Wild Week

comments: 49

Good morning, my friends. Hello, hello. I hope you are well! We've been well and buuuusy! Which I like, but now I'm tired. I didn't even take any pictures this week. But we have all of the First Snow pre-orders out and on their ways to you. The downloadable PDF-only version of the design is now available here. (And yes, the kit is still available, no problem — it is here.) I hope you like this pattern and kit. I wound up doing all of the shipping myself — Stacey was in Japan and is now back but will be taking more classes in January and won't have time to work with me anymore (tears). Andy and I wound up doing everything on this kit together. He pulled all the floss and cut all the fabric. I stuffed all the kits and did the shipping. But it was quite an excellent experience for me to do all of the shipping myself again. It's been a long time since I've done it. I found it very poignant, and got a little bit emotional. I love seeing everyone's names, and your addresses, and your streets and towns and cities and countries. I recognized sooooo many names from over so many years of doing this. It made me think of all the years, and all of our conversations, and all of your comments and your sweet notes and just . . . I don't know. How much I love all of this and how lucky I am to do it and how, when I was a little girl I think I actually always wanted to do this. My parents were into mail order and they had a few little businesses throughout the years. I had my first mail order business when I was thirteen. It was called Autumnbrook Farm and I made model-horse blankets and saddle pads and little stuff like that. I made enough money to buy a pair of really pretty dark-brown suede chaps at Hinsdale Tack Shop and I wanted to write a tearful letter of gratitude to the readers of Just About Horses magazine (where I advertised), thanking them for their orders of tiny horse halters and for making my greatest dream (chaps) come true. I did love those chaps so much. I guess I thought better of it then and did not submit that particular letter to the editor, but I feel the same surge of emotion every time I get orders and every time I ship. Thank you. You'll notice that my handwriting on your postcards looks deranged. Sorry about that. I don't really write by hand anymore ever. Do you? Compared to how much you used to? It's so weird! I was speed-writing, admittedly. But I can usually write much more nicely, FYI.

Anyway, so, thank you for everything you do here and for all of your kindness and support. I means more to me than I regularly say. XOXOXOXO

I've spent the last few days working on a new doll design based on my animal patterns. She will have the same body shape and size and will be able to wear all of the same clothes. The idea for her sort of exploded out of me the minute I was finished shipping everything. I actually do get a lot of ideas in the shower. It's really cliched but true. It's the only time I'm just sitting there not doing anything else at all. I think I had thought about doing a girl doll for a long time but I didn't really know it. I started cutting and sewing in every little spare minute, littering the living room with needles and felt and floss and yarn in a way that I haven't done in a while. My first animal patterns came out maybe in . . . 2013? It's been a few years. Maybe it was 2014. People ask me about whether we'll make more of those kits (there are five animals total). And no, we won't. There will now be these new doll kits sometime this spring, though. I've been thinking relentlessly of all the ways to do it. Andy cracks up when I have the making-fever. I read him the list of all of the clothes I had planned for the doll: new blouse, new skirt, and cable sweater, cardigan sweater, beret, flounce-collar blouse, cape, cable cowl, knitted skirt, bloomers, pixie bonnet, detachable collar, lace legwarmers. Your basic insanity. He gets me. Right now the doll prototype looks mildly feral. This is possibly no coincidence. I've turned into a wild animal.

I made a pattern for a Santa Lucia (which is December 13) crown with hellebore flowers, mistletoe, and holly for you. My model was freezing when I took her picture in her nightgown on top of Mt. Tabor on the only not-raining (though totally freezing) day we had a couple of weeks ago. She is part Viking-descendant but she doesn't like the cold. I love her.

Flowret for Blog

The pattern is free and you can download it here: A Flow'ret Bright Winter Crown Sewing Pattern. The candles are removable, so you could take them out and just wear the crown. It's adjustable in the back (elastic) so you can make it any size you want. I hope you like it.

It's Thanksgiving week here in the U.S. We're having Thanksgiving here at our house and I expect we'll get our Christmas tree this weekend, and maybe start decorating. We usually do, anyway. I'll be back to show you next week. Until then, I wish you all a wonderful, wonderful week of peace and joy and slowing as we enter the holiday season. I'm very grateful for all of the love and kindness and deep thoughts and un-deep thoughts and humor and joy you share with me constantly. It helps me understand the world and understand myself so much better than I would otherwise. You all bring light to our days here and for that I sincerely thank you. Thank you. XOXOXO

Full Swing

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We're in it, here: full fall swing. Halloween came and went in a frenzy of costume-sewing/meowing/negotiating for candy. Kids are so obsessed with candy!!! Amelia says she wants one piece of candy after dinner after she accomplishes her "chores." The things she considers her "chores" include: setting up the pillows on the couch in a nice way and propping up various stuffed animals at charming angles to greet me when I come back downstairs after putting her to bed; putting her eighteen pairs of shoes and boots back in her baskets instead of leaving them in the middle of the floor; hanging up her coat instead of dropping it in the middle of the floor; putting away her scarf and hat instead of dropping them in the middle of the floor; climbing on all manner of furniture to reach the wood blinds to pull them down and close them before she goes up to bed; remembering to wash her hands without being told after going to the bathroom. Hrmmmmmmm. . . . Good deal for her, eh? These are all the things she is supposed to do anyway. . . . Maybe it's really a good deal for me. Now she does all of them in lightning speed while singing the clean-up song and then comes skidding to a halt in front of me, smiling and holding her cupped hands out to receive her treat. I don't bribe with sugar under normal circumstances, but hellity hell it really works! Good thing she only has three pieces of candy left. This is too easy. . . .

THANK YOU for the discussion on working from home vs. renting a remote space. That was really fascinating and I truly appreciate so many of you taking the time to share your experience and thoughts with me. I really needed to hear all of that and I am so appreciative of the perspectives. I would only be going to an off-property space during the time that Amelia is in school, and I would still probably keep my sewing stuff here, but honestly, I really am now thinking it's probably too complicated and too expensive to consider. I think I have fantasies of having a really cool, big, shared, white-washed space where other people would be hanging out doing creative things, and I could have room to store my stuff and still have it all within reach, and also not have it anywhere in the living space. Like, embroidery floss, for instance. When we work on kits, we have a palette of probably sixty? seventy? different colors that I routinely use in my designs. Each color has a big, fat 500g cone of floss. For kits, we break down the big cone by winding it onto several different smaller cones, depending on how many strands of that color you need in a kit. So in First Snow, for instance, we have over thirty colors and over fifty separate lengths of floss. Each length needs its own cone since we pull all the floss at the same time. So that's a lot of cones sitting in the office over the weeks that we are working on this. It's just not realistic to be schlepping them up and down from the basement every day. Felt and fabric, too — they take up a lot of space. Welllllll, you get it. But honestly, I took every single comment truly to heart and you gave me so much to think about. And I think the obvious conclusion Andy and I came to was that we need to clean out the basement thoroughly, and think of more creative storage solutions right here on our property. We have a pretty small basement, as half of the house only has a crawl space underneath it. We do have attic storage, although it's truly just storage, not standing room, and you have to use a ladder to get up into it through the ceiling in the hallway. But these are all just details I need to think through more thoroughly, and I think I can do that, especially when I have more time to think. As I said, I definitely have time to decide, as we wouldn't be doing anything (except reorganizing here) until the year after next. But just reading through everything you wrote gave me a more hefty appreciation for all of the great things about working from home, and that was really helpful, so thank you.

It's about the most blustery, Winnie-the-Poohish day you could imagine here today. The trees are whipping around outside my rain-spattered window, and the wind is howling. I keep hearing things thwack against the house and the porch. Tonight is our school lantern walk, and I don't know how those little lanterns are going to stay lit in this gale. I've been cooking and baking lately. I made a frittata like Megan's with roasted delicata squash, sauteed mushrooms, fresh spinach, and chevre, and it was delicious. I made the NYT's curried cauliflower soup and it was really nice, especially with the famous but no-less-delicious-for-that Dutch oven no-knead bread. I did Mark Bittman's speedy version as well as the long version, and quite honestly, there was no appreciable difference that I could taste or tell, so it's Version Speedy for us from now on, and bread in 4.5 hours. That bread is so good. I mean, what in the world? How is it even possible to get something that tastes like this out of a regular kitchen, with so little effort? I can't even deal with it. I don't even like bread that much (unless it's really, really good) but that thing is amazing. I've made it probably ten times over the past few years and it works every time. I also made Mark Bittman's Everyday Pancakes and those were very good. I've totally been getting my money's worth out of my New York Times Cooking subscription and highly recommend it. Everything I've made from it has been great. I love surfing it on my iPad for relaxation. The photos are beautiful. I don't know. I needed some cooking inspiration, and this has been good for me. I seem to need a lot of hand-holding in the kitchen. I love to cook but even after all of these years of cooking I absolutely need recipes. I cannot think of a single thing that I know how to cook by heart. Not one single thing! I'm also kind of a picky eater, so, in all honesty, a lot of cookbooks don't really work that well for me as anything other than inspiration or eye candy, because I find that I might make one thing out of the whole book. Maybe two. I keep the books because they're beautiful. But they aren't that practical for the way I cook. I totally cherry pick, and I like the "search" function. Anyway, this isn't an ad — I mean, I guess it is, but it's unintentional — I have just been happy with that subscription and it's getting me out of my cooking shell, or rather my non-cooking shell, and Andy and I are both happy about that. Maybe it's also just the season of cooking for me. I love fall and winter food so much more than summer.

I've also been knitting hats and gloves and cowls. I don't have any photos of any of them, apparently, but I will take some. I'm using this pattern and have bought lots of colors of Worsted Twist yarn in many of the same colors they show to make us a bunch of stuff that we need for cold weather, and I'm really enjoying this kind of knitting — lots of stockinette, lots of knitting in the round, nothing very complicated, small things that go quickly and feel soft and warm and utterly practical. I seem to need a lot of direction lately. It's kind of a wonderful relief, I have to say.

Fall Frolics

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Happy Halloween to you! We have a fluffy pink kitters here that hasn't stopped meowing for three days. She's also hardly taken her plushy duds off since they were finished (by me, and no, I don't enjoy sewing polarfleece, but this is what she picked out, and it is, at least, very forgiving to sew!). Her fur is already matted and filthy, mostly from crawling around on all fours (while meowing), which cracks me up. She's showing you her paw here, FYI.

Thank you sooooo much for the First Snow pre-orders! Yaaaaay! I'm thrilled. We are going to go ahead and make all 600 kits that we have enough floss for. This should get us all the way to Christmas without selling out, so I'm very pleased that there is interest in this. The fabric has been ordered, the pattern is finished will be sent to print tomorrow, and Andy is going to pull floss for me this time. So we are on-track, and I will keep you abreast of our progress. We'll ship as soon as we have everything together; I'm still thinking it will be about three weeks (and the PDF-only option will be available at that time, too). But again, thank you so much for your enthusiasm for this design. I couldn't be happier with the response, and I will be doing a few informational cross-stitch posts between now and ship time. I've been meaning to do these for a while, so I'm looking forward to them.

The weather here has been ridiculously excellent. We never get autumns like this — crisp, cool, colorful, crunchy, perfect. We've been sincerely spoiled this year, and it's really nice. We've been able to get outside quite a bit and it's been wonderful. Today is Halloween, and the weather is gorgeous. I'm so happy for all of the kids!

I've been toying with the idea of moving my office out of the house. I would love to hear what those of you who work at home OR have space to work outside the home think about it. I've been working at home for seventeen years. It has mostly been a wonderful experience. But as Amelia gets older I'm wondering if we need more space for living instead of me working. Posie is pretty bulky. Right now my business takes up two fairly large rooms in our fairly small house. We've thought about building a second story over my studio, which is already an addition (built by the previous owner). But it's too expensive. We've thought about maybe putting a shed in the backyard, but the yard's too small and I think the shed would be too small for what I really need. I really like the convenience of working at home. But it does feel isolating sometimes. I feel like I'm in the house too much sometimes, and I get antsy. But maybe I just need to take myself out to lunch. I've thought about getting a studio space closer to where Amelia will be going to school next year, which is about twenty-five minutes away, so that I can be working while she's in school and I'm not driving back and forth quite so much. But that neighborhood doesn't really seem to have any spaces available, at least ones that are advertised. You know what neighborhood does? My own neighborhood. :/ Womp womp. Sort of defeats half of the purpose. Also, I don't know if I could afford to pay rent on a space outside of the house, because my dumb neighborhood has gotten so trendy and expensive. Oh, decisions, decisions. What do you think? Any thoughts about this? I'm in no rush, but this will be a future consideration, and I feel like I want to get my bearings on it. If you've lived either of these experiences, I'd love to hear your advice.

First Snow Available for Pre-Ordering

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CoverBeautyBlog

The First Snow Cross Stitch Sampler Kit is now available for pre-order! Please CLICK HERE to order.

Finished Size of Design Area: 6"wide x 9"h (15cm x 23cm); 104 stitches wide x 144 high on 32-count fabric

The kit contains:

One 14" x 16" (36cm x 41cm) piece of 32-count embroidery linen in Star Sapphire by Wichelt
(55) 24" (61cm) lengths of various colors of DMC 6-ply cotton embroidery floss
Stitching instructions
Illustrated stitch tutorial for special stitch
Full-color cross-stitch chart with symbols over color blocks
One piece of chipboard for creating a floss organizer

You will need your own:

#24 tapestry needle(s) for cross stitch
Embroidery scissors
4" (10cm) embroidery hoop
Frame and framing supplies

If you are new to counted cross stitch, or need a refresher on the basics, please see my "how to do counted cross stitch" tutorial here.

 

Hello, my friends. I have a new design for you. I really love designing cross-stitch patterns. I NEED TO DO MORE OF THEM. I love them. I love the process of designing them. I usually start with one element — in this case, I couldn't stop thinking about what happened this summer when the bird stepped onto my finger. I've seen on Instagram that this is a whole thing, people who feed birds out of their hands. I think my heart would explode in a shower of birdseed if that actually ever happened to me. But this summer a little chickadee did walk onto my finger. He had flown through our (open) window into the dining room, and spent the morning flying from curtain rod to pendant cord to lampshade, not seeming to be in any distress but singing merrily away for hours. I was eventually able to coax him onto my finger and carry him back over to the open window, where he flew off (but not before trying to climb a ways up my arm, away from the window — ha!). Nothing like this has ever even come close to happening to me before, and honestly, I still think about it more often than you might believe. Every once in a while, when I'm sitting in traffic, or listening to the news, or carrying groceries — in other words, something generally not-my-favorite — I'll suddenly remember: A chickadee walked onto my finger! And in that moment I can feel his nervous little feet, remember how light he was, remember how my heart raced, and how I held my breath. . . . It really was like magic. . . . Well, that's what initially inspired this piece. So I started with that.

But then, after that, it's always a little bit of a mystery where the rest of the elements come from. Things just start popping into my head. I can see a little scene, almost like a little dream. I peek in on it. It feels a certain way. I knew the air was cold and clear there. I smelled the pine and heard the geese overhead. And then, as in my real-life, ever-present dream, I saw the snow starting to fall. And all of this comes in a bit of a rush. And so I draw quickly, even though I can't draw. I just put vague outlines of the elements, moving the pieces around until it feels right. And then I begin to work on the details of each element. And this can take me a while. I look at old cross-stitch books and photos of animals and houses on Early American samplers, and start putting together all of these little things I love. And then I sit around with everything for a few days, moving things a stitch or two to the left or right — and sometimes even hastily scrapping an entire element and swapping in something else. I'm weirdly pedantic ("They don't make the right shade of mauve for this!") and then weirdly capricious ("I'm getting rid of everything on the left side. Delete!"). And when it finally comes together in a way that pleases me just enough, I STOP, and print the chart, and just get stitching. And then again, I go go go. When I'm focused on my Posie projects, I'm intensely focused until I'm finished. If I don't finish in a burst, woe to the future of that project. It probably won't become a product. I like a lot of quiet (though my life is not very quiet, ever) but I can be intensely verbal sometimes. I find it fairly easy to express myself verbally. But there must be this other part of me that communicates in pictures, because when I'm designing patterns, especially cross-stitch patterns, I find that they satisfy a deeper, more mysterious need, one that's both visual and tactile.

Because I think I enjoy the stitching of the pattern every bit as much as I enjoy the designing of it. There's a strange sort of existential (I'm getting deep) relief in just following the chart. I feel the same way about knitting patterns, and even sewing patterns. Just, seriously, give me the chart so I can turn off the decision-making part of my brain. I, personally, do not improvise on the fly too much. I like to get all my changes down — I like to think them all through, if there have to be any at all, and then I like to get them down on paper so that I can relax. I only ever do the actual handwork part of crafting at night. And I'm tired at night. I'm not a night person and I never have been. I'm industrious but only in the quietest, most specific ways, and they involve nightgowns. And travel shows. And needles and threads of various sorts. And feet up up up. And not much thinking. Patterns are a blessing.

I think you will like this because, although it has taken me years — like, years and years — I've finally learned something about framing finished pieces of embroidery. It should be less expensive and I should do even more of it myself. To that end, no more custom-sized designs from me. I'm only going to design things from now on that fit in a ready-made frame. Framing custom pieces is just way, way too expensive. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to understand this. I'd much rather save my money to spend on supplies and patterns or kits (yes, biased) than frames.

So, to that end, this kit (like Love and Joy, last year's pattern) is designed to fit in a ready-made 8" x 10" frame. All you need to do is make sure the frame is deep enough to fit a piece of foam core (and glass, if you want to use glass. I never use glass. I don't like it. I have my embroidered pieces hanging all over the house, and I don't feel that they suffer appreciably for being exposed). What you will do is wrap you embroidery around a piece of foam core, and stretch it with the help of about a million sequin (about 1/2" long) straight pins. You can read my tutorial about how I've done that in the past (though I finished the rest of the framing with custom frames at a frame shop). But with an 8" x 10" piece you can even buy the pre-cut foam core at the craft store (JoAnn's or Michael's, or easily online) for just a couple of dollars. A frame store can also cut foam core for you for just a few dollars if you ask nicely.

I'm not trying to take anything away from frame shops or people who do a really good job framing embroidery. In my experience, though, there aren't that many of them out there, and it does take some skill. You could obviously take anything to a frame shop and have it done by them if you want to. But if you don't, and you have the patience and the time, framing something yourself for very little money can be really rewarding and a really fun part of the project as a whole.

This kit is done with two plies of DMC cotton embroidery floss on 32-count linen. That means it has sixteen stitches per inch. If you are interested in seeing a tutorial on counted cross stitch, please read the one I did here. Also, because it will take us into November to get these kits out to you, it will give me time to post a more in-depth discussion of cross-stitching, so if, after reading that first tutorial you find that you still have questions, please ask them here so that I can address all of them in another post to come.

Okay! Phew.

 

This kit will be shipping sometime in the second half of November. We will order fabric based on the number of pre-orders we get over the next several days, and I'll keep you posted on our assembly progress.

The pattern-only option will also be available separately as a downloadable PDF, but not until sometime in November. I'll post here when that is ready, too.

 

As you probably know, I also carry my favorite supplies in my web shop, should you need lovely, high quality tools. These are the exact ones that I use every day For this project, we have:

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Gorgeous little embroidery scissors.

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Hardwicke Manor 4" hoops.

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Twill tape to wrap around the inner hoop. You don't need to do this, but it's nice, and provides more tension to keep the fabric from slipping out of the hoop as you stitch.

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And size #24 tapestry needles for cross stitch on linen.

All supplies will be shipped along with your kit.

 

We do ship overseas! To place your order, you will be required to read this information, which contains details about international shipping and customs fees you may incur when ordering outside the U.S. (If you are overseas, the shipping cost charged by Posie does not include any further charges you may incur when importing goods.) To see the shipping-only costs for your order and location, just place the items in your cart and choose your location (or enter your zip code, if you are in the U.S.) and it will tell you how much the shipping is. As usual, I have a sincere request: Please check on and update your shipping address correctly in your Paypal preferences so that there is no confusion when we go to ship. If you do need to add things to your order or change your address after you've placed the order, just email me and we'll figure it out, no worries! I just like to remind people of this ahead of time, because it's a bit easier.

As I said last year, there is something so poignant and sweet about winter holiday crafting, to me. I honestly think it's the dearest, most optimistic kind of making we do all year. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to come from the heart. I hope this new little sampler kit provides you with many (but not that many; it's just the right size) quiet hours of peaceful stitching this season. And I hope it snows where you, and I, both are.

Love and joy to you,
Alicia

Feed a Crowd

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Well now, here's some more food! I made my mom's mom's spaghetti sauce for our neighborhood pumpkin-carving party the other night. This sauce was a staple in my mom's party repertoire. It came from her mother, who was not at all Italian. Regardless, this is delicious. It really doesn't taste like any other spaghetti sauce I've ever had, anywhere, but it's one of my absolute favorites. It makes a VAT of sauce — we went through two pounds of thin spaghetti for nine adults and eight children, and had sauce left over. (I should have made another pound of spaghetti, honestly. But there was plenty of sauce.) It has pounds of vegetables in it. It cooks for hours and hours. And it truly seems to please everyone, from kids to adults. It's got a wonderful sweetness to it. Like so many family recipes, this one has two brand-name ingredients in it — Ragu sauce and Kraft Parmesan cheese. I'm sure you could substitute other brands, but I personally wouldn't DARE. But that's just me. When I make this I want it to taste exactly like my mother's sauce, and it truly does. But if you like living on the edge, you should totally use what you have or what brands you prefer because I am sure it is still going to taste so good.

What you don't want to change is the amount of time this cooks for. A total of four hours. It matters. Plan to make this the day before your party and then just warm it up the day of. That's what I did and it worked great. (I'm guessing it would freeze perfectly well, too, if you're not in the habit of feeding seventeen people at one time.)

Mamaghetti

6 medium yellow onions
6 medium carrots, peeled
6 stalks celery (or basically, all of the stalks in an entire head)
1 bunch of parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound of ground beef
1 24-oz. jar of Ragu Traditional spaghetti sauce
3 6-oz. cans of tomato paste
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 bay leaves
2 cups water

1 8-0z. jar/can of grated Kraft Parmesan cheese

In your largest heavy-bottomed sauce pot (I used my enormous oval Le Creuset pot), brown ground beef until it is no longer pink. Pour off all extra fat. Using a food processor or food mill, grind onions, carrots, celery, parsley, and garlic in batches until all of the vegetables and herbs are finely chopped (but so that you can still see a bit of texture). Add all vegetables to the pot, along with Ragu, tomato paste, cloves, bay leaves, and 2 cups of water (I fill the Ragu jar 2/3 of the way up with water, and shake it to get all of that sauce out of the bottle). Bring all of it to a robust simmer, and then turn down to a low simmer and cook, covered, for three hours, stirring occasionally. After three hours, add the entire jar/can of Kraft cheese, and stir into sauce well. Cook at a low simmer for one more hour.

Serve on top of buttered spaghetti with lots more Parmesan cheese and even a big blob of ricotta. Good with garlic bread and a glass of milk, too.

I also made apple crisp for the party from this recipe (I doubled it). I thought it came out very nice. Classic, nothing sophisticated or fancy, but all of it perfect for a dark and stormy night with our friends and kids, and a whole lot of pumpkin (alllllll over the place).

Gonna work on getting my cross-stitch kit ready for pre-order this week, so stay tuned for that, but don't panic. There will be plenty of time to order, I promise. Excited about this one.

Sweater Weather

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Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your sweet birthday wishes and for indulging me, as you all always do. I have so much to say about five. I think I'm going to have more time to talk and I'm looking forward to that. I took Clover out for a little walk, and that's something I rarely if ever do anymore. Andy and Amelia do all of the dog walking; I save my steps for the things that no one but me can do. But it was so lovely to be outside, in the rain, alone with my little dog, who is such an excellent and polite walker, who walks to my left with slack in the leash, who stops to sniff but not so much that it's annoying. We had such a nice time together, and it felt like the first day of fall for me, somehow. This season starts the half of the year that makes me feel the most like myself. I'm a cloud-cover, cold-weather person. I like to huddle and hibernate. I like quiet and I like rain and I like television. I like dark skies and candles and yarn in my hands, and I like sofas. And flannel sheets and flannel nightgowns.

Today was Amelia's birthday celebration at preschool. They invite us parents to come to the school for our kid's celebration every year. We ate vegetable soup with the kids and then the teacher passed out the dried apples that I'd made, at Amelia's request, for snack. It's so sweet. One of the teachers plays the mandolin and they sing songs that all the kids know and we don't. We fold ourselves under ourselves and "sit" in the circle on the tiniest little benches and share pictures of Amelia at every age, and talk about special things that happened to her at each age. She wears a rainbow silk cape and a crown and walks around the "sun" (a lit candle), once for each year, while everyone sings and then says out loud a special wish for her. I'm going to miss these particular preschool rituals that make things so special. We'll have to continue them, though it's clear that part of what makes them so special is that they belong to this group, and to this enchanted time.

Last night I made my mom's chicken and dumplings, which is, in fact, chicken paprika with dumplings. This is the thing that I request most often from my mom when she asks me if I want her to make me something. I had tried to make it a couple of years ago but I did not do it right (I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts) and it was a disaster. Yesterday I used skin-on, bone-in thighs, and it was brilliant. It is quite rich and decadent, so you don't need to eat much, but it's wonderful every once in a great while. I highly recommend this.

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My Mom's Chicken Paprika

Chicken and sauce:

4 tablespoons butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, or any combination of bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces to make about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds
1/2 c. (or more) sour cream

In large Dutch oven, saute onion gently in butter over medium heat. Add paprika and stir around, being careful not to burn paprika. Rinse chicken pieces and add, skin-side down, to pot. Turn after 4 or 5 minutes, and let "brown" on other side (though they won't really brown, since the pan will be pretty juicy; alternatively, to make it a bit less fatty, you could brown the chicken in a bit of oil then pour out most of rendered fat before adding the butter, onions, paprika, and chicken back in, and maybe add a bit of chicken stock to the pan — but the recipe above is how my mom does it). Sprinkle about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper over all, turn skin-side back down, then cover and turn heat down to low simmer for about 1 hour. Test chicken for doneness and remove pot from heat. Discard the skin, which should be falling off (and look really gross). There should be a fair amount of liquid (sauce) in the bottom of pot. Stir a bit of the sauce into the sour cream to temper it. Add sour cream mixture back into sauce. Depending on how much sauce you have, add more sour cream to taste. Reheat slowly if necessary and serve over dumplings, below.

Dumplings:

5 large eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
Splash of water
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Beat eggs with whisk and add flour. Stir to just combine. Add a splash of cold water until consistency is like thick oatmeal. Don't worry if it is lumpy. Drop by half-teaspoons-ful into boiling water (they'll grow quite a bit). Work quickly. Dumplings will rise to the surface as they cook. Let them cook for about one minute more after they rise. Remove risen dumplings with a slotted spoon as they cook and place in colander to drain. To fry dumplings, melt butter in large skillet. Add breadcrumbs and toast for a bit. Add dumplings and toss to coat with butter and breadcrumbs. Fry (sauté) on low-medium heat until golden and crispy. Sprinkle a bit of salt to taste. Serve immediately with chicken and paprika sauce. Yum.

Let me know if you make this, or if you have any questions and I'll ask my mom!

P.S.: Sweater is finished and it's a hit! I'll put it on Ravelry as soon as I get a chance. It's called Carl's Cardigan and I used Woolfolk Far yarn in Pollen.

Already: Five

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Glory be, what a party! Parties, plural. Amelia is a partier. The girl's got game. And stamina! Party stamina. It was a blast. A friend-party and then, this past weekend, a family party. Andy's parents flew in from Chicago last Thursday. It's so special to have them here with us, and then to have everyone — Andy's parents, Amelia's birthparents and siblings and grandparents, and my family, including a surprise visit home from our niece Arden (now away at college!) — here together in one place is just magical. I really have no words to describe it. I just love this group so much, and feel so lucky and so incredibly blessed to be part of this family. Amelia is like the sun. She talks into a megaphone: "ATTENTION, EVERYONE. I JUST GOT. ANOTHER CARD. IT'S GOT A DOG IN A CAR ON IT. " Her brother: "It's a bus." Amelia: "IT'S GOT A DOG IN A . . . TRICKY BUS." Oh, my dear, sweet love. "ATTENTION, EVERYONE! SIERRA CAN'T FIND HER BALLOON!!!" Everyone: What color is it? Where did you last have it? I'll help you look for it! There is so much laughter, and so much loving. There were so many pictures I didn't get to take, and so many moments I want to remember.

Because just like that, she is five.

Andy's mom and dad ("Grandma and Pops") leave tomorrow. I'll be sad to have the celebration close. Amelia's at school this morning, for a little bit of normalcy in an unusual week. We got a huge box of apples from a neighbor-boy of ours who was selling them for Boy Scouts. I have subscribed to the New York Times cooking app in hopes of kick-starting my flagging cooking mojo. I spent the morning looking at apple recipes and hope to try out at least a few with the thirty apples now sitting in the kitchen. Autumn is here in earnest. Flowers in the garden bleach out from the sun then sog under the weight of sudden, gumball-sized hail, then sun again, and then a huge rainbow goes right through the tree across the street. Clouds whirl, lightning flares, and then sun again through flashing trees. Cold nights, the smell of woodsmoke in the air. Pumpkins on the porch, and Halloween ahead. I'm making a cat costume next. Our girl is five and she picks these things for herself now. I couldn't be more proud of her. I love her and all of it so much.

Pillow #1

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Birthday preparations are underway in the Paulson household. Cupcakes are in the oven. Amelia's "friend" party is tomorrow and we are excited. Her first friend party! Squeeeee! I think you're supposed to have one friend for every year, or something like that? Yeah. I did not get that memo. Apparently she's turning eighteen. . . .

But look at that face. I cannot deny this child ANYTHING, I tell you. Not possible.

On demand: A dress like Hunca Munca's. I might have sobbed with delight. I've finished the dress and am about to start the pinafore, in creamy white Swiss dot. I'm using Little Vogue pattern #1326. More to come on that. That one's for her family party.

A few weeks ago we went to the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival, as we do every year with Amelia's birthgrandparents. Her grandma and I were looking at the punchneedle and rug-hooking patterns and I remembered the pillow I made several years ago, and remembered that I had an Oxford punchneedle (I have the Mini #14) and a big hoop. I bought a piece of monk's cloth at OFFF and then found this cute pattern on Etsy. Marijo Taylor, the designer, generously sold me only the paper pattern, drawn at 10"x10", and I enlarged it on my printer/copier to 18"x18". I think it's originally a rug hooking pattern (curious about the difference between punchneedle and rug hooking? Here is some information) but I wanted to use my stash of worsted-weight yarn, so that's what I've been doing. Punchneedle is FUN. It's really, really fun. The bunny, above, will be the first pillow I make as part of my new Personal Pillow Endeavor. When I'm finished I'll just back it with some calico (with an envelope closure) and stuff it with an 18" pillow form. I like bamboo pillow forms because they're pretty hard. I hate soft pillows, personally. I'll show you more about how I do it when I get closer to being finished. I was hoping I might finish for Amelia's birthday but I have a lot to do so I'm not sure. . . .

I finished the cardigan I showed you last week and it's still on the blocking board, though completely dry. That will get pale pink buttons. I still haven't put it on Ravelry. I like that sweater but I'm not sad to be finished with it. Next up, knitting-wise, are hats for everyone and gloves for me and a new neckwarmer for me.

Last night I made African chicken peanut stew and it was really good. You're here, October. I was so ready for you to arrive it was ridiculous. Hence the creative mania.

P.S.: I got that cute little painting a few weeks ago at Goodwill for $3. And the sweet invitation was from this Etsy shop; I printed it out at home on cards from Paper Source and made the envelope liners with their templates and a printable flower pattern from this adorable book (and CD) that I've had for years.

P.P.S: Oh jeesh, and thank you so much for all of your kind comments on my last post. I really appreciate them!!!

Couch and Cake Topper

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WHEW. There is little rhyme or reason in how these pictures are presented here. Everything's all over the place and that's probably a good metaphor for my mental state. Some of these things, like that sweater up there, I've been working on all summer. The pattern is called Carl's Cardigan and I used Woolfolk Far in Pollen for the yarn. I'm not even sure why this is the first time I've taken a picture of that sweater, since I've had it in my hands almost every single night for months. The stitch pattern seemed endless. It's basically ribbing, so you're constantly going back and forth between purling and knitting in each row, with a wraparound thing every fourth row. Et cetera. I finished it last night, now just need to block and add buttons. It's cute. The color is going to be really versatile. It's super stretchy, so even though it looks skinny, I'm hoping it will fit for a while. I'm turning into Practical Mom about kid-knitting anymore. It's weird how that happens. I never thought that would happen.

Okay, next. COUUUUUUUCH. I love it. I sit on it and never want to get off of it. It's called the Radley sectional from Macy's. I think the color was Chrome. It looks a lot like our old sofa but 1) it is soft and not scratchy, 2) it is tall instead of the height of a toddler bed (as was the Kivik, at least for me) and 3) it's firm and doesn't collapse like a souffle when I park myself on it at the end of the day. I got the protection plan thing with it so my goal is for it to be here for a long, long time. Thumbs up on that. Andy and I actually sit around at night and talk about how much we love our sofa. Middle age.

CAKE TOPPER. I made it. :))))))))) SUPER FUN. I started it this summer and I wish I could tell you exactly where I got everything for it but it was either JoAnn's or Michael's — I went to both places when I was shopping for supplies for this. The cake is made out of Fimo and I didn't make that — I got it years ago from someone's Etsy shop but I can't remember whose. The present is just a wooden block wrapped with origami paper. The bunting is washi tape cut into flags. The flag poles are stripey straws topped with mulberry-paper flowers (also had those, from way back when, when we used to sell clothespin doll kits). The balloon is made out of yellow Model Magic. Her dress is made of the same fabric Amelia wants her Hunca Munca birthday dress made out of (still gotta do that). I basically hot-glued everything together when I was done with the pieces and it was a total blast. I spent a long time looking at cake toppers on Pinterest for ideas, and then I actually whipped this out in a day or two, as I tend to do. This will go on top of the cake for Amelia's family birthday party, here in a few weeks.

The felt birthday crown: I got the idea for this entirely from the one that Ginny made for Mabel's first birthday. The embroidery pattern comes from this book. I forget how cool waste canvas is, because you can cross stitch (or, in this case, evenweave stitch) on anything. Then you soak the whole thing in water and that canvas becomes totally pliable. You use tweezers to pull the waste canvas threads out from under the stitches. It really isn't hard at all and it's really cool. The crown shape I just drew on a sheet of paper — well, I drew half of it, then flipped it. The crown is lined with really soft, thin pink polar-fleece. Amelia was mildly disappointed when she saw the birthday crown. She wants flowers all over it. She's sure I can do this. I'm not sure how I'll do this. . . .

I knew I'd taken a picture of her school dress before she wore it and put it on Instagram, but I wanted to post it here so I would remember it, because she didn't get to wear the blouse on the first day of school, since it was 100 degrees. . . . It's McCall's pattern #7590 from 1981. It's the same dress that I made her for her first day of school last year, but that one was plaid. I loved that one, too. This is one of my favorite-ever patterns on her.

Okay, what else. I rearranged Amelia's room for her last weekend. The lovely artwork in her room is from various places, but my favorites are the things made by friends and family: Amelia riding a bunny, which is possibly the coolest thing ever, and was a gift from Emily when Amelia was really little; a floral monogram from my friend Rebekka; the sweetest deer pair painted by my sister, Julie; the gorgeous dandelion photograph was taken by Amelia's birthmama; the silhouette of her when she was one was made by my brother-in-law. The mushroom light I got years ago and I don't remember where now. Maybe Smallable? It's European, I do remember that. The alphabet samplers are my designs and patterns are here (and by the way you can get a wool pack for that project now) and here. The pillow on the chair is a project I made for my second book, years ago. I'm going to make a new one with my punchneedle and I can't wait to start it. I found vintage Laura Ashley sheets on eBay and I was psyched. They are hard to find.

I'm finished with my new wintertime cross-stitch sampler for this year, and will open pre-orders for it in few weeks, after Amelia's birthday parties when I'm more organized again. You can see a glimpse of it up there. I am excited about it. I have some ideas for the cover photo I want to try. So stay tuned for that. I don't have a good sense of what the numbers will be for this kit so that's why I want to do pre-orders to make sure we get the quantity right. Not too many, not too few. Normally pre-orders make me ridiculously nervous. But we have the floss in hand already for up to 600 kits, and the fabric manufacturer has the fabric coming in in a few weeks, so I think it will be a good idea to do pre-orders this time. These projects are easy to do when I'm doing them but hard for me to re-issue once they're sold out, so if you're interested in this, I'll keep you posted. Many of my old kits are sold out and won't be reissued. Now that Amelia is in school every morning, I have more time to work, and I want to focus on my new ideas for patterns and kits for 2018.

Anyway, what else. My charity quilt. When Hurricane Hugo Harvey (!) hit, I wanted to make a quilt to raffle off for charity. There have been several other heartbreaking disasters since then, including Irma and now Maria in Puerto Rico, that I would like to contribute to as well. I haven't started the quilt yet the way I thought I would have time to, but I'm still planning to do it soon. I'm not quite sure how to make it available — someone told me they did a raffle and got in trouble for it because it was considered gambling, or something like that, so I will have to look into it and I just haven't had the wherewithal yet. But it's all on my list. The needs are great. I don't even know the best ways to help. Helpless feeling.

We went with our pre-school to see the swifts the other night. That's an event that happens here every fall where the Vaux's swifts use a local school's (unused) chimney to roost in at night on their annual migration. See all of those little freckles in the photo of the school chimney up there? Those are the birds. Here is a pretty rad video of what this looks like when they final spiral in. It was a really fun night. Everyone brings blankets and picnics and watches from a hill — it's a perfect viewing spot for the show. The weather was excellent, too.

Well, that's it for me, I guess! I hope you are all well! Thanks for looking at all my stuff! Have a great weekend!

***Ooops, forgot the sweater picture originally but it's there now, and thanks for the head's up on Harvey! Doi! Slaps forehead.

Finally: Rain

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Oh, the sky had mercy. It's been raining off and on for the past couple of days. I have no words to describe my relief and my joy. Amazingly, most people around here are conflicted: They don't like rain. I love rain. It could rain every day, as far as I'm concerned. (It doesn't, even though people think it does, here. But it really doesn't.) We are getting a new sofa tomorrow and I plan to sit on it with my windows open to the rain and knit for 7,000 hours, starting tomorrow. I can't wait.

Thaaaaaaaaaaank you, thank you for the quilt kit orders guys!!!!! Thank you! There are still quite a few of some colorways left in the shop, and a few king-sized kits in the more popular colorways (which are always the ones I think won't be the popular ones — go figure) that I will probably break into smaller kits when I catch my breath. I've just packed up the last seventeen orders today and I'm hoping we can stop at the post office to drop everything off on the way to ballet; if not, they will go tomorrow. Thank you ever so much for all of your orders and your emails and your kind words about these. I do hope you are pleased with them and I hope people send me pictures of what they make. I really want to see these made up.

So, no kidding, I've been cleaning and reorganizing pretty much nonstop since Amelia went back to school. Over the weekend I cleaned out the upstairs medicine cabinet in the bathroom and rewallpapered it. Then I went through every single piece of clothing in Amelia's room and got everything organized to either keep for next summer, save forever, or sell on eBay. It was a great feeling. The feeling is hard-earned, however; these things do not do themselves. I literally spent the whole weekend doing these things, which was fine because on Saturday it was so smoky again (before it rained) that we had to stay inside, and then on Sunday I just wanted to get it all done. I've hit the reorganizing plan hard this month. Some of these things, like the books and the linen closet and the medicine cabinet, I've been wanting to do for five years. It's hard to put my finger on exactly why it's so hard to do these things when your kid is super little. They (these projects) just seem to take a concentrated amount of energy and a long-enough amount of uninterrupted time alone so that you can actually, like, think and make decisions. About even the smallest things, like Why did I spend money on this expensive BB creme when I hate putting things on my face? Why do I have fifty pillowcases that don't match? Why does my child insist on changing all of her clothes (and taking half of everything out of her dresser) every time she spills four drops of water on her sleeve? Just a few thoughts that run through your mind when you're experiencing your first, uninterrupted fit of binge-cleaning in five years.

We are getting a new sofa tomorrow. The old one is so uncomfortable. And this, after I was just crowing about Ikea! Oh well. It's been a long-time coming in our minds, but perhaps not in reality, because it's only five years old. But we've lived hard on that thing. The new one is less scratchy, smaller, and, hopefully, more firm — the old one is literally like sitting on one of those puff-ball mushrooms. Or an air mattress with a slow leak. Bah. No. Just — no. My back. Too soft. Andy and I both got so fed up with it at exactly the same time, and we are giving it to a family down the street. They're excited. They're probably younger and less annoyed about anything that interferes with their own established levels of personal comfort. Well, this is our twentieth anniversary present to each other, just a bit belated and quite a splurge for us. I'll take some pictures after I get the room back together. Uncovering the spot where the old sofa was has been illuminating. Andy, on hands and knees: "Look, there's Indian corn." Also, many knitting needles, cable needles, yarn needles, embroidery needles, and countless mini-legos and countless ponytail holders.

Next week I'm pretty sure I will have burned through most of my motivation for cleaning. It's like a fever. It will run its course. Then I plan to start several other projects. Here they are, in random order: Amelia's birthday dress. Many pillows for new sofa. Quilt to raffle off for Hurricane Harvey and now Hurricane Irma relief. School clothes for Amelia. Several flannel nightgowns for Amelia. New curtain to cover up built-in bookshelf in living room. I don't know what else. Halloween costume: She told us this morning that she wants to be a "pink and purple kitty, with a saddle and a rider on its back." Oh my.

A few people asked about the lavender and cedar chips and stuff I mentioned that I got for my linen closet. Now I'm out of time to look them up and I have to go but I will take a picture and show you and link to them next time soon.

P.S.: That's Clover Meadow's face when she is listening to the dustbuster. The dog who jumps out of her skin when she hears hummingbirds or airplanes is singularly unperturbed by vacuums, the dustbuster, and Roomba, who I have seen actually hit her in the rump before she will move herself out of its way. GOOF. BALL. FAMILY.

About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.