Needles and a Pen » Knitting, Sewing, and Nursing School

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  • Welcome to my blog!

    Hi! I'm Traci. I'm a nursing student and CNA who loves quilting, knitting, cross stitch, and the great outdoors. In my pre-scrubs life, I owned Real Photography, and you can still see my old wedding and portrait photography site here .

    I great big puffy heart *love* comments, so please let me know you visited! I try to always reply!

REI Anniversary Sale Favorite Things


(This post contains affiliate links.  If you purchase something based on my recommendation, I would love it if you used these links–thanks!)

Hurray!  It’s time for my second favorite sale of all!  (Favorite sale of all: the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, which conveniently coincides with my birthday.)

As I debate how to use our 20% coupons and which sale items to stock up on, here are a few things that we LOVE that I noticed on sale and would wholeheartedly recommend to other hiking/camping families.

Eno doublenest hammocks.  We love this hammock so much we have two.

Jetboil stove.  We couldn’t backpack without this stove, and now we love it for car camping too–it’s awesome to make a quick pot of water for coffee in the morning!

Campbed 3.5 sleeping pad.  I am obsessed with this thing.  I’m even willing to take the weight hit and carry it when we backpack.  It is beyond belief comfortable and helps me stay warmer at night.

Patagonia briefs.  These are fantastic.  And are one of the very few underwear options in the whole wide world that don’t show your panty line when you’re wearing see-through white scrub pants.

Kingdom 6 tent.  We got ours at the REI sale four year ago and we love it!  It’s fantastic to be able to stand up inside the tent and we have been able to host camping trips with visitors because of the extra space.

Kids Camelbacks.  Will and Ellie have MiniMules that have been fantastic for all of our hiking adventures.  I’m planning on getting Ellie the Scout during this sale for our backpacking trips so she can carry just a little bit more when we backpack.

Here’s what I’m drooling over:

Kelty tru.comfort sleeping bag.  THIS IS THE COOLEST SLEEPING BAG I’VE EVER SEEN.  I want it for car camping.  Except I also want a lighter but warmer sleeping bag for backpacking.  Will needs to hurry up and outgrow his kid sleeping bag so I can pass on my current one and go sleeping bag shopping!  I am a tummy/side sleeper and therefore Mummy Bags are torture for me.  But I probably am going to be spending all of my clams buying up those white-scrub-friendly Patagonia briefs, so alas, I will covet this from afar.

A new backpack for Nic.  Nic is still rocking his external frame pack, which causes problems in some areas (like getting a rain cover to fit it).  He has admired Will’s REI brand pack so I might be able to convince him to invest in a new pack so I can stop feeling quite so guilty about always buying all the things while he makes do and mends like a WWII housewife.

Asolo Hiking boots for me.  I have nice sturdy hiking boots that are awesome (and look very cool–which is important because the best part of any outdoor adventure is usually the sweet gear)…but they are heavy.  And sometimes I think it would be really nice to have a lighter hiking boot for those hikes when I know we’re not going to be crossing little streams or wading around in a lot of muck.

United by Blue shirt.  Will picked one out for me for Mother’s Day last year and he created a small problem.  It is so soft and wonderful I want another one.  It would be very worthy of my 20% off coupon.

A Cold and Broken Hallelujah / Nursing School Halfway Mark

We sat down to take the final, a little dejected, a little bitter.  This was it, our last test of the first year of nursing school, the big halfway mark.  There should have been more excitement, more oomph in the air.  Instead, it was a giant cloud of meh.  I leaned over to my nursing school BFF.  “You know that Jeff Buckley song Hallelujah?” I asked her.  “I feel like he really gets nursing school.”

Nursing school is not a victory march.

I have been struggling to write my “I survived this bimester post,” and thought about just skipping it this time, because I don’t want to be overly negative or rant-y, and every time I tried writing it, Nic would turn around in his chair and ask “What are you angry typing about?”  And I would say “I’m NOT angry typing!” And he would raise his eye and I would reread my words…HOW DOES HE ALWAYS KNOW WHEN I’M ANGRY TYPING?!  HE CAN’T EVEN SEE ME!

I am really excited to be a nurse next year.  (NEXT YEAR!!!!!  Now that we’ve been out of school for a few days that seems like a real attainable thing again.)  And I love learning about nursing and medical processes.  So I felt like maybe just leaving it alone was the right answer.  But then I remembered that when I tried to read about people’s nursing school experiences time and time again the blogger just stopped saying anything about school after the first few months.  So I want to check in on this halfway point nursing school truck stop.  I’m still working part time.  I kept my 4.0.  I only lost my sense of humor once.  (Side note: People should really be able to carry around benzo pens.  If someone is going into anaphylaxis and you stab them with an epi pen, you’re a hero.  You should definitely be able to see someone starting to spiral out in nursing school and pop them in the thigh with some lorazepam.  I feel strongly that this should be a thing.  I might make it my life’s work.)  For a few days there a lot of us felt so beaten down that it was hard to remember what it was all for or that becoming an RN is an actual attainable not-so-far-in-the-future thing.  So anyway, this is me saying that the check in at the end of Peds/OB sounds like this:

Hallelujah.  The cold and broken kind.

Great Sand Dunes Visit 2016

(For my full review of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument, see this link.)

On our annual trip to the Sand Dunes we saw worse weather than we have before (Saturday’s winds kept us from getting to the top of the High Dune), but Nic and I both noticed that the campground just gets more popular each year.  It’s still possible to get a spot late Friday afternoon, and many people still treat the campground as a one night destination (meaning spots can be found Saturday morning as people leave), but their numbers are smaller.  In 2016 the campsites are $20, and the facilities include water, heated bathrooms (no showers), but unfortunately they have permanently closed all of the dishwashing stations.  They ask you not to wash dishes in the bathroom, not at the water spigots, and have boarded up the dishwashing stations.  This is a campground to bring paper plates to!

The weather was on the cooler side Friday, but still enjoyable for the kids to play in the water.  With the weekday and the temps, we once again had the dunes to ourselves.   With the forecast for strong wind, we stayed in the interior of the campground loop for the first time.  The kids loved the great trees for climbing on our site, and we loved being able to hang up our two hammocks.  Hopefully next year will bring better weather, but if not it’s still a beautiful location for a low key camping weekend!


Sarah Jane Out to Sea Pirate Baby Quilt

One of my closest friends is having a baby boy next month, so this baby makes the cut–I dug into my precious Sarah Jane stash for his quilt!


I love the Out to Sea line, and used it for the majority of this patchwork quilt, adding in another favorite, the yellow paper hats fabric from Sarah Jane’s Children at Play line, a tan solid, and a navy herringbone to help round out the textures.  I used 3 1/2″ squares for 3″ finished blocks.


After washing, it crinkled up beautifully–I love the quilts when they’re washed and crinkly.  I can’t wait to see that little baby boy on it!


A fleece sweatshirt for Ellie: Simplicity 0298

Ellie fell in love with my fleece Linden and wanted one of her own.  Since I had plenty of leftover fleece from my Linden, we now have matching Mommy and Me fleece sweatshirts!

fleece raglan sweatshirts kids and adults

The Linden pattern doesn’t come in kid sizes, but I figured any raglan would do.  I found the Simplicity 0298 for $2 at Joanns and so that was the winner!  It wasn’t set up for a neckline band, but I read online that a band’s measurement should be 85% of whatever you are attaching it to, so I did a little match and was able to add bands to the neck, cuffs, and waist.

raglan kids sweatshirt fleece

I hadn’t intended to use a band for the waist but the pattern is really short.  I made a size 7 for 6 year old Ellie, and while she swims in the girth of it (typical of Big Four pattern sizing), it was surprisingly short.  I made her sleeves long so it can fit through next winter.

fleece raglan kids sweatshirt

a fleece linden (with a coverstitch machine)

We’re turning the corner on winter now, which is good because I spend most of the winter being miserably cold.  When I saw the “luxe fleece collection” at JoAnn’s one January day I fell in love and began trying to figure out ways I could wrap myself in it.  I’ve been wanting a second Linden (I mean a hundred more Lindens) since I made my gloriously-lengthy-in-the-arms Linden sweatshirt last spring, so I decided to give it a go in fleece.  It is awesome.  It is so soft and comfy that Ellie immediately demanded her own version.  (Because I always like to know EVERYTHING about materials I see used, the grey I used for the bands is also from Joanns–just their basic grey rib knit.  They only have three or four colors of their rib knit, so grey it was!)


This project is a little bit special because it marked my first successful use of my coverstitch machine!  I was so excited to use it over Christmas break, but then my first attempt at a quick hem was a disaster and the more research I did the more intimidated I became.  I decided to set aside a few hours to really learn this machine…and so of course it acquiesced completely to everything I wanted it to do and acted like “what?!  I’m super easy and a delight to use. ”  For anyone using a cover stitch machine, my tension settings were 4, 4, 3.  These out-of-the-box settings seemed perfect for the thick fleece.  After this project, I went back to my first attempted coverstitch project and discovered that the tshirt fabric of my original attempt benefited from tensions of 3, 3, 2.  (This is the extent of my tension knowledge: if you are getting tunneling with your coverstitch machine you should lower your tension.  I happened to randomly drop them all by one and that ended up being perfect.  Phew.  Because that could get really complicated really quickly.)


A couple of pattern/fabric notes:

  1.  Go up a size!  I made this one in the same size as the last one, and if I had it to do over I’d go up a size, particularly for arm roominess and the snuggle factor.  This is a big thick fatty fabric without stretch, so go up a size.
  2.  Don’t wear it in the car without a coat on top.  Mine is ruined from a day of driving around.  I noticed that the seat belt was pulling up a lot of fuzz, but I hoped the diagonal crease lines across the bust would go away once I washed the shirt.  They didn’t.  It’s noticeable enough that I won’t wear this one outside the house anymore.
  3.  If you extend the sleeve length like I do, you’ll need to regrade the tapering down of the sleeve.  I just carried the lines down a few inches and they ended up being too tight and I needed to cut off the extra inches and stick a ribbed knit cuff on them so they’d be the extra long sleeves of my dreams.
  4. I went with my same longer length and self drafted curve on the hem and I’m really happy with those choices.  Honestly, it’s a boxy pattern and not particularly flattering especially when made up in such a thick fabric, but it’s a sweatshirt.  It’s meant for cozy days!