Made By Rae Patterns, Quilting, Reading and Books, Sewing

April 2018 Reading and Sewing

The weather in the Northeast has been a bit strange this spring with at least one day of snow most weeks since February. This has been good for my reading life, not so good for my sewing life, since all I want to do is lie on the couch and read. But there are consolations. For one, I read this book which had been on my shelf for years and which was fantastic. What a writer. The kind of book that leaves you afraid to pick up the next one because it will break the spell. I loved the protagonist, the setting, the weirdness of it all. If you haven’t read it, you are in for a treat.I heard about the next book from From the Front Porch. I had never read anything by this author but based on the five star reviews of several people I trust, I picked it up at the library. I loved the first section and expected to love it all. I am not sure if it was the fact that there was so much hype but although I liked the book and was glad I read it, I didn’t ultimately love love love it. I am not sure if it was because it felt to me as if several of the characters made poor decisions or effectively sold out-I think that is a large point of the book-but I didn’t connect with it as many others appear to have. But I would still give it four stars-worth reading, if for no other reason because everyone else is and you will be able to be part of the conversation. On another note, my book group just picked this book for May and based on things I am hearing,  I really don’t want to read it. If you have read and have opinions, please comment!The next book is a non-fiction account of a series of murders of members of the Osage tribe in the early 1900’s in Oklahoma and how that related to the beginning days of the FBI. It was well researched and I am so glad I read it because it is a chapter in history that I knew nothing about. Side note, I was an America History major in college and it still shocks me how little I seem to know about history. Trying to remedy that but it is a project. 🙂The Heart’s Invisible Furies was recommended to me by Catherine who is one of the four people whose taste in books most closely resembles mine and who I rely on for book recommendations. The other three are Anne Bogel, Annie Jones who owns this wonderful bookstore and Lindsey Mead. I highly recommend all four as wonderful resources. This is the story of an Irish woman and her son and the country of Ireland with its geography, culture, religious influences, history. Really Ireland is as much a character as any of the characters. I loved the writing and became very invested in the outcomes of the characters and learned so much. Again, feeling as though there is so much I don’t know-my grandfather’s family is Irish but what I don’t know about Ireland is a lot. This book gave me an entirely new perspective. Highly recommend. I listened to Sourdough at the suggestion of my daughter who is a passionate home chef and loves to try new recipes. When she read this, she was inspired to bake all the bread and I can see why. The book was very entertaining and I appreciated the humorous take on some of the current non-food, food trends. I listened to the next book on audio. Joshilyn Jackson is an actress and she narrates most of her own books. I enjoyed it and will continue to work through her backlist. They make great car listening because they are entertaining enough that you stay engaged in the story, but don’t require a huge amount of focus.I read this sweet little book because I had gotten it on a daily kindle deal which is how I get many of the books I have been meaning to read. I really appreciate that Modern Mrs. Darcy curates this list. It was entertaining and light after some of my other reads. This is the book I am currently reading and I am so engaged in the story of the central character Jojo. I am about 100 pages in and loving it although the themes are hard. I read Salvage the Bones earlier this year and I highly recommend both. She is really an amazing writer. I picked up her memoir at our local independent book store and have added it to the stack of books I am taking on vacation in June.Next up will be this book which was my April Shelf Subscription book. I love books where place and setting and atmosphere are a big part of the story so I am really looking forward to reading it.

And now on to sewing. With spring peeking in every couple of days, I am excited to sew all the things, especially with Me Made May right around the corner. I have several projects in the almost done phase and hope to blog about them soon.

First, I have been sewing several different Boho blouses, a current fashion trend. I sewed a Valley Blouse in navy double gauze that I purchased from Imagine Gnats (they have a great selection and their prices are really reasonable.) This is the neckline which is quite low. The verdict is out on this but after setting it aside and coming back to it, I am liking it more. Does that happen to you too? I hope to finish it this week. Stay tuned.

After feeling a bit discouraged with the somewhat voluminous shape of the Valley blouse, I decided to try the Josephine Blouse by Made by Rae, a pattern which I bought several years ago and have never made. I was inspired by this version that Rae made. I decided to try it in a different Loominous fabric and I am loving where this is heading. Hope to finish it this week but it is looking promising. The profile is slimmer and more shaped which I prefer and the neckline is not as low.

After having some success with the Josephine, I happened to see a version of the Roscoe blouse on instagram where the sewist had used a contrasting fabric for bias binding the neck and for the sleeve cuffs and I thought aha! I had already bought some linen to use for summer dresses but once this idea got into my head, I just had to try it. This is going to be a checked linen Josephine blouse with bias binding made of Liberty fabric. I am really happy where this is going.Also inspired by Rae and in the same vein as this Beatrix dress, I am making several versions of the Gemma Tank with peplum ruffles or with a skirt. Here are those same fabrics. I love how floaty the linen feels. I didn’t quite have enough for both the blouse and the dress so I added a panel to the front of the skirt. It still needs hemming but I think it will be great for summer.Here are some shorter versions in process in quilting cotton and rayon. You can find Rae’s tutorial for this version of the pattern here.

I continue to hand quilt this antique top I bought probably 20 years ago. It is my go-to when I need something quiet and meditative to do. I am always inspired by the creativity of those women who came before us who pieced little scraps into these works of art and love. Other plans for the spring are the Tamarack Jacket. I have this olive twill for the jacket and just a yard of this quilting cotton so plan to see if I can use the quilting cotton for the lining of the front and back and line the sleeves with a solid pink double gauze. And finally, I joined the rest of the sewing and knitting community in buying this book and plan to make at least two versions of the Uniform Tank. This is watercolor linen from Purl Soho for a long-sleeved version and a floral cotton sateen by Nani Iro (also from Imagine Gnats) for a sleeveless version. And then I will need to learn to knit!I have been doing some more writing and set up this little desk on our third floor. This was taken yesterday in the early morning sunshine. I am typing here now and it cold and windy. And there you have it, our spring in a nutshell. I can’t wait for May and warmer weather!I am linking up today with the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog quick lit post which you can find here.

 

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Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: Winter 2018

This year is off to a great start reading-wise. Mostly because it is all I feel like doing. The cold weather and the post-holiday exhaustion means that I come home from work, claim the couch (we are currently a one-couch family) and read. And what great books I have been reading since the new year. I am trying to list them in order of awesomeness. The top four books I have listed are really excellent reads, the kind of book you finish and you can’t imagine finding anything as good to read. But luckily, I did.

One my big goals for 2018 is to read books I already own. The cabinet above belonged to my grandparents. It is filled with my father’s scholarly work, books I have read, loved and kept (I have moved several times in the last 20 years so I have given many away) and books I have yet to read. I would say that the yet-to-read exceeds the already-read and this year I hope to change that. I really enjoyed this week’s What Should I Read Next podcast episode because the focus was backlist titles and while it is hard to not always seek out the shiny new releases, I know that there are so many good books that I already own. This year I plan to read them! Here is what I have been reading lately.

I had never read anything by Ali Smith but I went to the library and Winter was there by the checkout line. It was fantastic. I loved the writing. I will be buying this and reading it again once it is in paperback. I will actually be reading everything she ever wrote. Her writing reminds me a bit of Kate Atkinson’s. Hard to describe but really fantastic. Just read it.I finally read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close after owning it for 13+ years. I bought it in the summer of 2005 which turned out to be a turning point for me and my family. Life got crazy and I never read it. It moved with me twice (many books were lost along the way as I donated them to the library book drive, despairing that I would ever have time to read again) and I am so glad I kept this and picked it up over the Christmas holiday and read it. So so good. The writing, the writing, the writing and the main character. If you haven’t read it, do. That is all I am going to say. Another amazing book is Salvage the Bones. I am waiting for Jesmyn Ward’s new book (in line at the library). Such powerful writing. I loved the main character and the last several chapters with the description of the storm were stunning. I was late to the party on this memoir but am so glad I finally read it. I also loved this collection of stories which I read last year. I highly recommend both. Really terrific. A friend recommended Norwegian by Night to me. It reads a bit like a mystery but so well written with interesting characters and setting that it really transcends the genre. I highly recommend it. I picked up Swimming with Bridgeport Girls at my local library. The author grew up in my town and it was fun to read as the story took place largely in places that I know well. This is the story of a guy who gets in his own way. It was well written and entertaining. Not my typical read but definitely enjoyable but maybe more so for me because I live in Connecticut. I read We Were the Lucky Ones on the recommendation of multiple podcasters, bookstore owners and fellow readers. I have read so many WWII novels in the past several years but what makes this one stand apart is that it is the real story of a real family told by a daughter who researched her family history. So compelling. I was moved to tears. A wonderful read.The Last Days at Cafe Leila was recommended to me by a friend whose taste I trust. I loved reading about life in Iran and the story and characters drew me in. And the food! A good read.Love and Trouble was initially challenging for me. The content is racy and in the first part of the memoir, it was hard for me to get past. But I persevered as it had been a recommendation from my book whisperer,  Catherine who never disappoints. I am glad I read it and I would say that I thought it was a brave book. The writing is spot on and the story, while hard to read at times, rang true. The writer seemed to really be grappling with her past in a very authentic and vulnerable way so I was ultimately glad that I read it. Another book with sex and infidelity as a main themes, Fire Sermon, was my January Shelf Subscription book. This book was beautifully written. The author explored these subjects through the lens of faith and Christianity. It was interesting to read these two books back to back. Definitely check out the From the Front Porch podcast episode where this book is the Love it or Loathe it topic. Really terrific. You can link directly to that episode here.I finished a number of books that were half-read in the first few weeks of the new year. It was a great feeling to have a clean slate so to speak. I was inspired to read Moby Dick because one of our children was reading it for school and I am so glad I did! I think that I may have read it in middle school during a semester when we intensively studied whaling (and quite a lot of the book dwelt on the history of whaling) but the parts of the book that were dramatic were really dramatic and worth all the rest. If you haven’t read it, winter is the perfect season. It helped that I had this nice edition that I bought years ago. One of my reading resolutions for 2018 was to read a collection of short stories each month. I was inspired by this podcast episode. In January I read George Saunders’ first published collection of short stories. They are satirical and sometimes disturbing and often funny. They sadly rang a little too true in our current political and social environment. I also really loved the author’s note where he talks about how and when he wrote them and what his life was like then. It was worth the whole book to read about how he came to write.This month I am reading a short story collection by B.J. Novak which is very entertaining so far. I don’t watch TV, like ever, so I have never seen the Office and had no idea who he was but I am really enjoying the stories. I chose my 12 short story collections (one for each month) based on recommendations from the Bookshelf staff. I love that there is such a wide range of authors and writing styles. To see the whole stack, check out this post.This was a book I started in 2017 and finished in 2018. I started this story collection in 2017 because our book group read it. I hadn’t finished so tried to plow through in the first week after New Years Day. I almost made it but some of the later stories were really hard for me to read. Some very tough going on topics such as drug running, addiction etc. So I probably read all but the last two stories. I just couldn’t keep going. The writing is really terrific but the themes are a bit tough.

I really enjoyed Glitter and Glue and look forward to reading Kelly Corrigan’s latest book which I am waiting for at the library. I loved her honesty. It was a quick read. I think I read it over a weekend.I have just started this book which was on the NY Times notable books of the year list. I loved the Little House books as a child but I do have to say that some of the descriptions of Native Americans gave me pause as I read them aloud to my children. I am really interested in the back story. Stay tuned.I have a big stack of books lined up for the next month which I am looking forward to tackling including a beautiful hardcover edition of The Essex Serpent which was a birthday gift from my mother. I am really looking forward to reading it. I have heard such good things about it. and just today, I received my February Shelf Subscription in the mail. So fun! What are you reading and loving this winter? I am linking to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s monthly quick lit post today. Link here to read her new book recommendations!

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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?

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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!

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Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: May and June 2017

I have not been reading as much this year as last. Partly because I am listening to fewer audio books having already worked my way through Flavia De Luce and Robert Galbraith and partly because I am listening more to the news and to podcasts rather than audio books (I love this one, this one and this one and I powered through this one along with much of the country (although I am not sure I loved it in the end,) and partly because I have had less free time than usual due to business at work and to dedicating time to getting more regular exercise which has limited my reading time. But I did read these books in the last two months. This was my favorite which I found out about through Great New Books which is a great source of books I have enjoyed reading. This is a memoir and does follow the year of experimentation a la The Happiness Project, which seems to be a new genre, but I liked the author’s unsentimental writing style. She acknowledges feeling and sentiment without wallowing. Her writing is spare but quite beautiful. She is self aware but also seems to put her ego aside which I appreciated. The subject was very interesting to me because my brother is an ornithologist and though it is about birds, it isn’t really about birds. A pretty quick read that I will likely read again. Lots of food for thought.I read four other books, all of them good reads but none of them five stars. I Let You Go was engrossing and I liked some aspects of the story but there were was a really unlikable character whose thoughts and actions occupied a lot of narrative and that detracted from my overall experience of the book. I did like the writing though and would try other books by the same author.

I discovered Erin on the Art of Simple podcast and I ended up liking this memoir more than I expected to. She writes in an unsentimental way about things that were really quite difficult for her. Many of her experiences are things I went through. I have sometimes thought about writing a book but have stopped because I don’t want to revisit those times and out of respect for the privacy of the other people involved but I felt as though she did a very good job in telling her story. Highly recommend.

I listened to O Pioneers on audiobook and I would probably have done better reading it. The narrator of the version I read had a sort of sing song voice that came across a little too pollyanna to my taste. This totally reminded me of the Little House books. I will have to go back and read more of  Willa Cather (I understand that several of the books are basically a series?) and will give this another go. I didn’t dislike it but it was hard to engage when listening to this particular narrator.

Earlier this year I read this book which I loved loved loved so I expected to love Rules of Civility. I liked some parts of the book very much, particularly the etiology of the title and the history and the historical figure who coined the phrase but I didn’t love the book entirely, again due to characters making bad choices. I guess that is a theme for me this month. I am glad I read it but is wasn’t up to A Gentleman in Moscow.

I am currently reading this book which I am really liking. The writing style, the characters and the story are all working for me.

I started this book which I think I am going to really like. Sort of a modern era Rules of Civility. So far the characters are more likable.

And I got more than 80% through this when my library loan ended and it disappeared from my Kindle. I really want to know how it ends now. I have liked it but not loved it. The ending will likely tell the tale but it may be months before my turn comes around again.

What are you reading and loving right now?

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Reading and Books

Nursebean Reads: April 2017

I am halfway through Exit West and still not sure what I think but the quotation above was worth the whole book. It so beautifully captures a universal truth.

This month I was lucky to have a week off from work during which I traveled to Austin, Texas to see my son.

 

For me, travel on planes means quick easy reads: murder mysteries, chick lit, novels that don’t require a lot of effort. The five books below fit the bill.

I also recently read this book which is a companion book to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which I enjoyed.  Thanks to my daughter for recommending it!

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I am almost done with two audio books, one quite long, The Gene and one quite short but very intense, The End of the Affair. I started reading The Gene last year and had a hard time getting through it as it is long and a bit long-winded. I loved the author’s prior book about cancer but this one has been a bit harder going. The author’s writing sometimes seems designed to show off rather than enhancing the narrative. He uses a lot of words with similar roots in sentences: “engender gender” is just one example. I liked it at first but then started to find it a distraction. When I realized that my library had the audio version, I started listening to it and that is working much better for me. It is funny how some books are better on audio and some are better read. At least that is how it works for me.

The End of the Affair read by Colin Firth is not my typical read. I initially wasn’t sure I would like it because although his narration is superb, the main character didn’t seem like someone I could identify with but halfway through, some things shift in the arc of the story and now I am really interested to finish it. I have been listening in small doses.

I also reread Travels with Charley this month which is just as good on the re-read. img_5648But the absolute best thing I have read so far this year is Lincoln in the Bardo. I am hoping I can get my book club to read it because I would love to discuss it with the group. It was brilliant, riveting, poignant. img_5646

It evoked so many things I have read but was also completely original. I was distracted at first by the many citations he uses. I was a history major and I wanted to know if they were actually real documents he was citing. I actually googled that question and I usually don’t google about anything I am reading until I have finished it. I found a review that criticized the author for making up some but not all of the quotes and once I realized that they weren’t all real and that I couldn’t really tell which were and which were not, I stopped paying attention to the citations and just read it quickly getting into the flow. I actually finished it in a day.  So so good. Just read it.

What books are you loving lately?

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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?

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