Nursebean Reads 2017

This year I read a lot of books (76 to date) and many were really great but nothing touched this one which I read at the beginning of the year. I read it in a day and was so impressed by the writing and moved by the narrative. I understand it is also great on audio. I plan to re-read it soon. Just stunning.


I have tried to group the rest in order of awesomeness. These next six were beautifully written books that touched me emotionally, made me think and in some cases, made me laugh out loud. These were the books that really rose to the top for me. Goodbye Vitamin was probably my favorite but I loved them all.


This next group of nine were also really enjoyabe novels that ranged in themes and writing styles but all were stories I lost myself in and became very engaged by. Highly recommended.

More terrific reads below.  I enjoyed them all. My taste ranges from more literary fiction to smart chick-lit and all of these were good reads for me.

Memoir is one of my favorite genres and I read a wide variety this year, all of which I enjoyed. I re-read Travels with Charlie which I think is going to be a book I will return to again and again. 

I listened to All the Pretty Horses on audio and plan to re-read it this year. The writing is beautiful.

I read this book by Michael Lewis which I found fascinating.

And this excellent book of essays.


And I read some classics. These two stood out for me. I really enjoyed my first Henry James novel and I listened to Emma narrated by Juliet Stevenson. She is an excellent narrator and is helping me make my way through the classics. I am partway through Middlemarch which is also terrific but LONG. Finishing it will be a goal for 2018.



Right now I am 100 pages into this classic which I had never read but was inspired to read by one of our children who is reading it for school.

So far it is really enjoyable. Especially in this beautiful edition which I bought years ago at a bookstore in Maine.



There were several highly hyped books that I didn’t love. I think reading is so personal. I listened to fewer audio books this year than last as work was busier, although I highly recommend the Joshilyn Jackson books on audio. She is an actress as well as a writer and they were terrific.  I listened to more podcasts than books this year. I am loving From the Front Porch which is produced by The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia. Episode (#143) about the short story has inspired me to set a goal of reading one collection of short stories a month in 2018. It goes along with a goal I have to be a bit less rushed in my life.  We will see how I do with that one!

Here are the short story collections I plan to read.

I love that this came with the books I ordered for my 2018 reading challenge.


I find when I read short stories, there are more sentences that I want to underline so decided to buy the books in paperback (I usually read library books or buy them inexpensively when they are on sale for my kindle) but there is something so nice about talking to real people and getting a box of new books in the mail. I also bought myself a Shelf Subscription and am looking forward to a monthly surprise in the mail.

What did you read and love this year?




Summer Reads and Sews 2017

If there is anything better than a week at a cabin in Maine with a stack of books, I don’t know what it is. img_7448This September, I was lucky to be able to do just that. img_7392I did a bit of hiking and a bit of swimming and a lot of reading. img_7362After a crazy summer with a lot of weekends working, it was just what I needed. img_7420So beautiful! img_7407My happy place. img_7387Now I am in the thick of my crazy fall schedule during which I continue my 5 day a week full time Nurse Practitioner job, teach nursing students all day Saturday (6:30 AM to 6 PM) for the 12 week fall term and work a couple a of 12 hour shifts a month (on Sundays) at my second job as an inpatient oncology nurse. Phew. I am tired just writing this. So no sewing is happening now. But I find that reading for fun is the one thing I have energy for during this busy season and quiet reading is the perfect antidote to stressful days. I have not read as many books as last year (this time last year I had read almost 100 books) but I have read some really good ones in the last few months so am sharing those and a late summer sewing project that I really enjoyed.

Here are the books.

The Interpreter of Maladies. I was late to the party reading this. I got it as an inexpensive kindle deal (I subscribe the MMD daily email and have gotten tons of great books very inexpensively, highly recommend.) The characters were well-drawn and the stories engaging. The writing is beautiful. Loved it.

The Bright Hour is amazing. Beautiful, beautifully written, funny, heartbreaking. One of my favorite reads this year not to be missed.


I am a huge fan of Catherine Newman’s books, blog and recipes. This is a middle school reader kids’ book that this middle aged mom loved. I read it on a plane ride home from Denver and it was perfect. Highly recommend for all ages and especially for fans of Ikea and this book (which was one of my favorite childhood books given to me by one of my favorite Aunts; lucky me I have 6: Aunts not books).

I really enjoyed the next book which takes place in New York City during the 2008 financial crisis and shows the impact of that event on an Upper East side family and the  immigrant family  that depend on them for their livelihood. I lived in New York for many years and so really enjoyed the setting and came to care for the characters. Well written, compelling. Highly recommend.

The Enchanted April is an older book that I had heard about and I am pretty sure that there is at least one movie based on the book. I also got this from the MMD kindle deal email quite a while ago but hadn’t gotten around to reading it. It was delightful. The setting (Italy) was lovely, I enjoyed the characters and the writing. A perfect escapist, gentle book. Highly recommend.

I read The Age of Miracles because of a WSIRN recommendation. I happened upon it at the library and really enjoyed it. It is set in the future and describes an environmental crisis and repercussions that play out over time as told through a teenage girl and boy’s experiences. It was compelling. The story and the writing drew me in. Highly recommend.


Dreamland Burning was also a MMD recommendation. Though technically a young adult book, I really enjoyed the story, characters and setting. Both of these books were quick reads that drew me into the narrative which is often just what I need.


I love Jan Karon’s Milford series. I read all of them years ago and recently dipped back in to some of the newer titles when I saw this one last year at the library. Like meeting up with an old friend. I love escaping into her stories.


This has been on my to read list for several years. I have been a big fan of Roz Chast’s cartoons for years and this didn’t disappoint. Just read it.


I loved Hourglass. The writing was so beautifully crafted. The way she wove the story. Loved it. I now want to go back and read her other work. Highly recommend.


This was our book club’s book for October and it was fantastic. It is a satire, it deals in such an interesting way with issues of race and culture and it had me looking up tons of cultural references so that I could really understand it. It will make you laugh and cringe and think really hard about some tough issues. Such a creative piece of writing. Highly recommend.


I listened to this classic on audio and will definitely go back and re-read it for all of the beautiful writing. I have plans to read the rest of his books in the new year when my schedule eases up.

I am a big Louise Penny fan so I downloaded her latest book the day it came out. Enough said. If you don’t know this series, check them out. They are terrific.

I learned about this one from Tsh whose podcast The Simple Show is one of the four I never miss (the other three are this one, this one and this one.) I really enjoyed reading this book by a British author who moves to Denmark for a year when her husband gets a job at Lego. So much fun to read and really interesting to learn more about what living in a Scandinavian country is like. ( I have never been to Scandinavia but it is on my list of places I would love to go.) A lot of fun and the perfect cozy winter read.

Again an inexpensive kindle purchase, I got this title from the MMD Summer Reading Guide. I know that there are mixed reviews but I enjoyed it more than I expected to. It is not great literature but it is a good escapist book with a bit of a mystery and a twist. It kept me reading.

And this is what I am reading now in these crazy stressful days. It is perfect. Small doses of quiet, intelligent, thoughtful observations. I know I will come back to them again and again.


I did sew one thing in August which ended being the perfect thing for my travels: a maxified version of the Christine Haynes Rumi tank that I cut out pretty much free form by extending the line of the tank top pattern piece down the full length of the two yard piece of teal knit fabric that I learned about from Erin. Here is my tank version in the same terrific knit in black. I cut a straight 10 but then shortened the straps so that it wouldn’t be too low cut.img_6468

Back view: img_6471You can see the tank as worn in my Cleo post. I will be making it again and have navy fabric already purchased and ready to go for next summer. It is also the perfect handmade yoga top.

After cutting and sewing I ended up trimming the width of the maxi version a bit here and there because it was wider than it needed to be. It was not a very scientific process, I just sewed a second seam inside the first side seam that I sewed and then cut off the excess. img_7287I didn’t hem it and I like it better un-hemmed. I was happy enough with the dress but wasn’t in love with it until I went shopping in my closet and found this orangey cardigan which goes perfectly with the teal. img_7280Amiright? Now I love it.img_7279I wore this combination all through the month of September and I can’t wait to make more versions but they will have to wait for spring. I do have plans to sew one project later this month though. A dear friend had a much waited for baby boy so I have a couple of knits washed and ready to go to sew this (I am linking again to Erin whose projects always inspire me.) I can’t wait to have  a free day to sew them up. Meanwhile I am enjoying wearing the many garments I have sewn over the past almost three years and planning spring sewing projects and more Maine getaways.img_7435

What are you sewing and reading lately?

Reading and Books

Nursebean reads: August 2017

I have not been reading as many books as last year. Work has been really busy and I have been doing a lot of sewing and I have had a harder time finding things that really grab me. But this month, I have read four books so far that have been really good reads. They are all really different. No real theme here. The first is The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James.  I decided last year that I want to read more classics and have slowly been making progress toward that goal.

This is actually the first Henry James book I have read but it won’t be the last. I really enjoyed the writing, the character development, the settings (Rome, the English countryside). I did end up feeling as though I wished I were in college and had the opportunity to discuss it with a  couple of smart students or hear what  a professor might say about the book and the author. I ended up googling it and saw a piece that referenced this book which is now on my summer reading list. To be continued.

I listened to the audio of Born a Crime which was recommended by Anne Bogel and also by my daughter and son-in-law. I mostly liked it very much. I learned quite a lot about South Africa and it was entertaining and shocking in parts and funny in parts. I am not a TV watcher so didn’t know Trevor Noah but I am glad I listened to it. I got this Joshilyn Jackson book on audio from a daily kindle deal ( I get tons of great books from the Modern Mrs. Darcy daily emails.) I really enjoyed it and it was great on audio. Smart, Southern chick-lit which I would not normally think was my genre but I was drawn into the story and will definitely be getting more of her books on audio. She reads them herself. She is an actress and does a great job as a narrator. I was pleasantly surprised.

I got this next book recommendation from Catherine Newman. I love her writing, her recipes, her books and her book recommendations. This was a smart, funny read. I highly highly recommend it. What are you reading lately?

Bias Binding, Sewing

Tucks and Dots: my take on the Stylish Dress Book Dress E

img_6982These dotty little ladies are one of my favorite fabric designs from Cotton and Steel although there are so many wonderful designs that it is hard to choose. I bought several yards of this fabric knowing that I would definitely make a Gemma Tank top from this fabric at some point but the Dress E from the Stylish Dress Book has been on my radar for a long time and this fabric seemed to me to be perfectly suited to the style so yesterday I took the plunge.

Making this dress requires a commitment. First you have to buy the book, then you have to buy Swedish Tracing Paper in order to trace your pattern which is actually not for the faint of heart because multiple pattern pieces overly each other. It is doable but not necessarily easy. The pattern pieces do not include seam allowances, my bust size put me between size 10 and size 12 and most of the posts I had read about this dress said that it ran big. I didn’t know what to do. Of course I could have made a muslin which would be the smart thing to do but I decided to just plunge ahead. As it turns out, hem allowances are also not included in the pattern pieces, you have to add them. Needless to say, I didn’t realize this until after I had cut out my fabric. So although I thought I had been so smart to add 2 inches for my 5’9.5″ height, I actually hadn’t really because there was no hem included on the pattern to begin with. Yikes!

I also struggled a bit with the tucks especially since the front bodice seemed so wide despite taking about an inch out of it when I cut it out. I ended up just starting at one end of the bodice and sewing 1 inch tucks every 2 inches across the bodice which gave me 9 seams instead of the 5 that the pattern calls for. They are not completely centered but you really have to look closely to see. Amazingly, it worked out pretty well. I might even like it better than the original. I didn’t end up using the neck facing because with all my changes, I thought it probably wouldn’t work so I used my favorite bias binding (oxymoron alert) technique. I also used a hem facing, which had been my plan but in light of the extra short hem-less pattern piece, was now a necessity and used facings for the sleeves because I didn’t want them to be too short. I used one of the Cotton and Steel basics fabrics that I used for the bias binding of my Octopi Gemma Tanks. I also added an inch to the length of the back bodice and took about 3 inches out of the width of the back skirt. I could definitely cut out more width front and back. It is full! I think if I made this again, I might sew my tucks down one more inch to match the length of the back bodice since I have such a long torso and to control some of the volume. I actually would probably cut out some of the volume altogether. I cut a 12 with seam allowances for the sleeves and arm scythes and the shoulders were still tight even though the neck gapes a bit. It is my opinion that different pattern makers have different body types that they primarily design for and I am so spoiled making Made by Rae designs that almost always fit with perhaps a minor tiny tweak. So I think that I will try using the Josephine Pattern that I have had forever and never made and reverse the tucks and see if I can make something similar that fits better through the upper chest and shoulders for my swimmer’s shoulders and 5’9″ frame. Pictures of my work in process and finished dress below. Tucks and bias binding of neckline:img_6985Hem facing:img_6989Sleeve Facing:img_7002 and close up of finished sleeves: img_7001Finished Dress on Place of Honor (front door)-note the fullness:img_7003 Back of Dress (full, very full):img_7008 and as worn. Front: img_7083Side:img_7065and back: img_7043I think this ended up being one stylish dress! img_7089

Cleo Skirt, Made By Rae Patterns, Sewing

Made By Rae Cleo Summer Showcase: So Many Skirts

cleo summer showcase (ig)

I am thrilled to be part of the Made By Rae Cleo Summer Showcase and to be able to share the many skirts I have made with the Made By Rae Cleo pattern. The Cleo is like all of the MBR patterns: beautifully drafted to be flattering and comfortable with clear directions that are really well illustrated. Rae’s patterns really are wonderful and are the foundation of my handmade wardrobe.

This is my most recent Cleo skirt. It is made with a beautiful voile by Sharon Holland. I also made an Isla Knit Dress in the blue colorway of the same fabric. The design really spoke to me.Here it is worn with a black double gauze MBR Gemma Tank left untucked and blowing in the breeze:
and with the same Gemma Tank tucked in with clogs: and with a yellow lawn Gemma Tank:and with a black lawn Gemma Tank a different pair of sandals:and with my newly sewn Piper Top:It would also be great with my new black Rumi Tank top which you will see further down the post. 😊

My voile Cleo Skirt might just be my favorite but it is hard to choose because I have made so many others. The Cleo is also great in cotton lawn. Here are two versions I made with beautiful fabric from the Juniper collection by Kelly Ventura. Version 1:img_2644-1Version 2: img_2671-1I couldn’t decide which fabric to buy so I bought them both and I love both skirts. This fabric is lightweight and swishy. It was easy to sew with. It drapes beautifully. I am a total fan. img_0252-1They are both perfect with my blue cotton-linen Gemma and my newly sewn white double gauze Gemma and with any  number of colors of cardigans but I especially like this floral version with my orange cardigan. img_4925My yellow lawn Gemma Tank also works well with these skirts. img_6337I used scraps of the yellow for a facing for the hems for all three of my voile and lawn Cleos. The hem facing gives me a visual guide for where to fold the fabric and gives me more accurate results. I also just love the look of the contrasting hem.img_0214The Cleo is also great in lightweight woven fabrics. I made this version with a woven cotton-linen blend from Joanne Fabric. I also made a matching Gemma Tank which I love although I like them better worn separately.I used a white lightweight cotton batiste for the hem facing and bias binding.This skirt is perfect with my double gauze Gemma or with the yellow lawn Gemma. I ended up making this skirt about one inch shorter than the others because I ended up trimming some fabric from the skirt to line up the stripes.The Gemma top is perfect with just about anything but here it is with white jeans. Here they are together. Maybe a little too many stripes although I wore them with the top untucked once and liked them that way.I was inspired by Rae’s beautiful version to sew a Cleo in this great fabric from Anna Maria Horner’s Loominous II fabric line. It is so nice to wear. Really soft and lightweight. img_5226 I have really enjoyed wearing it this summer. It is perfect for hot summer days. This is a bit rumpled right out of the dryer and I don’t even care.img_5453-2I also sewed several versions of the Cleo in quilting cotton. I saw a beautiful Ruby dress on Instagram made with lime green fabric  by Heather Bailey and it inspired me to sew this Cleo. This fabric was a pleasure to sew with.  It is a bit poofier than the voile but I love the 50’s feel of this skirt.It is great with my new black knit Piper top.  One of the first Cleos I sewed was this one in April Rhodes’ Fringe fabric inspired by child and adult versions she made and posted on her Instagram. It is a nice lightweight quilting cotton that makes a great skirt. I love it with my blue, white and black Gemmas and it is perfect with boots and tights in winter.
I really love this fabric. It also makes a great pair of Luna Pants.I recently made the Rumi knit tank top by Christine Haynes and I love it with this skirt and flip flops for  summer. Front view: Back view: I enjoy experimenting with designs and patterns and I had this fabric in my stash. It is from the Arizona collection also from April Rhodes. I had fun sewing this skirt and seeing how this pattern looks with the gathers. This fabric is now available in a new colorway which would also be great.Again with the white double gauze Gemma. Such a perfect piece for mixing and matching.And here is my original tester Cleo. It fit really well without any real adjustments. I was so honored to be included as a tester for this pattern. It is absolutely amazing to me to have started sewing for myself two years ago and to now have an entirely Me Made wardrobe and to have had the opportunity to test a pattern for Made By Rae. Amazing!

I am 5’9 1/2″ tall and average build but most of my height is in my torso so I generally don’t need to add length to skirts. My measurements put me right between a Medium and a Large and I cut between those lines to make my tester version but as the skirt is pretty full, I have made the rest of them in a straight Medium and I am very happy with the fit.

When I made the test version, I loved the length as it was unhemmed and thought it was perfect for me. Rae ended up lengthening View B in the final version of the pattern but I keep sewing mine using my unhemmed tester pattern length. I started sewing hem facings because I didn’t want to have to figure out how much to add to end up with the same perfect length. So my skirts are all based on the skirt pattern piece unhemmed length of 23 inches less about 3/8 inch for the seam allowance for my hem facing.

I ended up giving my tester version to my beautiful daughter who had the perfect shoes to match. Here she is during a recent visit to Connecticut.And here she is in a Cleo action shot back in the Midwest. I have a navy cotton lawn version in the works for her in this great Ninepin lawn from Cotton and Steel. I may make version A which is a bit shorter and has great pockets,The Cleo would also be amazing in this double gauze and this rayon.  I think a longer rayon Cleo with boots would be perfect for fall. And the double gauze version Rae made is so beautiful it is tempting to make one just like it. You can see how one can easily be inspired to make So Many Skirts!

I have really loved sewing this pattern and highly recommend it.

Links to my other Cleo posts below and to all of the wonderful participants in the Cleo Showcase. Be sure to check them out and be inspired.

Nursebean Cleo Posts:

I have sewn many versions of most of the MBR patterns. You can link to some of them here:

Cleo Showcase Instagram and Blog Links:

july 31

vicky / @sewvee / sewvee.blogspot.co.uk

erin / @hungiegungie / hungiegungie.com

natalie / @sewhungryhippie / hungryhippie sews

teri / @teridodds1 / fa sew la

august 1

tori / @thedoingthingsblog / thedoingthingsblog.com

lindsay / @lindsayinstitches

meredith / @thefooshe / oliviajanehandcrafted.com/blog

kate / @kate.english

august 2

melissa / @ahappystitch / ahappystitch.com

julie / @nursebean82 / nursebeansews.wordpress.com

lauren / @laurenddesign / laurendurrdesign.com

august 3

fleurine / @mariefleurine / sewmariefleur.com

bettina / @stahlarbeit / stahlarbeit.ch

allie / @indie_sew / indiesew.com/blog

darci / @darcialexis / darcisews.com

emily / @mycraftylittleself / mycraftylittleself.blogspot.com

august 4

whitney / @whitneydeal / whitney-deal.com/blog

sienna  /@notaprimarycolor

amy nicole / @amynicolestudio / amynicolestudio.com

kim / @pitykitty

kten / @jinxandgunner / jinxandgunner.blogspot.com

Made By Rae Patterns, Sewing

Summer Islas

img_5563A little more than two years ago, I started sewing my own clothes and last fall, I took the plunge into knits. I lived all winter long in my Isla Capsule Wardrobe and this summer, I decided to sew some more versions in some floral fabrics in a slightly longer length in light of bare legs vs leggings. I had picked out a beautiful purple floral by Pat Bravo, the beautiful green floral from Rae Hoekstra’s Sidewalk Fabric line and the blue-green colorway of Amy Butler’s Glow knit which I scooped up when it was on sale, having been really happy with the fabric when I sewed the grey colorway as one of my first Isla tops. img_4549-1And as worn here: img_4585This would seem to be plenty: 3 summer dresses. And then, April Rhodes’ amazing new fabric line was released and I was inspired to make one more. I alternate my sewing methods. Sometimes I sew my clothes in batches of the same pattern in different versions. This was one of those times, especially since I switch not only the needle and thread type when sewing knits but also the sewing machine foot (I always use a walking foot).img_5555 Other than adding an inch to the length of the skirt (which I neglected to do for the Glow version, I am not sure why) I followed exactly the same methods I used for my first batch of Isla’s which was to use all the tricks that my Instagram friends shared with me and which can be found in this post, This is the first time I have sewn contrasting neck and arm binding and I am really happy with this combination. img_5558And as worn: img_5614Next up I made the Sidewalk fabric version. I knew it would be good because I had seen Rae’s version which inspired me. img_5884This fabric is really nice to work with and I am so happy with how this version turned out.img_5906And as worn:img_6318Next I sewed the Indie Boheme version. This fabric feels very summery to me. I almost bought it in voile to make Rae’s Josephine blouse with gathers. That pattern has been on my To-Be-Sewn list for quite some time and I love her new Loominous II version. img_5675And as worn:img_5873The Amy Butler version is a bit shorter which came in handy when we recently had a heatwave. I didn’t think I cut it differently but I must have.img_5908 This fabric is a bit heavier than the others. It is really easy to sew with and would be great for someone new to knits.img_6369And that would have been it, except that Erin made two beautiful maxi versions of the Isla and I saw another version of a knit maxi dress on Instagram that was not the Isla but which used a blue and white shibori-inspired print. That is when it clicked for me and I decided to take the plunge. I found this bamboo-rayon knit and ordered it on a Monday. It arrived on a Friday. I  literally got home from work, washed the fabric, cut the fabric, sewed the fabric. I added about 20 inches to the length of the skirt. I added about 6 inches to the width of the back skirt and none to the front. The fabric was a bit slippery and a bit tricky to cut. I was in a bit of a panic for a minute because I had some trouble lining it up correctly to cut the skirt pieces out after having cut out the bodice but it all worked out in the end. I wore it to a family wedding that next day and I plan to wear it until I wear it out.img_6391 It is amazingly comfortable, flattering and doesn’t wrinkle.img_6386Perfect for a trip to someplace amazing. Now all I need are airplane tickets. Mr. NB, take note! And it is even better with my mustard cardigan, as most of my dresses are.img_6403One of my favorite winter Islas did get some wear time this summer on one of our cooler days. Here it is with leggings and sneakers. I can’t recommend this pattern more highly!img_5938


Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: July 2017

I have read far fewer books this year than last mostly due to a heavy work schedule. I am also listening to more NPR news (sadly) and podcasts. I am also having a harder time finding books I love. Nothing I have read yet has topped Lincoln in the Bardo. I highly recommend it.

Here are some recent reads.

I am glad I read A  Piece of the World and appreciated the characters and the way the author wove the story together that blended real settings and people with her fictional characters but I found it slow going at times.

I am going to be honest: Beartown was hard to read at times. I felt the foreshadowing and omnipresent voice of the narrator always commenting on the characters and the story was heavy handed and I found it hard to read knowing that something bad was going to happen but not knowing when or to whom.

Our book group read All the Rivers, a novel that was banned in Israel’s public schools about a romance between an Israeli woman and an Arab man who meet in Brooklyn. It was beautiful and poignant and led to a really great discussion as several members of our book group grew up in Israel.

I really enjoyed The Wangs vs. The World. It was timely, funny, poignant and I loved the characters. I read The Rules Do Not Apply because It was recommended by two bloggers whose taste I trust  but while I could appreciate that the author had been through some very tough experiences some of which were very familiar to me from my own experience, I just had a hard time relating to her. I felt really detached reading it which surprised me. I am listening to this on audio which is very good. The best thing I have read so far is the first 20% of this classic-my current read. I am loving the writing and the main character Isabelle Archer. I only wish my English professor father were still alive so I could discuss it with him when I finish the book.

Linking up today with Anne Bogel my chief book whisperer whose podcast What Should I Read Next is my major source of great new reads. I highly recommend it!