Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: January 2017

I am currently engrossed in this book which I was inspired to read by listening to Mel talk about it in this episode of the WSIRN podcast. It is so, so good. Even better, I am reading it while away for the weekend in the Berkshires in a house with a working fireplace-my idea of heaven. Read Mel’s post on how to take a reading weekend vacation for inspiration. And if you aren’t listening to this podcast yet, you should. I never miss an episode. They are always fun but the one with Mel was especially fun. I added several great books to my to-be-read list, discovered a new blogger and have new recipes to try. Bonus!

Recent books read include this one which is the MMD book club pick for this month. I loved it. I loved the story, the characters and their relationship, the sense of place, the writing-I loved it all. I am now off to find other titles by this author who I had never heard of before reading this book although she is a well-known author.

I also finished this book which our book group read last year. I loved the ending and the way she wove the stories together. An amazing debut novel.

I am alternating reading about vampires with reading these two non-fiction books.
I love both writers and I need something less scary to read before bed.

I am listening to this book on audio. Perfect for the commute.And I recently picked up this stack of books from the library. They are mostly inspired by Anne’s suggestions although I have wanted to read the Snow Child since this favorite blogger recommended it several years ago. Anne’s recent post about great winter reads sent me to the library for that one and two others.  A Manual for Cleaning Women is our current book club read. So many titles, not enough time! What are you reading this winter?

Standard
Reading and Books

Nursebeanreads a lot: 2016 Summary of Best Reads

img_4256

The year is not yet over but as of yesterday December 13th, I had read or listened to 115 books in 2016. Here is the Goodreads summary (I love the pretty book cover mosaic!) As you can see, I liked most of them quite a lot-more than 100 were a 4 or 5 star read for me. This is largely because I have three terrific book whisperers who you can learn more about here. I also share details here of how I found time to read many more books this year than ever before. It has really been an amazing year for reading.img_4254Goodreads calculates all sorts of statistics. Here are two: number of pages read: 38, 937 (I actually may make it to 40,000 by December 31st. Who knew?) and longest book read (actually listened to on audible): Anna Karenina which is apparently 964 pages. It was over 34 hours of audio and took me over two months of daily commutes to finish but it is one of the books that I am especially glad I read this year.

Bloggers I follow choose their favorite books each year. Some choose three favorites. I would have a very hard time narrowing this list down that far but I tried, going through the list, to choose the books for each category that still resonate many months later. I came up with a list of 26 books, about 1 in 5 that I read this year (some are the first book in a series that I enjoyed.)

I actually rated 45 of the books I read 5 stars on Goodreads and some of the list of 26 weren’t even books I had rated a 5, so there are many other fantastic books on the list. You can click here to see the whole list.

Here are my most memorable books of 2016 by category. The first category is fiction. I chose these six books and would probably have to rank The Underground Railroad as my favorite. It is hauntingly beautiful.img_426311/22/63 was the first book I read this year and my first ever read by Stephen King. It still resonates with me. He is really a great story teller and this very long book kept me engaged over a three day period during which I inhaled it wanting to find out how it ended. This was also one of several books that I read this year that took place in the early 1960’s either during the year I was born or shortly thereafter which made it that much more compelling to me. It also takes place-at least some of it-in a small mill town in Maine, also a common theme of some books I loved this year and also one of my favorite places.

I just finished A Gentleman in Moscow and I highly recommend it. I loved the characters and the story kept me interested. A really good winter read. I have Rules of Civility, also by Amor Towles,  lined up to read next and I can’t wait.

The One-in-a-Million Boy was wonderful. Just read it. Great female protagonist, small town in Maine, compelling story.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven: World War II, unforgettable characters, beautiful writing.

Our Souls at Night is a quietly beautiful story. I loved it.

img_4289Non-Fiction: I read a lot of great non-fiction books this year, most of them recommended by Modern Mrs. Darcy or on her podcast. My favorites were Year of Yes, Big Magic and Being Mortal, all fantastic. I listened to Being Mortal on audio and the audio version was really excellent. Year of Yes is a must read for all my daughters. So, so good.

img_4291Classics ( also audio): I wanted to read more classics than I actually did but I did end up listening to Anna Karenina. This version was very enjoyable. I ended up finding it on sale on Audible quite cheap which was great because it took me so long to get through, I would never have managed with borrowing it from the library. I also listened to a fantastic version of The Wind in the Willows which I also bought for $2 on an audible daily deal. And I read or listened to books 2-7 of Harry Potter (which I would classify as a modern day classic) which were so good. I had read the first book almost 20 years ago when it was first published and I bought it for my now 30 year old son. I started listening to the Jim Dale audio books and listened to books 2-4 and then read the rest over Thanksgiving when I traveled to see my daughter. After the election I needed something to take my mind off current events. It was just the thing. Reading the whole series over a relatively short period of time really revealed to me just how brilliant J.K. Rowling is. The way she wove so many threads together by the end of the last book was just amazing. So glad I took the time to read these books!

img_4295Mystery: I read or actually listened to the J.K. Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith) Cormorant Strike mystery series (three books in all but more are forthcoming, thank goodness). These were fantastic on audio. I was so sorry when I finished them. I also listened to the entire nine book Flavia De Luce series, also fantastic. They are a little gruesome, as are the second two books in the Cormorant Strike series, but the narrator is great and I loved them and didn’t mind the discussion of decomposing bodies etc. I found both series through Modern Mrs. Darcy. I also listened to one the Jackson Brodie mysteries by Kate Atkinson, one of my favorite authors. Her writing style is so brilliantly funny. I am glad that I haven’t read all of these because I look forward to reading them this year. The audio was really terrific but I also enjoy reading her books just for the pleasure of her writing style.

Audio-I read so many more books than usual this year. I have written this year in other posts why this is but listening to books has definitely made a difference and I have found some really good ones and learned how easy it is to borrow audio and kindle books from my local library and download them to my phone. This made is easy for me to read while going on walks, sewing, driving. One book I would definitely recommend listening to is Between the World and Me, which I have included in the memoir category below. I was listening way past my bedtime to the author read his powerful words.

img_4277Sci-Fi/Just for Fun: I would never have found this book without Modern Mrs. Darcy and the What Should I Read Next Podcast but it was really a fun read. I bought it for my nephew and my kids. I understand the audio version is excellent as well. A movie is in the works.

img_4293Memoir: My favorite book genre is memoir and I read many this year and had a hard time narrowing my list so here are eleven that are all fantastic. I loved Travels with Charley by Steinbeck which I had never read before this year. He started on a trip across the U.S. in January 1961, the month I was born, and started his trip in a small town in Maine which resonated with other books I read including When We Were the Kennedys, another fantastic memoir by the author of One-in-a-Million Boy. It was so interesting to hear him describe what the towns were like and what he encountered across the country. So much of it resonated even in this day and time. The more time passes, the more the same issues are present in our culture. It felt really timely to read it now. I won’t go into detail on all of the other books in this category. Many are well known. But suffice to say that they were all great reads that I would highly recommend. As I read my way through this year, I wrote several posts where I did mini-reviews of most of them. You can link to my other posts about my reading life here. And if you aren’t yet listening to the What Should I Read Next podcast, I highly recommend it. You can subscribe on iTunes or follow the podcast on Instagram at @annebogel and @whatshouldireadnext. I am tremendously grateful to Anne for her thoughtful recommendations to her guests and I haven’t gone wrong reading any of the books she recommends. I have also found all kinds of great books and audio books on sale by subscribing to her daily kindle deal emails. A tremendous resource for readers.

What books did you love this year?

 

 

Standard
Reading and Books

Post-Election Bibliotherapy

I couldn’t put these books down.  I highly recommend all four which are very different but very good.They all drew me in and made me want to keep reading which is what I need right now.img_4005I also highly recommend reading this letter and this post. Wise words for challenging times. Since the election last week, however, the only thing I have had the energy for is this series which I had been working my way through on audio book. The audio version is awesome but this  weekend I borrowed the hardcover books from my daughter and have lost myself in the story. I finished Book 4 tonight and will start the next in the series tomorrow. I am hosting my book group next month and we will be reading this book. But for right now, rooting for HP to overcome the forces of evil is just what I want to read.

Standard
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!

Please note that my blog is not monetized and has no sponsors. I provide links to share online resources that I enjoy using. I do not derive any financial benefit if you click on links on my blog. 

Standard
About Me, Reading and Books, unplugged

Nursebean Reads: October 2016-100 books and counting

I wrote earlier this year here and here about how in 2016,  I have been reading quite a bit more than is usual for me and earlier this week, 286 days into the year to be exact, I read my 100th book of the year. Thank you Goodreads for keeping track!

My 100th book, The Mothers,  was the wonderful debut novel written by an incredibly talented 26 year old. The novel started out as her senior thesis. I loved it and read it in two evenings. Interestingly, leading up to #100 are several lighter reads. Sometimes, particularly when I am tired, I can’t focus well enough to tackle a weightier book and will read lighter things-cozy mysteries, YA, chicklit-until I get my focus back. I also read less when I sew more; and I did a lot of sewing this year. I have learned to take it in stride.

The day after I reached #100 was almost more momentous because 2+ months after I started listening to it, I finished all 35 hours and 40 minutes of this audio book read by Maggie Gyllenhaal which I purchased from audible on sale for just a few dollars. Totally worth it. Sadly no longer on sale.  I started it back in August when I had the idea of Power Reading the Classics.  I listened to it to and from work and occasionally while cooking, sewing or going for walks. My Classics challenge didn’t work out as I planned but I am trying to incorporate more classics interspersed with my other reads.

Reading this many books is kind of a big deal for me because my normal number of books read has averaged about 30 for the last several years.

 

img_3829

While it is still quite a lot, more than 2 per month, my former speed was not a pace which made me feel as though I would ever make a dent in the long list of books I wished I had read. And now, even though the list is growing at a much faster pace than it ever did thanks to my book whisperers:  Catherine, Lindsey and Anne, I am confident that I will find the time to read many, though certainly not all, of the books I want to read.

Most of the books I read this year I have loved or liked a lot. I only have a few in the 2 or 3 star category (I haven’t really read something I couldn’t like at least a little bit). You can see a few of them below. The less than loved books are things I picked up on impulse from the library or on sale on kindle. I don’t regret reading them but I am trying to be more intentional about my book choices since there are so many wonderful books I know I want to read-many of them recommendations from the WSIRN podcast-can’t recommend it more highly.

The podcast, which I listen to religiously every Tuesday morning, asks guests to name a book they hate. I can’t say that I hated anything I read, but I didn’t love one title, which you can see hanging out all alone in the two star line on my Goodreads YTD summary. Part of the summary is above and part is below since there were too many books to screenshot and capture them all. The ones below are all 4’s and 5’s and were all great reads.

I tend to alternate more literary reads with murder mysteries and the occasional chick-lit and this year I read some great YA books that I found via Modern Mrs. Darcy. Memoir is my favorite genre and I have read almost 20 memoirs and more than 25 non-fluffy novels so far this year, all of which have been terrific. I read 3 classics (although AK should count for at least 2 all by itself) and want to read more. I have listened to 23 audio books out of a total of 102 books read this year, most of which really enhanced the experience of the book because of the wonderful narration. The main thing that has helped me read more has been devoting a couple of hours in the early morning each week to read. I have missed one or two Sundays due to work but that unplugged time is what gets me on track, helps me finish something I have started or get a good start on a new book. I find that once I am into the story, I want to keep going and having that time really makes the difference. Right after finishing the Mothers, I started Commonwealth, the new book by Ann Patchett. I read it in a night. So so good.

img_3831-1

My current reading list features two great new novels, a lengthy but so interesting non-fiction book about genetics by one of my favorite authors and Jane Austen. On audio, I am listening to the new Flavia DeLuce mystery. What could be better?

You can link to my other posts on books and reading here, here and here.

Standard
About Me, Made By Rae Patterns, Reading and Books, Ruby Dress Pattern, Sewing, unplugged

Nursebean Takes a Minibreak

 

Getting ready to sew on day 1 of my mini-break.img_2259Summer can sometimes be a challenging time for me. Social media is flooded with vacation photos of beaches and mountains and faraway places (the pictures of Norway and Sweden are amazing) but probably the hardest pictures to see are pictures of cabins in the woods on beautiful clean lakes. It makes me want to just jump into the picture. This one is from a real estate listing is exactly the kind that gives me pangs.maine lake imageBut it turns out that being at home can also be wonderful. I used to spend summers in Maine. I was incredibly lucky and I will always treasure those summers. But that is just not my life right now. I work two jobs and I don’t have the money or time off to travel. But one benefit to not having a lot of time off is that when you finally do take a break, you appreciate it so much. I recently had 5 days off in a row. I didn’t go anywhere and I didn’t really do anything fancy or extravagant but I had a great time. Here is what I did.

I read several books-all of which were engaging summer reads that did not require much from me. The stories drew me in and carried me along. I got most of the book suggestions from Anne Bogel. The graphic novel was a book club read. Sort of Roz Chast on steroids. Weird but funny. I particularly enjoyed reading in early morning. Here’s what I read:

I spent a lot of time on my front porch-reading and eating simple meals both alone and with some of my kids who were home for part of the weekend. Lunch on the porch below:img_2279I made a nice breakfast with home made berry muffins for my family, most of whom were with us. It was great to have a big group around the table. I used the pretty china and picked wild flowers from the garden. I love big family gatherings centered around a nice meal and my kids live far away so this was a treat for me. We also had a taco night with part of the group the night before and a dinner out at a favorite restaurant with my two daughters and son in law. It is a place we had gone to many times when they were younger so that was a special evening.

Staying on the topic of food, I ate a lot of tomato and fried egg sandwiches-both separately and together. If I had to pick one favorite food it would probably be fresh summer tomatoes. I remember reading this book as a child and not really getting why the main character ate tomato sandwiches every day for lunch but I get it now. I could be perfectly happy doing that. Or alternating with a fried egg sandwich with avocado on good bread. These are my new favorite meals. Quick, inexpensive, delicious. My husband bought this mayonnaise by mistake one day and it turns out to be the secret ingredient.

img_2261I sewed, sewed, sewed. But I didn’t treat the sewing as a chore. I did a couple of hours of sewing every day. I listened to music while I sewed.  When it started to feel like a chore, I switched gears and read or did yoga. I completed three garments:  a Ruby Dress for myself and a Ruby Blouse for a friend:

and a new pair of Luna pants for me in a fun print.img_2350and I started work on a baby quilt for a friend. img_2386I decided to make a whole cloth quilt and hand quilt it. It was fun to make and not having to piece the top ended up making it less stressful. It also made the hand quilting much easier since there were no seam allowances. While I quilted, I listened to this audio book which is really terrific. Each of the sewing projects were things I had made before and which weren’t super complicated. This meant that I was able to complete a new garment in a day which was really fun. While I love trying new patterns, there is nothing like the tried and true pattern that you know by heart and which fits you well. Cut, sew, wear, repeat. Boom! 

I went to a great yoga class with my daughter and I did yoga on the porch the rest of the days. I am loving  30 days of yoga with Adrienneimg_2291I had a diner breakfast with my daughter and son in law and then my daughter and I got our toenails painted in summer colors before they flew back home to the mid-west. I miss her already. New Luna pants in the wild below. And then it was back to reality.img_2196At least I had a new dress to wear my first day back.img_2408

Standard
About Me, Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: August Classics Power-read

imageThis has been a great year for reading for me. After many years with not enough time, I have taken advantage of quiet weekend days and weekday evenings and all those little snippets of time waiting in line and in the morning when I drink my coffee and I have read a ton of books-80 so far this year to be exact. Here are some of my favorites:imageand also these:image

and these:

I have written before: here, here and here about what a huge impact the podcast What Should I Read Next? has had on my reading life. As the format is quite simple, I often imagine what I would answer to this question Anne asks her guests: What would you like to be different about your reading life? And generally I would answer, nothing. I am really happy with my reading life right now. But then, as I thought about it, I did have one nagging thought: there are a lot of books I feel I should have read and haven’t. Particularly since I am the daughter of an English professor. Yikes!

During the years I was in graduate school and busy with kids, I didn’t dwell on it because I had so little time to read that I wanted to just read what I liked-which was often a chick-lit or mystery book that would not require much of me. But now, with all the books I have found time for this year, I feel as though there is no excuse. And I am sure that if I make the time, I will be glad I did. They are classics for a reason right?

So I decided to create a little challenge for myself. I am going to devote one month, the month of August, to reading as many of the classics on my To Be Read list as I can fit in. I am preparing for this by downloading them onto my kindle because I find that when I read on my kindle, I read faster and I also toggle back and forth between my kindle and my phone so all those little extra 5 and 10 minutes waiting in lines etc become reading opportunities. Luckily, most classics are less than $1 and many are free on kindle. I bought all of Jane Austen earlier this year for 99 cents.

I will probably listen to at least one book on audio and I may splurge for an audible version to be able to toggle back and forth from written to audio using whispersync-something I learned about from Anne Bogel which seems genius to me. I am thinking Middlemarch might be the one, given its length.

I have started several of the books on my list multiple times and it is frustrating to feel as though I need to start over again but I think I will need to just do it to be able to get into the flow of the stories. I think that by not being tempted by library books, mysteries and beach reads, I will be more likely to make progress. Although I usually have about 5 different books going at once, I am going to try to read sequentially and see if that works better for me since I find I lose the thread of 19th century fiction when I don’t read the same book consistently.

I have six books on my list but I will just start with Persuasion on August 1st and will report back on how far down the list I get by the end of the month and what I loved/didn’t love about the books and the project.

I like the idea of having a defined time frame. It is sort of a whole30, only for books. Deciding to only read classics will take the guesswork out of book choices and will eliminate the temptation to pick something up from the new books section at the library. Knowing that I was able to make so much time for reading this year makes me confident that I will not be missing out on the the opportunity to read other books-I will just save them for September. Knowing that I plan to start this in three weeks is giving me the impetus to finish the books I am currently reading, including this one which is quite long but excellent so far.

How about you? Do you have books you are secretly embarrassed that you haven’t read? What would you put on your list for a month-long classics power-read? I would love to hear your thoughts.

image

Standard