Proper Schoolgirl

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Andy had the whole weekend off and we had nothing to do (this almost never happens). I had a pile of fabric and patterns and needed some alone time (I almost never get this). Into the sewing room I tear, and the scissors start flying. My girl is growing, growing, and has no clothes. I make a lot of her clothes. I made a lot of her clothes before she was even born (as you might know :). I made them up until size 3T, figuring she might not want to wear the clothes a made after that. DARLING GIRL, she still does, but has none that will fit her this fall, when she turns four. Oh, how my heart sings at the circumstance! Here comes a plaid jumper for the first day of preschool (McCall's pattern #7590, from 1981); a dusty pink dress that was made from a nightgown pattern (McCall's #3381, c. 1972); a blue plaid smock with the prettiest embroidered daisy ribbon (McCall's 3237, c. 1972); and a sundress for the back-to-school picnic (Simplicity #8712, from 1978). I have a lot of ideas for things in my head, but not much time to sew. When I do get the time, the things pour from my hands. It's a start. Amelia will go to preschool three mornings a week this fall. We are all very excited about it!

Next week is the last week of summer. The yard is parched and pale yellow, already covered in spiderwebs and dusty things. The spent hydrangea blooms turn russet, the grass dies. I half-heartedly water stuff, not sure if it's already too late. I can't remember the last time it's rained. Summer, you do challenge me. Day after day of 97-degree temperatures and I can't see anything but waves of heat in the air. We routinely get in the car and the thermometer there says its 109, 110, 111. . . . I'm cooked. I bought a bread machine for sandwiches. The loaf was so adorably runty, all bulbous on one side. I couldn't help but love it. It tasted just fine to me, and I made a ham sandwich with a ton of lettuce and avocado for dinner. Our apple tree has loads of apples, many with holes, some half-eaten by something before they're even picked. They're good though. If it ever gets below 90, I'll make a pie. I really cannot wait for that day.

Andy, Amelia, and Clover Meadow spent one (actually cool-ish) night in the tent in the backyard for the first time. I slept in the house, listening on the monitor. She woke up around1:15 a.m., and they (we) were up for an hour. She insisted on staying out (though Clover came back in), fell back asleep, and slept until dawn. Dawn's coming so much later these days. I don't mind that, either. Today is the last day of swimming lessons. Simon, the teacher, comes and tells us yesterday, "Tomorrow, we get to turn on the fountains! Tomorrow we get to do whatever we want!" "Oh, she'll be good at that!" I say, winking. I'll miss swimming lessons, sitting on the chaise lounges in the shade with the other lesson parents, listening to the kids sing "I Had a Little Fishy," watching them chase rings and lay on their backs and blow bubbles and put their faces in the water. I'll miss holding up the towel for her to run, shivering, into my arms when she's done, cuddling her on my lap while we watch the lifeguards put the lane lines away and crank up the beach umbrellas for open swim. We took six weeks of daily swimming lessons this summer. I will miss all these pool days, and some of the summer things. But I'm ready to go outside again, and not feel like I have to be covered in water to do it. . . .

Clackamas County Fair 2016

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Oh, it's the county fair! I'm so glad we went on Tuesday instead of tomorrow, like we almost planned to, because they say it's going to be 102 today and tomorrow. I'm so beyond over the hot weather I could literally scream. We have spent a lot of very, very hot days in the blazing sun this summer, including in Wisconsin, where naturally they were having a "very unusual" heatwave that (naturally) began the minute I arrived in the state. . . . Anyway, Tuesday — even though it wasn't technically scorching, it was hot, and I will confess that I am a little bit weary of wandering around in the sun. Understatement.

Amelia is at the age (almost four) where she doesn't want to ride in the stroller anymore (and can get herself out of it) but can't really be successfully . . . managed . . . when running free in places where there are, oh, gigantic animals, a thousand pairs of sunglasses to take off their tables, hippie jewelry within arms' reach, tractors, industrial-size fans, nipping goats, melted candle wax, etc., etc., etc., etc. I love watching all of the little dancers on the talent stage. Amelia jumps down and starts to swing. She rides the same pony (Champion) she rode last year and I race around the ring with the same-as-last-year's tears in my eyes (I don't know why, it really chokes me up to see her riding) trying to get pictures. Afterward, she climbed up onto a saddle cinched to a barrel and started "roping" the fake steer like some sort of baby pro cowgirl. The natural way she was handling the rope freaked me out. How in the world did she know to do this? Andy and I stared at each other in amazement. It was a cool moment. Candy-covered pretzels, kettle corn, huckleberry lemonade, ice cream. We are the family with iron stomachs, apparently, if the last three weeks are any indication. . . .

I love the fair, and the kids at the fair. I love the silly juggler with terrible jokes and the slightly grouchy moccasin-making man and the blacksmiths in smock-tops in the pioneer village, and the tiny dancers with their fancy costumes and their fearlessness. I love the patient animals, and the 'tweens in silver-trimmed jeans and braces sitting in camp chairs, flirting and playing cards. I love the fair moms and their 4-H broods, the grizzly old farmers standing by big metal fences, the serious farm kids grimly tugging on cows' halters as they drag their long-suffering, cud-chewing, flies-in-their-eys cattle to the show ring. I love the old barns and the light coming through the cracks in the boards, illuminating the dust in the air like a shower of stars. I love remembering my own city childhood dreaminess, how I knew things like how much land one needed in order to keep a horse at grass, that you should always pet a horse's face as if you were stroking a small bird, that you should pull his mane and never cut it. I love remembering how one or the other of my parents drove forty-five minutes each way every weekend so that I could go horseback-riding every single Sunday for five straight years. I hope that Amelia will have the chance to experience country life more often than just her yearly trip to the fair. I think she's almost old enough to do something that will help foster a love and respect for rural heritage, but I'm not sure what, or how.

Three more weeks of summer. Homestretch. I can do this!

And here are our other trips to the fair:
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Vacation, Part 3: And Back Again

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The trip back home is always a little different than the trip out. Tired, bored, ready for familiar food, ready for familiar scenery, and very ready for familiar beds (and showers), I try not to wish for the train to go faster, because once we are home, vacation is officially over. But it was a great trip, and an awesome adventure, and I'm so glad we got to go. Thank you so much for following along! I hope you might be inspired to ride the rails and see this magnificent country of ours for yourself.

Vacation3Union Station, Chicago, Illinois

Vacation4Our sleeping car attendant, Stephanie, bringing Amelia a present. (She was our attendant on the way out, and she was amazing.)

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VAcation23Two Medicine River just outside Glacier National Park, Montana

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Vacation, Part 2: Door County

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Door County, Wisconsin, is a peninsula in eastern Wisconsin that sits between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. It is a very popular vacation destination for Chicagoans, and, as children and young adults, Andy and I both came here with our families in the summer (and both of our mothers grew up vacationing here, as well). There are charming little towns scattered up and down the peninsula, and a beautiful island, called Washington Island, at the northern tip that can only be reached by ferry boat. The area has a strong Scandinavian heritage, and wildflowers, fish boils, and lovely farms seem to be around every bend.

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Vacation, Part 1: Getting There

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Almost two weeks ago (we're home now), Andy, Amelia, and I left for our vacation to visit Andy's family for his parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary. We took the train from Portland, Oregon, to Chicago, Illinois, then drove up all together (with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins) to Door County, Wisconsin, to spend a few days in the places of so many of both of our family vacations in the past. We left Portland on a Saturday afternoon at 4:45 p.m. and arrived in Chicago on Monday afternoon, around 2:15 p.m. (So, that's two nights on the train.) We had a wonderful time. Amelia did amazingly well. On the train, I took all of my photos with my iPhone. (If you follow me on Instagram, you saw some of these in real time.) The train, called the Empire Builder, follows a route from Portland (or Seattle — two parts of the train meet up in Spokane, Washington, and go the rest of the way across the country together) through Washington, Idaho, Montana (right through Glacier National Park), North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and northern Illinois to Chicago. (And to those who have asked, we had two Superliner Roomettes, right across from each other.) Here's a chronological photo-log of the first part of our vacation, the train trip from Portland to Chicago.

Would you like to join us?

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Thanks for riding the rails with us. I'll be back soon with Part 2. :)

Hot Stitches

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Well, I've been trying to write this thing for five days!

Summer is nuts. It kind of leaves me speechless. Yesterday my car thermometer was consistently showing it was over 100 degrees. My bad foot hates hot weather and so do I. I had to take Amelia with me to Target to get a bunch of stuff for our vacation: coloring books and new toothbrushes and ever more sunscreen and mosquito spray and a new backpack and all that kind of junk. It filled up half the cart. How we're ever going to pack it all I do not know. Pushing the cart with her in it out to the car was as far as I wanted to walk without air conditioning. This was all after cleaning the house, watering the pots, having a morning play date at a friend's house, going to swimming lessons (on the other side of town), eating lunch at the bakery (where she ran around the bakery or sat under the table), and driving down SE 82nd Avenue (ugh). I remember at our wedding, Andy's sweet little grandmother, Ruth. I happened to be standing near her when someone said to her, "Oh, Ruth! Isn't this wonderful! You must be having such a great day!" And (it was also about 90 degrees out that day) she goes, "Oh, yes. Get in the car, get out of the car. Get in the pew, get out of the pew. Get back in the car, get out of the car." All with a twinkle in her eye. This week my eye has more of a rabid, possibly heat-stroked, unblinking glare in it. I got to sleep in to a whole 5:30 a.m. this morning (yes, we generally get up at 5:00 due to Andy's work schedule/our child, the human alarm clock). Amelia came bounding upstairs looking like a wild animal, her hair literally going in every direction, part of it held back by the two mini-braids I never took out before bedtime last night. I said, "You need a bath. Go tell Daddy you look like Nell." Summer.

Knitting. I knit like a woman on fire. It's like some kind of homeopathy, wool + heat, like eating spicy food in India. I knit an entire extra-large sweater in a week and a half. Could not, would not stop. I am so proud of my sweater. I love how it came out and it was such a great experience. I love knitting fair-isle. This is the second sweater I've ever made for myself. I've started two more sweaters for myself (pictured above, and on my Ravelry page). I must be asserting myself somehow. Lord, please, please let it get cold enough to wear sweaters. Soon. Or ever.

THANK YOU for the recommendations for new yarns to try. Thank you, thank you! That is such a rad list, and I'm so excited to explore your suggestions. Some of the yarns you like are familiar to me, and many are brand new, so I will have to order some samples and make some plans. I didn't have enough time to do that before planning my vacation projects, but oh, this fall. I can't wait. I wanted to wear the sweater to the Avett Brothers show at Edgefield the other night (it was actually cool and beautiful; what a beautiful night in every way that was). It wasn't quite cold enough, but maybe at the lake in a few weeks. . . . Anyway, thank you for your very helpful suggestions lately. I truly appreciate them and will let you know what I come up with.

I did get to go to Powell's one wonderful afternoon and get some cozy mysteries. That was FUN. That was so much fun. I made a handwritten list of all of the books and authors you suggested and then I just went up and down the aisles, seeing what they had. I chose authors that I had 1) never read before and 2) had the first book in whatever series they've written available right there on the shelf. If the first book of the series wasn't available, I usually moved on (not every time, in the case of Jeanne M. Dams — the covers were so good). Did you ever notice how impossible it can be to figure out what the first book in a mystery series can be (without the benefit of the internet at your fingertips)? It's so weird. Why is that. Anyway, I got a whole big bunch of books. Can you tell I'm excited to have some time to read? I hope I get to. I can't wait.

I hope you are all well! I'm sorry I haven't been here as much as usual. I don't have any dedicated childcare this summer and my time on the computer is so limited. That'll change in the fall, but for now, I'm waving as I race by: Hi!!! I hope all is well with you!!!

Stockinette Stitcher

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Well, hello there. How are you? We're fine here. Keeping the faith, as you do. I've been knitting like a woman who has time to knit. I don't, but I've made time, and taken time. Andy Paulson, you're the greatest. I got to sit on the sofa and knit and watch movies and listen to the birds sing and drink iced tea and knit and knit and knit. I'm making Ysolda's Strokkur sweater for myself. Myself! I don't have a picture of mine yet. Mine's teal blue (!). The fair isle yoke will be dark blue, mustard, and ice blue. I measured an existing cardigan of mine for width and length (and sleeve width and length) and rewrote the pattern a bit to accommodate those modifications, and also adjust it for the row gauge I'm getting. This was all exciting enough for me. I delved deep into these numbers, and knit so much I actually punctured the pad of my index finger where I pushed the needle tip through a thousand, ten thousand times. I switched fingers and kept knitting. If only the world's wounds could be salved by knitting. I never wanted to stop. I knit the whole body of the sweater (it's bottom up). I started one of the sleeves. I just kept going around and around and around. When Andy and Amelia got home, Amelia sat next to me and watched Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties and Andy made dinner. I was fine with both of those things. I needed them.

Thank you, thank you for the cozy mystery recommendations. Wowee! This next week I am going to go through every single comment and make a list of what I want to start reading. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave those comments. I really had no idea there were so many good ones out there, nor so many good resources to find them. I'll post my reading list once I put it together. I'm looking forward to this. Thank you!

I also started Amelia's birthday sweater, pictured in the basket above. I'm using Blue Sky Fibers Extra, which is lovely yarn, though might be too warm for our climate. I've been too lazy to enter these into Ravelry, but I shall do that soon. For now I'm going to ask you another question, though: What are your favorite very soft, non-scratchy, plied, worsted-weight natural-fiber (wool or alpaca) yarns in solid (not ombre) colors? Amelia has finally started protesting wearing the things I'm knitting for her because she says they're too scratchy. . . . But I do want to find something really soft that's still wool (doesn't have to be washable — I don't mind hand washing) or alpaca, or something that has a slight halo, no sheen, and has a really pretty color palette. In worsted.

The single-ply peachy pink yarn (knitted into another Lil Shepherd) above is from my dear friend Rebekka at Camellia Fiber Company and it is so scrumptious. I love that color so much. Their yarn sells out so fast I always feel thrilled to have gotten some.

I've used Quince & Co. Lark a lot and I do like it (I'm making my Strokkur out of it), but I need even softer than that for her. . . .

I might consider cotton if it didn't actually feel like cotton, but I don't know . . . you know? I like things to have more give than cotton. On second thought, I don't like cotton. Forget the cotton. Sorry about that.

Woolfolk Far is gorgeous, but the palette is just too limited. . . . I need pretty pinks, mustard, grays, pale greenish-blues, mauves, and some warms.

Gee, I don't ask for much, do I. I know. I do.

Should you have need for a very good blueberry muffin recipe try this one. It's delicious.

Sweet Summer

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Our lives seem to have this small circumference right now. I'm not sure exactly what I mean by that but I've felt a sort of pulling in. When deciding what to do I'll choose the easiest, most do-able option, treading ground that's familiar and simple, staying in the slow lane. It feels like an instinct, some primitive reaction to the world at large (while trying to process the large, often terrible things in it, and failing, failing) making the same recipes over and over, cleaning the house, going to bed early. My days alone with Amelia are long and light and sweet; suddenly toddlerhood feels different, less about mitigating meltdowns and more about true communication, shared emotions, playing at so much make-believe, doing drawings of things ("This is a house, laughing; this is a flower, going down the stairs"), giving and getting the sweetest kisses and hugs. I've listened to almost all of the Janet Lansbury toddler-parenting podcasts in the past couple of months and they've added a lightness to my heart and sharpened my perspective on what's important to me, parenting-wise (and Andy; we see pretty much eye-to-eye on all parenting stuff). Watching Amelia play her days away is so fascinating and funny and just excellent. Listening to toddlers talking to each other is just about the sweetest thing in the world. She is no wallflower, and gravitates toward the slightly older girls, four or five years old. She walks up to them and says, "Hi! I'm Amelia! What's your name?" Then she'll look over to me and shout, "Mom! I made a friend!" Huge smile. Heart explosion into a thousand pieces of salt-water taffy, every color of the rainbow. I pray for peace for our children. All of them, everywhere.

When I've had some free time, I've been sewing a bit. The pink dress is the Hattie from Brownie Goose, and the pocket dress is Simplicity 8087 from Ashley of Lazy Daisy Jones. Super cute, and reminds me so much of the house-dresses that my grandma used to make for herself — also calicos, always simple A-line dresses with patch pockets, short sleeves, and bias-tape bindings. I don't think I ever saw my grandma in anything but a dress like this, though she preferred black and navy calicos. The fabrics were always worn so soft. I can picture them now. I wish I had a couple of those dresses now. I bought the Ann Carolyn smock pattern by Odacier for myself after seeing some really cute versions on Instagram so maybe I'll have some cute clothes too, one of these days.

Here is a meltdown: Yesterday Amelia was putting on a cute pair of mint-green jean shorts from Baby Gap and she freaked out. "Mom, the tag is in the back but the pockets are in the back! Why are the pockets in the back, Mom? Nooooo! Whyyyyyyyy? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?" Tears streaming down her face, very Nancy-Kerriganesque. Apparently the child has never seen a pair of jeans before. This is how you know you're a serious home sew-er (of mostly dresses).

The weather here has been, dare I say, practically perfect in every way. Cool. Bright. Sunny. Cloudy. Not too hot. Not too cold. If Mary Poppins and Goldilocks had a baby it would be the weather in Portland lately. Thumbs up there.

I'm starting to collect reading material and knitting projects for our cross-country train trip later this month. Cozy mysteries, and a fair-isle sweater for Amelia's birthday. Recommendations for cozy mysteries appreciated (they need to be reeeeeally cozy, and not too scary)! ***Oh, and yes, I've read almost all of Agatha Raisin! :) Love curmudgeons! Thank you!

Summer Spirit

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Oh boy. It's good. It's so good. Here, there, and everywhere. I have almost no time to work or be on my computer these days. No childcare at all, and every day at the pool for swimming lessons, then most afternoons staying afterwards to play in the pool. This is my dream, these golden-lit days, buzzing with children and water and wildness. We're on the go, and the go is good, though I can, if allowed, beach myself in the shallow end and sit for hours, hours. Hot weather is tolerable, even preferable, when I'm covered in four or five inches of sparkling turquoise water, and I find it very hard to leave the pool. There's no need. I sit and watch toddlers negotiate who's gonna get the ball and who's gonna get the pool noodle, have water poured over my legs fifty times from a plastic cup, help my girl learn to blow bubbles and lay on her back, see her enormous smile as her dad swings her around as fast as he can in the middle depth, over and over and over (he's one of those AWESOME DADS and never tires [insert starshine emoji here]). Joy radiates from her beautiful face and I just can't stop smiling. There's no photograph of this, but I'll never forget.

At home, the house waits for us to return with our damp towels, damp suits, tubes of sunscreen, snowcone-stained shirts. Every day we get home around four or five and try to find something to eat. For Father's Day I ordered Giordano's stuffed spinach and sausage pizzas to be delivered and oh, modern living, you got this one thing right, if nothing else. (I'm finding modern living and the state of the world at large to be very challenging lately.) Overnighting four frozen pizzas is ridiculously expensive but seriously, it tasted EXACTLY like home, and what a strange miracle that is. It was worth it, and the papa was psyched, so thumbs up on that, I think.

The house stays cool and clean. It reminds me of my grandparents' house in the summertime — climate controlled and quiet, the sound of the television at night playing Hallmark mysteries or Strangest Weather on Earth (I'm obsessed — and have you seen a shelf cloud lately? A haboob? Creeping ice? I find all of this ironically relaxing). After Amelia goes to bed, I put on my white nightgown and knit, two Lil Shepherds so far (and another one still on the needles), a sweet little green one for sweet baby Mae, born one week ago, above. My Christmas cross stitch was almost finished before I dropped it to knit, too [insert wide-eyed, startled-looking emoji]. I have made no moves to dismantle the stash but I do have a plan, so that's a start (I was fascinated that so many of you were feeling the same way, honestly). Sometimes I just have an urge to do something and I do it until I get it out of my system. Currently that urge is to knit and not purl anything, and also sit in some water for long periods of time while water is poured on me (see above), so things are working nicely. I try to keep it simple.

Middle of June

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The apples on our Cox's Orange Pippin apple tree are already turning red. I'm not sure if that's normal, for mid-June, but it seems early. The weather this week has been blissfully cloudy, cool, rainy, and it even hailed yesterday, but the weekend should heat up in time for swimming lessons to start next week. Amelia is excited, and practices "swimming" circles around the living room, showing me how she will blow bubbles and paddle and put her face into the water like a big girl when she gets there. This age, oh man. It is just awesome. It is busy. It is mercurial. But it is fantastic. There's just so much going on for her right now as she gains independence and confidence and grows in physical and emotional ways. When she's angry, she stomps her foot as if trying to freeze the entire kingdom (thanks, Elsa) and her fury truly blazes, hot and sure. When's she's cuddly she'll wrap every long limb around me and tuck her face deep into my neck, or put her hands on my cheeks and look into my eyes. When she's sweet, she tilts her head to the side and talks to her stuffed animals in the sweetest little mommy voice, explaining things patiently and patting heads and tummies with reassurance. When she's silly she squeals and launches herself in wild arcs around the king-size bed, flopping and jumping and bucking and kicking, trying to reach the mobile with her feet. She's very tall for her age, I think, taller than the other kids who were exactly her size when they all started playschool together last fall. Every week we measure her against the yard stick at the library, and she's grown four inches since her third birthday, eight months ago. My sunflower, stretching and swinging and singing for the sun, sweet and big and brave and true.

I made honey/garlic/butter/coconut milk shrimp for dinner, and it was delicious. I made a couple of pairs of baby-doll pajamas (from vintage Simplicity pattern #5562, c. 1982) and a couple of shirts (from vintage Simplicity pattern #5757, c. 1964) and a couple of skirts (from vintage McCall's pattern #7882, c. 1982). I made plans for a birthday dress (vintage McCall's #2661, c. 1970) and ordered some beautiful Tana Lawn (Michelle, in Blue) for it. I finally started knitting a present for a friend (more about that later). I think I may have resolved to give away almost my entire yarn stash. I feel like it's just holding me back somehow, and I can't really explain that, because it's not that big, and I did feel like I was making a good-sized dent in it this past year. But there's just something about it that isn't helping me anymore. Maybe it can help someone else. I feel like my palette and my fiber preferences have changed, and my stash is reflecting a me that was, and not the me that is. I don't even want to have a stash at all, in fact.

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

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.