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!

Tshirt Dress

I’ve been wanting to make Ellie dresses from Target shirts I picked up on clearance.  After poking around a few pinterest tutorials and completely destroying one shirt I made this for her today with some corduroy from Joanns.


I would like to add some sort of belt/sash but am not sure out of what fabric.  I may just leave it as is.  In my first attempt I used some interfacing on the bottom of the shirt because I’d read a piece of advice to do that “to prevent the shirt from stretching.”  It ended up looking awful–the shirt really pulled out and away from her body with the interfacing and I decided that the advice was for people not sewing with a serger.  I tried to rectify the situation by adding some elastic to the seam but ended up catching some of the bodice in the seam and it was a disaster.


For my next try I think I’d like to gather the skirt by sewing it to a piece of elastic first and then cutting that to just slightly less than the circumference of the shirt so that the shirt is brought in at the waist instead of left to hang with the weight of the skirt.  Luckily I have a few more shirts in the studio for experimentation!


Thoughts on Finishing Med Surg 1


I was supposed to hate it.  It was the “bad” bimester this semester, and I was glad I was getting it over with first before the fun of Peds/OB.  Except as we stood around our post-conference room last week officially All Done with Med Surg 1 clinicals, where I should have felt joy, my heart hurt!

(This is not to say that there weren’t some bad times.  The seven hours I spent cleaning a constant flow of diarrhea out of a rectal wound will be with me to my dying day.)

Our lead instructor showed us this video on our first day of class.  It sums up so beautifully how we all felt 95% of the time.  The way he looks up hopefully with his finger over the various buttons?  SO TRUE.  (If you are a nursing student you have to watch it.)  And yet…

We learned so. much.  Every day you would go into clinicals and inevitably something would happen and you would think “Oh my gosh!  I know this!  I remember that lecture slide/textbook page/test question!”  We got to put in IVs and give a lot of shots (lovenox, anyone?) and place catheters and hang IVs.  My first IV start was a success, so I considered retiring to keep my record clean.  Sadly the instructors did not agree with my perfectly reasonable retirement plan and I went on to ruin my beautiful 100% batting average.  I also managed to poke myself with a (clean) insulin needle, and dropped pills on the floor not once but twice.  I answered questions correctly, and I answered questions with the blank look of someone who doesn’t even understand the language.  I worked with amazing floor nurses who inspired me, awesome floor nurses who were fantastic at challenging and teaching me, and the occasional floor nurse who was most interested in putting me in my place and making me feel like an idiot.  My advice for dealing with those types of nurses is to pretend you are Po from Kung Fu Panda.  Their hatred and condescension go right over your head.  You are just a fat happy panda who loves everyone.  (And you may also be the Dragon Warrior.  That helps things slide right off.)

We changed so. much. We gained confidence, and I know my own comfort level with grossness expanded at the rate of the Grinch’s heart on Christmas morning.  Remember my first day with a cadaver in A&P when I was silently screaming the whole time?  Fast forward to my OR day toward the end of our clinical experience.  I saw brain surgery and when they put up the magnified image on the giant computer screen my first thought was “huh–looks exactly like trying to pick out crab meat.”  (We spent a lot of time with preserved brains in A&P, but it was really different seeing living tissue.  Did you know that your brain visibly pulsates?  You don’t even need to look at the monitors to know what the person’s heart rate is–you can count it just by looking at their brain!)  My next surgery was a total laryngectomy.  When I walked in they were just removing a 3″ segment from the patient’s neck.  The surgeons were covered in blood splatters and the patient was split from ear to ear.  My first thought was “This is a scene from a horror movie.”  My next thought was “Something important inside me is clearly dead now, because I am having no emotional response to this business.”  Whatever nursing school is supposed to do to a person, it’s clearly done its job.  I knew something had shifted when a fellow student was telling our clinical instructor that she hadn’t completed something because her patient had gone down to surgery to have his toes amputated.  “Did you get to go?!” I asked, all excited.  (“GET” to go?!!!!  Excited?!?!?!)  “No,” she said.  “Awwwww,” I said.  MY RESPONSE TO NOT SEEING TOES CUT OFF WAS A DISAPPOINTED NOISE.  I don’t even recognize the things coming out of my mouth anymore.

This was my bimester of logistical insanity.  I showed up to Monday morning’s four hours of testing and lecture having just got off a full 12 hour overnight shift.  My week went Wednesday, Thursday, Friday clinicals from 2-10:30pm, Saturday and Sunday work 7:00pm-7:30am, Monday and Tuesday lecture 8:30am-12:30pm.  The closest thing I had to a weekend was my Tuesday afternoon/Wednesday morning break.  If my bimester was made into a montage (set to Eye of the Tiger of course)  it would be various of clips of me changing in my car/bathrooms from clothes to scrubs or from one color of scrubs to the other, looking at pocket flash cards in elevators and stop lights, and falling asleep in public places.  After one Monday test, I realized I had 15 minutes to spare before lecture started.  I considered going into the lobby like everyone else, but realized the testing room was gloriously quiet.  I fell asleep so deeply I drooled on my hand.  In 15 minutes.  Monday mornings were brutal.  But I got through them and the kids got through them, and Nic got through them, and I got my A.  Which is to say, don’t let people tell you you can’t do crazy things if you’re pretty sure that you can.

In short:  Med Surg.  Don’t dread it.  It’s a huge learning opportunity and you will inevitably find it far more interesting than you ever imagined.  I came out of our cardiac week LOVING the material and hanging on the instructor’s every word.  Who knew I’d be such a cardiac junkie?  If you end up loving something that’s a little weird, be sure to let everyone know.  During our out-rotations we do not provide total patient care, we just shadow a nurse (out-rotations being single days in the OR, ER, and Cardiovascular Unit).  My nurse in the Cardiovascular Unit ditched me in telemetry for an hour so she could get some stuff done and I LOVED IT.  It was the fastest hour of clinicals.  I raved about it so much that my instructor got me an additional three hours in telemetry on a different day.  (We had the best clinical instructors.  Seriously.  I feel so lucky to have learned from them.  Leaving them feels a lot like being left in a box on an orphanage stoop.  It’s really lonely and cold and scary out here.)  Take on extra challenges if you can.  I was starting to get bored on my week on the rehab floor, and so I took on a third patient.  It made the day go much faster and helped me to work on my organizational flow.  It really is the place to push yourself and learn as much as you can in relative safety.

Next up, Peds/OB!  I’m going to confess to being a little nervous about this one.  We had been really excited about it until we noticed that the Peds/OB group always looks like they wouldn’t mind if a meteor ended the world at this very minute.  I think it might be low on patient care and high on busywork paperwork.  Oh well, it will be over before I know it!

Alli - This was fascinating to read about! That’s awesome that you enjoyed this rotation so much. I’m looking forward to reading about your experiences in Peds… I wonder why the Peds group looks so down?

I think you’re amazing for doing this, and with a family, too!

Speattle - I’d love to see the video that you were shown, but it shows up as needing permission to view. Do you have any suggestions?

I got my BSN at the UW in 1978. I love reading about your journey in nursing school.

Traci - Sorry about that! I’m guessing copyright issues. This one doesn’t have the original soundtrack but you get the idea–it’s all in their faces anyway!

Vindicator Valley Trail


What this trail is missing in elevation gain and shade and water it makes up for in history.  We spent a day in Cripple Creek last summer visiting the Vindicator Valley Trail and exploring some of the area and we will definitely be back.  This would be a great weekend trip so you can fit everything in!

Pros:  The route is short, the hills are minimal, it’s a loop trail (versus an out-and-back) and the old mines are great to see.  I was surprised by how deserted the trail was, although the approaching rain may have had something to do with it!

Cons:  The youngest hikers will find the mines repetitive after one or two, and there is no shade to be found on this trail, so it could be a rough one on a hot summer afternoon!  Keep the elevation in mind as you prepare–you’ll need more sunscreen than you’re used to even in Colorado Springs.  A section of the trail was closed while we were there due to over-saturated ground.  (Remember how wet last summer was?!)

Distance/Difficulty:  This is an easy two mile walk with some easy uphills.  The biggest difficulty is in the elevation–an almost flat walk at almost 10,000 ft isn’t the same as one at 5,000!

Directions:  From Divide, take C)-67 south through Cripple Creek to Victor.  In Victor turn onto Fourth Street and drive 1 block before turning right onto Diamond Avenue (CR 81).  In 1.7 miles the trailhead is on the left.  (If you would like to start at the upper trailhead, it is off CR 831).

Trail Teaching:  

  • There are signs along the walk to help explain what you’re seeing.  Gotta love good signs!
  • The trail begins at the Theresa Mine, which you will see from CR 81 as you drive in.  Although the mine opened in 1895, the metal structure you see was built in 1934 after a fire destroyed the original wooden structure.  It operated from 1895 to 1961 (with a break from 1915-1930 when low gold prices forced its closure).  The main shaft of the mine is 1,620ft deep, and it produced an estimated $196 million in gold (at today’s gold pricing), or 7,500lbs of gold.  Also interesting is the fact that beginning in the 1980s the mine’s waste dump rock was removed and processed by modern methods to even more gold from the mine.  There may be less gold in the remaining rock, but we have better methods of getting at it!
  • See the recommended excursions below–lots of learning opportunities in this area!

Nearby Excursions: 

  • The American Eagles Mine Scenic Overlook is a total must stop, even if you don’t a full tour of the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mine (it was such a great place to even just see from the outside that we’re definitely doing the tour this year)!  I was completely wowed by the scale of the operation.  I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be a little boy and see it!
  • The Cripple Creek Heritage Center is another amazing (and free–thanks, casino money!) stop on your way in.  We stopped in on a whim, and ended up spending more than an hour there, and we were in a hurry to get to lunch!
  • If I had it to do again, I would have planned a weekend trip with camping nearby.  You could visit the Heritage Center, American Eagles Mine overlook, Cripple Creek Gold Mine guided tour,Vindicator Valley Trail, and Molly Kathleen tour.
  • We had lunch in Victor at a little “soda fountain” that had decent burgers, but was cuter on the outside than the inside.  There are not very many choices for lunch in Victor.



(Bottom three pictures from the American Eagles Mine scenic overlook.)

Horsethief Falls Trail Review

horse thief falls trail review

For our family this hike was part of our first backpacking excursion.  It is well known as being a side excursion to the longer and harder Pancake Rocks hike, but for a young family it’s a great hike on its own.  While there are some nice steady grades for little legs, there is also a flat section in the middle for them to catch their breath.

Pros:  You’ll enjoy shade for most of the hike. It’s not difficult and would make a good introductory hike for young kids.

Cons:  This is a popular hike, so it may be crowded.  I was also a little spooked by several marking trees next to the falls, but given the number of visitors to the falls it’s hard to imagine you’d actually see a bear during the day.  It was just enough to make me 100% sure our backpacking spot would NOT be near the falls!

Distance/Difficulty:  This is a nice family hike–the mileage and elevation are very manageable for new hikers at 2.6 miles and 655ft.

Directions:  This hike couldn’t be easier to find.  Take US24 to Divide, then take US67 south for 9.3 miles.  You’ll find the trailhead easily around a bend in the road, as it is notable for its large parking area next to an old tunnel.

Trail Teaching:  

  • Bear marking trees.  I spotted several trees that a bear had recently shredded (you can see in the pictures all of the fresh pieces of bark next to the tree).  The trees are a good opportunity to talk about bears and spotting signs of wildlife even when you can’t see the wildlife, but also a good chance to talk about safety.
  • Water as a method of transport.  When we were hiking, there were plenty of branches and logs clogged up in the creek.  You can talk about how all sorts of things are brought along by rivers–rocks, leaves, branches, mud…and how they are deposited when the water slows down.
  • Area history-the hike takes you along the outskirts of Horsethief Park.  The guidebooks make vague references to Horsethief Park’s “colorful history,” and a few blog posts explain that the park received its name from the thieves who lived there and stole from the gold camp travelers.  From Pancake Rocks you can look out to see the giant American Eagles Mine and talk about the history of mining in Cripple Creek.  US-67 runs along the old railroad bed that ran to Cripple Creek.  According to Roadside Geology of Colorado, Cripple Creek produced $450 million in gold and silver from 1891-1942.



a laundry bag for scrubs


I wear scrubs six out of every seven days.  Six days a week I wear scrubs and then on Tuesdays my jeans and I have a talk about how my current lifestyle is not without consequences.

I launder my scrubs separately from regular clothing because my nursing school whites require a serious amount of bleach for me to not just burn them at the end of every day, and my burgundy scrubs are covered in baby cooties.

My current method for keeping my scrubs separate from the rest of the laundry has been leaving them on a pile on the floor until I run out of whatever color fits my health care role of the day.  Nic hasn’t been super thrilled about that method of laundry storage.  Enter my new dedicated scrubs laundry bag!  A perfect 15 minute solution in a Sarah Jane border print I love.  It’s not fancy, but it is finished!

Pancake Rocks Trail – Hiking Review


The hike begins after a nice climb up from the parking lot on an old wagon road through relatively flat Horsethief Park.  Unfortunately you are on the less attractive side of the park (although the shade from the trees is nice)–the creek and beaver dens are all on the left.  The Ring the Peak Trail runs left off this trail and offers the prettier view of the park, but this trail stays in the trees.  At 0.7 miles there is a large difficult-to-miss sign pointing out the junction between the trails to Horsethief Falls and Pancake Rocks.  Adults and older kids could easily do both in a day, but my recommendation for young elementary schoolers would be to keep the two hikes separate, or at the very least, do Pancake Rocks first and if after that the kids were up to seeing Horsethief Falls on the way out, great.  At this point in the hike, things get real.  You’ll gain 800ft of elevation over the next mile of switchbacks through the trees.  At the top there’s a great spot for a rest (unless you’re trying to beat a thunderstorm like we were)!  There is a fire spot and enough level area for a great backpacking site, however it is a long hike down to the water.  There is a nice flat section before you drop down (argh) and then up again (double argh).

Pros:  This was a great hike to put my little hikers to the test!  It was not very crowded once you get onto the Pancake Rock section, had nice variety, and the namesake rocks a the end of the hike were a nice pay-off.

Cons:  I like my hikes to be predictable.  I like my ups to go up and my downs to go down.  This one is emotionally trickier–there’s a significant little descent on your way up (elevation you then have to gain back).  There is also very little water along the hike.

Distance/Difficulty:  This is the most challenging hike we’ve done as a family.  At 6.4 miles and 1400ft elevation gain at 10,000ft, you are going to be trying to suck down some oxygen and wondering where it is!  We’d prepped the kids that this would be a challenge, but three quarters of the way up the steep switchback section, as I was huffing and puffing, Ellie piped up with “when’s the hard part going to be?”  I think what made it such a success in spite of her tiny legs is that she’d been hiking all season with a camelback full of water, but we’d left that at our campsite to lighten her load for this longer/harder hike.  It was a very successful strategy!

Directions:  This hike couldn’t be easier to find.  Take US24 to Divide, then take US67 south for 9.3 miles.  You’ll find the trailhead easily around a bend in the road, at it is notable for its large parking area next to an old tunnel.

Trail Teaching:  

  • Pancake rock formation–for all of my books and internet research, I actually couldn’t find a good explanation of how the granite pancake rocks formed.  There are explanations online about limestone pancake rock formations, but the internet geology buffs go silent when it comes to granite pancake rock formations.  So have the kids use what they know about geological forces to make guesses.
  • Area history-the guidebooks make vague references to Horsethief Park’s “colorful history,” and a few blog posts explain that the park received its name from the thieves who lived there and stole from the gold camp travelers.  From Pancake Rocks you can look out to see the giant American Eagles Mine and talk about the history of mining in Cripple Creek.  US-67 runs along the old railroad bed that ran to Cripple Creek.  According to Roadside Geology of Colorado, Cripple Creek produced $450 million in gold and silver from 1891-1942.


pancake rocks hike colorado

This series shows pictures from the beginning of the hike, starting with the old tunnel and trailhead and ending with the trail junction that marks the start of the switchbacks.

pancake rocks hike divide

Up the switchbacks to a little campsite at a great overlook spot before a nice flat section and then a steep descent before your final ascent to the pancake rocks.  This area of the trail had some summer snow for snowballs!

pancake rocks hike

The pancake rocks themselves and view toward the American Eagle Mine (the brown hillsides on the horizon).

Further Reading: Great pictures from a late season hike on this blog and a thorough trail review here.  If you’re interested in adding on Horsethief Falls to this hike, here is my post on Horsethief Falls