a parent to young children, you are trying so hard to do all the things right and it isn’t for years in many cases that you can look back and think about what really made a difference. Letter writing night was definitely one of those for me.

Other goals/intentions: to finish some unfinished sewing projects, to write another piece for possible publication, to eat more healthfully, to read books recommended to me by my daughters, to make zucchini noodles (!) with the spiralizer my daughter got me for Christmas.

Things I am excited for in 2017: trips already planned (tickets purchased!) to see my daughter and son who live in other states, a planned long weekend away with my husband for the first time since we were married almost nine years ago (omg), a planned road trip to see my brother this spring, sewing, reading, life.

I love a new beginning and today, on January 7th, as I watch beautiful snow fall on a rare Saturday when I am not at work, I am full of hope. What are you excited for in 2017?img_4479-1

Pearl Shift, Reading and Books, Sewing

Fall 2016: Checks and Plaid, Muffins and Soup

Fall has come to Connecticut in all its glory. The view from my front porch last week:img_3922With the cooler weather, I am turning to the Pearl Shift which I previously made, and lived in basically all last winter, in heavy cotton flannel plaids from Jo-Ann. You can see those versions here. When I saw the new Checkers fabric from Cotton and Steel, I thought it would be perfect for a Pearl. I was inspired by a similar dress, an Esme tunic which can be found in this bookimg_3685-1When I make changes to patterns, I write notes to myself on the pattern pieces. Ironically, sometimes I forget to read the notes until after cutting out the pattern as I did here. I did not actually add enough to the seam allowance to allow for french seams. Note to self: read notes to self. img_3686-1This is a very straight-forward pattern and if I didn’t insist on adding a zipper, it would be even quicker but I think the zipper adds a lot so I used one here. I sewed it using a techinique I modified from Dana by watching this video of how to sew a lined zipper pouch. It was this video that inspired me to use wonder clips which work well. The picture below shows where I lined up the top of the zipper but I think I will move it up a bit on my next version because there is a bit of a gap at the top in the finished version. img_3879Sewing the first side:img_3882After sewing one side, I do the reverse and then top-stitch. I find it works best to sew the zipper initially going from top to bottom but I have better success with the top-stitching when I start at the bottom of the zipper and sew to the top maintaining some tension on the fabric to prevent puckers.img_3885Lining up the second side.img_3881Ready for top-stitching.img_3888After top-stitching. It took three tries to get this. Sewing from the bottom of the zipper to the top was the key in the end.img_3891I used my usual hem facing technique. I cut up an old muslin into 3 inch strips. I have described this technique in my prior Pearl posts here and here. It is very straightforward.img_3943I am able to use the metal plate edge as the perfect guide to sew the hem when I use the 3 inch strips.img_3958Since I had extra of the 3 inch strips, I finished the sleeves the same way. I bound the neck using 1.5 inch bias binding leftover from my Checkers Gemma Tank. The hem and sleeve facing is not cut on the bias since there is very little curve to the hem and the sleeves are cut straight across. It worked well and was very quick to finish,. img_3956Finished dress on the front door.img_3985Back of dress.img_3990And as worn. Although I thought I cut it the same length as my previous versions, this one is a little longer. I am not sure how I feel about it. I really like the way the linen one fits but I also find that when there is less heft to the fabric as in my Alison Glass version, the tunic rides up. I will have to wear this for a while and see what I think about the length. I think on me, the shorter version is a little more flattering but time will tell.img_3972Side view.img_3975Back view.img_3965Linen version for comparison.img_3705One more picture with fall foliage.img_3969Other things we have been enjoying here in Connecticut: a tour of a new craft brewery in our town which is expanding. It was fun to go on the tour and great to see a new successful local business. img_3939A beautiful sunrise. I love watching the sun come up and I miss the sunrises when I have to leave for work in the dark. (I am not a fan of shorter winter days.)img_3876My nasturtiums finally bloomed (in October). Note to self: plant earlier next year. They were cheap and maintenance free and pretty. img_3712Fall is soup and muffin weather chez Nursebean. My usual modus operandi is to make what I call refrigerator soup. It is when you open the refrigerator and see what you have and make soup. It is a great way to take those leftovers and make a meal. This post from one of my favorite bloggers is a great description of how to do this. I also made this Broccoli and Dill soup which was enjoyed by all (from one of my other favorite bloggers).img_3660 I have had this pot and this bowl for over 25 years.img_3691 I get nostalgic cooking on Sunday afternoons thinking about how many pots of chili, soup and even lasagnas have been made in this blue Le Creuset pot which was a wedding gift over 30 years ago. I remember buying the bowl as a young broke new mom. It was a big splurge at the time. I don’t think it was actually very expensive but all purchases felt like big purchases at that point in my life (and in many ways still do). I still love it. Many muffins and cookies have started in this bowl. Mr. Nursebean has found that he feels better when he avoids gluten so I made some adjustments to the cornmeal muffin recipe from this book which is one of my go to cookbooks and which has excellent muffin recipes (they all start with a stick of butter so it would be hard to go wrong). Here is my version. I  actually think they are better this way, sort of nutty and you can convince yourself that they are healthy because of the nut flour and the yogurt. They are great right out of the oven with butter and raspberry jam but I also freeze them and then zap them in the microwave for a minute and they are perfect for breakfast.

Cornmeal Muffins:

Pre-heat oven to 375-I use convection setting.

Melt a stick of butter in a big bowl. I usually microwave for 2 minutes. Let cool a bit

In a separate bowl combine: 1.5 cups each of cornmeal flour and almond flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and a dash of salt

Beat two eggs into melted butter and combine dry and wet ingredients. Don’t over-mix.

Add one 6 oz lemon, plain or vanilla yogurt to the mixture. Add approx 4 oz milk (or as much as you need to make the mixture mixable and about the texture of wet scrambled eggs.

Bake for approx 20 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Serve hot out of the oven with butter and rasberry jam or next day-I find they reheat perfectly with 30 seconds in the microwave or 1 minute if frozen (I often freeze them so they don’t disappear too fast. They make a great breakfast.)

My daughter and I have been trying to walk most days. The trees along our walk have been beautiful.img_3818I have been doing a lot of reading. I inhaled this novel and this mystery. I highly recommend both. This fall is the 10th anniversary of the fall that this sweet puppy joined our family. She still greets me with love every time I come home. A gift to us all.img_3914Next up are two more Pearl shifts in plain flannel purchased last year at Jo-Ann’s. img_3689This time I remembered to add the extra seam allowance for french seams. This is why I often make more than one of a pattern in a row. It takes a couple times to work out the bugs! One of these will be for me and one for my daughter who I will see (yay!) for Thanksgiving. I have a lot to be thankful for. Wishing everyone a beautiful fall!

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Nursebean Unplugged: Beauty in Your Own Backyard

This year, I made a New Year’s resolution to honor Sunday as a day of rest, free of work, plans, screens. Each week I have posted one photo on Instagram that I take on that Sunday to remind me of what was special about that day. Unplugged Sunday #20, May 22nd,  was mostly about listening…to birdsong, to hymns in church, to the quiet hum of neighbors having barbecues, to the little boy across the street who is learning to play the saxophone. Since it isn’t in my house and the music is muted, the sounds of a new player wafting across the street, even the squeaky wrong notes, are not irritating but on the contrary, make me nostalgic for the time when my elementary school aged kids practiced their various instruments: trumpet, violin, piano, bass, drums and yes, for a time, a saxophone. I tried to get a picture of a bird to represent my unplugged Sunday but they eluded me. This tree is full of birds but I couldn’t catch one on camera. I loved hearing their songs all day long.imageIt was a beautiful sunny day and in the afternoon, Sadie wandered in the back yard and I wandered with her. My husband has made a beautiful meadow in our backyard. What started as a project to reduce the amount of mowing has made our yard more beautiful. This picture makes me think of other meadows in my pastimageMany of our flowers were just on the verge of blooming. Peonies are ubiquitous on Instagram this time of year. Ours were still tightly wound up buds. This one looks like a little wooden headed doll from my children’s youth.image I previously blogged about a little walk I took with Sadie in my neighborhood and beauty I found by taking the time to pay attention. On this Sunday, I focused in on my backyard and once again, I found beauty everywhere. imageThis was a particularly wonderful gift because none of the flowers or plants were planted by me; they are all things that were planted by previous owners. I love the surprise in the spring when things emerge from the ground and you find you have flowers you didn’t even know you had. In the course of just a few minutes, this is what I found in my backyard: spring springing everywhere!imagehereimageand hereimagethis rhododendrun looks positively prehistoricimagetiny wildflowers (weeds?) look like flower fairies from my children’s picture booksimageI love the shadows on the bricksimageOur garden is sort of a mish-mosh of plantings by the former owners and weeds that are trying to take over. One of these days, I will spend some time putting things to rights but I kind of enjoy the chaotic jumble for now.imagecolor everywhereimage

imageabout to bloomimage











imageI finally got one picture with a bird in it imageSadie the explorerimageSunlight at the end of the dayimage Thought for the week: Listen to the Music of your Life.


Nursebean Unplugged: Beauty everywhere you look, May Day 2016

imageToday, May Day, is the seventeenth Sunday in my Unplugged Sundays project. It was one of my favorite kind of days: totally unplanned with no need to go anywhere, do anything or even talk to anyone because my husband was away. The weather even cooperated. I wasn’t totally alone in my house.  Sadie, our golden retriever kept me company. Sadie is the perfect companion on an unplugged Sunday:  totally undemanding, great at hanging out, not expecting me to make conversation and with no problems for me to solve. Sadie the zenmaster below. imageI am generally a people person and I love all of the people in my life. I have no interest in living alone,  but I do find that I need alone time from time to time in order to recharge and reset my perspective. I tend to be a caretaker, a problem solver and a listener and I love being all of those things both in my relationships and my work (nurse, teacher) but I sometimes pay so much attention to others that I forget to pay attention to myself. When my children were little and I would have little snippets of time to myself, I often couldn’t even figure out what to do with it, I was so used to spending my days focused on tasks and attuned to the needs of little people.  So today, I tried to not do too much planning. I read, I did some prep for some sewing projects:  ironing and cutting out several future dresses and I took a walk. First I walked by myself on a quick 2 mile loop in our neighborhood. This was mostly a walk for exercise although as I walked, I really enjoyed the fresh green smell of the air just after a rain. It was cool and still a little misty but not actively raining. The world looked and smelled so fresh and green. I used to run a lot and this was my favorite running weather. When I got home, I decided to take Sadie out for a little walk. She will be ten this July and my 2 mile walk is a little long for her so I just took her around the corner and down to the end of the next street. Since I was walking more slowly with her, I noticed many things I hadn’t seen on my first walk and stopped to take pictures here and there. Soon I was noticing beauty everywhere. I couldn’t help it. imageI love the way the rain makes everything even more beautiful. Little green worlds everywhere.imageFlower glamour shot below.imageMy daughters used to love to make fairy houses. You could just imagine flower fairies here.imageI love all of the shades of green. The tree below evokes the feeling of a person rooted to the earth with arms up-stretched. I love that without even trying, you see beauty and patterns and stories everywhere you look in nature. imageThe sap coming out of this tree recently pruned looks like tears.  #treeshavesoulsimageI saw a couple of flowers hidden in the overgrowth on the borders between two houses. World’s tiniest white tulip below. All by itself in a little forest.imageA solitary daffodil nearby. Were these bulbs planted long ago? They aren’t part of any planned garden. Just hidden in these little areas of overgrowth. Magic.imageThe overgrown, unruly spontaneous gardens are sometimes more beautiful than the those you plan.imageA lone violet amid the clover. Look at how much is going on-so many teeny tiny buds!imageStill life with tiny tree.imageEverything in the natural world is more beautiful up close. image A vine growing up our front step. imageI don’t even know what this is growing up out of the moss. Look at the raindrops, the texture of the stem and the colors. Wild! It looks a little prehistoric. A baby dinosaur plant!imageThe beauty of lush, green new leaves.imageAnd these. Poison ivy? Pretty no matter what it is.imageI love all of the textures . I just looked down along the driveway and this is what I saw.imageMore green at the base of a tree. imageI looked up and the texture and colors of the tree trunk were amazing. I have lived in this house for two years but never noticed this even though is right next to my driveway.imageMore texture in the feathery moss.imageWalking up the driveway I noticed this old fence post. Slowing down today helped me see things in a new way.imageThanks Sadie!image