Posts filed in: December 2006

Mus floristripibus

comments: 51

Mus3That's their genus and species. Commonly called "house mouse with stripes and flowers." It's a very unusual discovery. Right now there are only almost-five in existence. We expect at least seven or eight to be happening by the end of the afternoon. They do that.

Mus6 Weird, huh? We watched The Thin Man last night — oh, the dresses! Really fun movie. I'm still stuck on the dresses. The bias-cut black-and-white-striped chiffon with that ruffle coming down the back? Jeesh. Totally adorable. Almost made me want to get dressed. Almost.

Mus5Thanks for all the movie recommendations — Andy made a big list and got a bunch for tonight. Giant shrimp are chilling in the fridge. I'm happily ensconced here with my hook and my wool and no plans to do anything, other than possibly get up and make a chocolate milkshake in my new blender. Psych. Happy new year everybody!

Where Are You, Lady?

comments: 53

Bridget_2Is anyone else vaguely disturbed by this imploring staredown she's giving me? Eeaahhhh! It reminds me of Ted Knight (Judge Smales) and his loony-eyed gape in Caddyshack going "Well? . . . We're waiting . . ." though somehow not as . . . funny as that. I think she's wondering if I'm ever going to come back to my studio again. Mmm, yeah. I am. Someday.

Thank you to everyone for all your nice comments, especially about the articles that are out right now. There is one about the studio in the winter 2007 issue of Better Homes & Gardens Creative Home (which, yes, is a special-interest publication and separate from the regular BH&G magazine, for those who have asked) and one about our (admittedly a little schmaltzy, but, what can I say, you know we are) brand of domestic romance in Romantic Homes, February 2007. (The article about the rest of the house comes out in the March issue of Romantic Homes.) Welcome to everyone who is here because of those, and thank you for your interest! I haven't actually seen the articles in real-life yet — maybe they'll come in my mail today (and thanks for the scans, those who have sent them to me — really nice of you to do that). My web shop is still officially closed until January 2, which just means I won't be shipping anything until about a week after that. I'll be updating the shop next week, too, though I won't make a big proclamation about it the way I usually do; I'll just be adding things as I can for a while. If you have questions, you might find answers about what I make and how I make it on my shop's FAQ page. Otherwise, thank you for being here. I'm excited (and of course incredibly self-consciously embarrassed) about the articles. I really am pretty shy. I like to pretend these things aren't really happening.

I LOVE VACATION. I love it. I love it. I love it. I think I'm a lazy loafer at heart. I could just laze away here forever, I think. Maybe not. It's been great to recharge, though. I was tiiiii-iiiired. Tired. Weren't you? I'm not much for New Year's Eve. I haven't been out on that night in over ten years, maybe more. I don't enjoy "holidays" where the main activity is people getting totally loaded, I must say. I keep my car firmly parked and barricade myself in the house against all drunk driving. We prefer a good shrimp cocktail and lots of Chinese food on the sofa with a great movie. The question is, what movie? What's a good New Year's Eve movie?

Quiet Stitches

comments: 23

Elodieanne2 Greetings from the quiet corner, where I'm peacefully braiding braids and sewing seams by hand. It's slow, quiet work, well-suited to the end of December, where it seems Christmas has gone as fast as it came, though a glittered quiet still lingers in its wake. Little shreds of wrapping paper pepper the place like snow and the leftover Christmas cookies look blurry and forlorn, but we haven't cleaned up yet, and neither do we plan to. I'm popping my head out from my flannel-y lair briefly to show you Elodie-Anne, the doll I finished yesterday for the Kim Family Benefit Art + Craft Auction. I just wanted to remind you to dust off your Ebay usernames and passwords (I hardly ever use mine so I always forget them) for this very good cause. Bidding starts on January 3. The items up for auction are all beautiful and amazing, which seems entirely appropriate for the Kims.

I'll be back soon, though not just yet. . . . My brain's barely working, and that seems just . . . grand. Hope you're blissed out on eggnog and new toys, and feeling much the same.

* Sugarplum Days *

comments: 70

Clara1Marie-Clara: Ready for the Christmas Eve party. I think she really was the last thing on my list. I don't know how it happened, but I had a whole day yesterday in the warm, wool-wrapped house to sit and sew and cook. If you can manage it, I would say it is well-worth knocking a few to-dos off your list to gain these quiet hours.

Today, though, is all about the city spirit: We're headed back downtown to soak up the hustle and bustle, get a few last-minute gifts, visit Saturday Market, and have lunch somewhere fancy.

So I'll be taking a blog-break now to rest, relax, and enjoy the holiday. I wish you all a special time full of peace, love, safe travels, sweet dreams, and much, much happiness and joy.

xoxo,
A

Candy: Super Good

comments: 51

Sarahs1Oh, I was so happy yesterday. I felt free as a bird. It was amazing to have a whole day empty of obligation, full of friends and family and fun. Super bonus: I didn't even realize that Andy had the day off, so he, I, and even Audrey were all invited over to Sarah's for lunch and merrymaking. It was wonderful. Audrey was in heaven, happily munching her rawhide beside the fireplace while we all ate our soup. Little did she know that was just the beginning.

When we got home, our niece arrived and the graham-crackers, candy, and icing came out. "Gingerbread" cottages rule. One girl was so excited she couldn't wait for her cottage to dry properly before loading the roof with 47 Necco wafers and collapsed the entire structure into a heap of cracker-crumbs, broken wafers, icing-glue, and tears — so Uncle Andy kindly gave me his cottage and I stopped crying. I LOVE THAT MAN SO MUCH!!! Aghhh. He RULES. I love him.

Cottages2Actually, he made a grocery-store run, too, to get more graham-crackers because we were using leftovers from S'mores made at the beach last summer. If you're going to make these houses (do it), I would recommend having lots of extra crackers and icing only small sections of the house to decorate and let dry before proceeding to others. But we were being cautious after that first collapse.

Ta-da! Welcome to Arden's Place!

Cottages3 Isn't it just adorable?

Here's Uncle Andy's. His had a back porch and a grill.

Cottages4And those tiny candy canes around the roof? Amazing sprinkles from sweet Blair. Thanks Bee!!

You could say I was a teensy-weensy bit overly super-excited about my house.

Cottages5Those little red and green gumdrop-bits are Christmas lights around the roof and window.

Cottages9 When we were finished with the houses, Arden and Andy made some pinecones covered in peanut-butter and birdseed for the feathered friends in Grandma's yard. Then Arden made a saddle blanket out of paper, icing, and mini-gumdrops for her diminutive Clydesdale. I forget his name. That's what happens when one has about twenty model horses. Her old auntie just can't remember what we call all of them.

Fun fun fun. Super fun. Even if we didn't get that snowstorm we got last year, this year was better because Andy was home, too. Loved yesterday.

Baked: Good

comments: 49

BathbombesGood morning, friends. I hope it's as beautiful where you are as it is here right now. This is officially the first day of my vacation, as I was actually able to get all of my work done last night, even though I'd been saying that I would day after day after day (anybody see Christmas Do-Over the other night?). I finally really did it, and then, just as I was leaving the house to go to the P.O. last night, Richard-the-mailman pulled up in his mail minivan and took everything for me. It was a Christmas miracle. Is it wrong to tell the postman you love him? He looked slightly alarmed, but, then, he usually does. I said, as he was loading everything in his truck for me, "Don't you hate those ads that say you guys will pick up all the packages from the porch now?" and he said, nicely, "No . . . not at all" as all of the stuffed padded envelopes cascaded out of the truck and fell on the road. Have you ever tried to "stack" those things? We give our mailman a Christmas present every year. Richard, you are getting an extra-special one tomorrow.

The treats above are a present I was finally able to wrap yesterday, too, a belated birthday present for my friend Allyson, who said that all she wanted for her birthday was a child-free trip to the spa. She loves to bake, too (last year I got her one of these Betty Crocker bake-'n'-fill cake pans — don't you love these things?), so I felt these bath bombes shaped like little pastries would be perfect, since she lives in Wisconsin and we don't have the luxury of having lunch and getting manicures together anymore. The treats are by D'lish, whose products I used to carry at Ella Posie. Everyone always loved them. Last night I ran a bath and threw some of my own in, then plopped down to read Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities. What can I say, I'll read almost anything.

Winter-birthday girls, of which I am one, run the risk of people just getting mad at them for being born around Christmas. In Andy's and my two families there are only about sixteen people total, and five of us have birthdays within the one week after new year's. My sis-in-law and I were even born on the same day. I try hard to always get the December-January birthday presents out on time, but I usually flub it myself, which makes me feel terrible. I don't seem to be capable of getting personal gifts there on time and it really makes me mad. The day after the birthday is not the birthday. I think birthdays are really special days. I think they're special no matter how old you are, or even if you claim to not care about them.

There are also a few girlfriends with whom I have exchanged Christmas presents for almost twenty years. These are often my favorite presents to find or make. This one — oh, I am so happy with this one.

Cakecarrier1And it is perfect for my friend, I think. She has the most beautiful, strawberry-blond-red hair and peaches-'n'-cream complexion. I can just picture her carrying this to a party. I hope she likes it as much as I do. I wish she didn't live so far away and I could give it to her in person. I wish we could bake something together in her kitchen in Chicago while it snows outside. I wish we could take the El downtown and go the Museum of Science and Industry and see the Christmas trees. It kind of makes me cry to think about it. I miss you, Pammy.

MietteI might like to bake something like this for Christmas Eve dessert, maybe with some powdered sugar on top to look like snow. It's from Miette Organic Patisserie, a bakery in San Francisco. I wrote to them quite a while ago to ask permission to use their photo, and they were so kind, inviting me to visit their real-life bakery. How nice is that. Just one more reason to go to San Fran. You must look at their gallery for the most beautiful, simple, dreamy cakes in the world. I think they're exquisite. When I see things like that, it makes me want to be a better baker, and a better person, someone who gets gifts there on time, who makes things infused with all the love I feel and the beauty I see in the person I am baking for, making something for. I think 2007 is going to be a year of cakes for me. I'd like that. I think I'm going to take a cake-decorating class, or maybe my mom can teach me how to do the roses. She is really good at them. If my other sister, who is a pastry chef in South Carolina, was here she could teach me some things. She knows everything about cakes. There is just something special about cakes. I wish I could send them through the mail to the people I miss. There are so many of those people.

But today my local friend Sarah is making me Vietnamese chicken soup for lunch, and then my niece and I are going to build our little graham-cracker cottages. I feel like I will finally have time to be with friends and family, doing simple things, just enjoying each other's company. Counting blessings. I have been so looking forward to this time. It's finally here. Go slow, clock. Go slow. It's gonna take me a while to count them all.

Countdown

comments: 44

Wreath5Oh, Christmas. Why do you come so soon? I haven't gotten sick of you at all, even though I started early. Now I'm counting days and hours left to enjoy the season and feeling that typical panic — not "will I get everything done?" (who cares about that) but "will I do everything I wanted to do?" Last night I was up in bed thinking while Andy and Audrey did their final walk-through downstairs (coffee, doors, lights) and when Andy came up I assaulted him with anxiety: "It's only three days until Christmas [I know it's not, I'm just telling you what I said, and I know he has no idea how many days there really are until Christmas, and, as mentioned, I have to pull out the big guns when I'm trying to make a point around here lately] and we haven't gone to our friend's Christmas-tree farm and had a party with cioppino and hot chocolate! We haven't gotten dressed up and kissed under any mistletoe! We haven't gone caroling!" "You want to go caroling?" "Well . . . no, but I mean . . . we haven't gone." "We have a friend with a Christmas-tree farm?" "No. . . ." And about four seconds later we were both fast asleep. Loooo-sers.

There's still time to make a gumdrop wreath! If you want to, I did a tutorial for them over at Kiddley today. They're super fun.

Also: I made it out to my P.O. box yesterday, and though I have sobbed many, many times for many reasons at the P.O., I've never sobbed because I was overwhelmed by Christmas cards and packages from blog friends I've never met. Until yesterday. I truly felt like I was in my very own Hallmark Christmas movie. I lumbered past the thirty-or-so peeps standing in line to mail their packages with my big box of presents and I thought my smile really was going to pop right off my face and kiss every one of those frowners as I went by. They just couldn't help but smile back at me. It was a great moment. Thank you, girls.

Frosty Fairy Ring and Cumulus Crackleware

comments: 24

Frostflowers3Out on the lawn this morning I discovered these frosty fleurs. I guess they sprung up overnight?

This past week was busy, and no one here was feeling particularly well, and we kept going upstairs to bed before 8 p.m. On Saturday night I think I was actually asleep by 8. I can't believe it's the week before Christmas. I'm hoping to finish all things work-related today, get the last of the presents finished and wrapped, make a list for everything else. Christmas cards will have to wait until New Year's. Neighbor-and-friend gifts need to be gotten. I really wanted to make my niece a Marie/Clara doll from The Nutcracker, but I'm pretty sure that won't happen either. (I've always known that character as Clara, but in the production we saw last week her name was Marie, so my niece knows her as Marie, and I keep forgetting that and referring to her as Clara — anyway.) These fleurs are intended for the site update in January, and were inspired by the movie Marie Antoinette. They're made of really luscious silks and cotton organdies and, appropriately, cotton lawn, and they just feel frothy and wonderful to me, like petticoats, or ball skirts.

CumulusrepimageOver the weekend I got some early presents — remember when I was excited about the honorable mention I got in the Apartment Therapy color contest? Well, they very generously sent a $150 gift certificate to the cb2.com web site, and I think I waited about two or three whole minutes before I was on my computer, ordering. I have been wanting new silverware forever, and so got this. And then I also got these really simple-but-pretty dishes, called Cumulus Crackle, and they really do have a sort of cloud-like billowy depth. Most of the pieces came on Friday night so that was pretty exciting and I love it all so much. there's nothing like having a big, fat gift card to make you feel like a kid at Christmas, let me tell you. Thank you again cb2, and Apartment Therapy, and very dear and incredibly talented Stephanie Waddell. I'm going to use all this new stuff for my Christmas Eve dinner and I can't wait.

I might be feeling pretty wiped out, I must confess, and looking forward to my break. I plan on putting off anything that takes any effort at all, like thinking, until after January 1. I really loathe pushing things to the last minute, and I have several play-dates lined up for myself over the next few days, so I'd better get up, buck up, and finish up. Then, it's playtime for me. I can't wait.

Frostflowers5

Sprinkle-Covered, Sprinkle-Colored

comments: 43

Morning1Yesterday's sunrise was a harbinger of colors to come. You know we like a candy-colored Christmas around here.

Iced2My cookies from the previous night were waiting. I find baking and decorating cut-out cookies a ton of work, so I've always used packaged dough and packaged royal icing because, even using those shortcuts, I'm (historically) ready to be done with the whole thing when I'm about 5/8ths done, which is the point at which I become fatigued with almost every project I undertake. I think it's like the Golden Mean with me. If I had to add dough- or frosting-making to the equation, I fear I wouldn't get past the baking part. Or perhaps the rolling-out part. Or actually I might just skip straight to the not-doing-it part. And the other thing is that I like the taste of these just fine. I prefer it, actually. It's like having a craving for Kraft macaroni and cheese. Sometimes it just hits the spot.

I do, however, hand-make all my sprinkles.

Iced3Kidding. By the end of the batch I'm just spraying sprinkles everywhere, Get on there, babies!, rushing to make them stick before all the frosting dries up. (It dries quick.)

Iced5Showers and showers of sprinkles. Sometimes it's hard to remember that "sprinkles" are actually "sugar." Biting into a cookie that actually crunches reminds you . . . as well as the sudden urge to lay down and take a nap about a half-hour later. . . .

Beads3The sprinkles reminded me of these beads, a big bowl of which I put together the other day. They're all just kids' beads from the craft store. I find stringing beads to be very relaxing. If you add pom-poms (see Heidi's adorable garlands over at Kiddley), you have a great TV-watching activity. My mom was looking for a project to do and I suggested this to her, and asked her to make me one. Immediately after hanging up the phone, I realized I felt a bit flushed . . . put hand to forehead . . . yes, I had the stringing-fever myself. So of course went out and bought three bags of beads and five bags of pom-poms and have made, so far, seven garlands. Sigh. I drive myself insane, I really do. I now have enough poms to fill a standard pillowcase. They do make adorable strands of cuteness for the tree or the mantle

Pompoms1Oops, wrong "mantle."

Garland1I meant this one.

Garland2 When we were house-hunting six years ago, we looked at a house that had a fireplace in the master bedroom, as well as a tiny nursery with a mint-green linoleum floor and little paned French doors off of it. The place was a fixer, and by the time we wanted to write our offer, one had already been made. But I drive past that house every few days on my way downtown and I think about it. A fireplace in the bedroom. It's a spectacular dream, don't you think? I could do a lot with that.

Iced7Generally, I'm just saying that it's good to have every aspect of your holiday decorating color-coordinated with your . . . sprinkles. Obviously, it's where one should always start.

All I Ever Wanted to Do Was Bake

comments: 44

Cookies1I did bake yesterday, but very late in the day, and only after getting caught out in east Portland in the middle of a blizzard. Funny, all my dreams of snow involve me puttering happily in a warm kitchen wearing pajama bottoms and a handknit cardigan, not driving in white-out conditions, with hardly any gas in the tank and crap windshield wipers. The light at SE 122nd and Stark (big intersection) was out, so it literally took us about twenty minutes to to go eight blocks as car after car needed to stop and take its turn. And let me just say, many, many people apparently do not know what to do when the stoplight is not working — they're just, like, driving obliviously through the intersection. Even if you didn't know the treat-it-as-a-four-way-stop rule, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the concept of waiting one's turn. And this was all before the snow. This was in regular weather.

Cookies2 But anyway, I finally get to my destination, just beyond the stoplight, at 1:30 p.m.: Fabric Depot. It's sunny. Perfectly sunny, nothing remarkable, just fine. I go into the Depot and I'm wandering around, get some fabric cut, still wandering when I hear this lady say, "Ohmigoodness! It's totally dark outside!" And we all look up and sure enough, it is dark as twilight. It looks, suddenly, like it's about 5:30. I leave my fabric and go running outside (along with ten other people). It was one of the freakiest things I have ever seen. Snow was blowing everywhere. Snow was piling up on cars and in the parking lot. There was about an inch on the ground. I had a sudden vision of getting snowed or iced in at the Fabric Depot — not the worst thing, but, as I said, all I ever wanted to do was bake, not sew. Last year when ice blew in, the city was shut down for two days. Six miles might as well have been sixty. I quick paid for my stuff, and hightailed it out to my snow-covered car, thinking all the while This probably isn't wise, but. . . . It seemed to be getting worse, but since it had just started I thought it was worth trying to get home. Suddenly Crash! I hear an accident far across the parking lot, horns honking, general pandemonium at the aforementioned intersection. Ugh. It started to hail. But the minute I pulled out onto the road I was strangely calm. I can do this, thought I, bravely.

Cookies3_1 Reader, I made it. I made it home. I drove for about two miles through the frenzied flakes going 4 m.p.h. (which seemed too fast) and then: Just as suddenly, the snow stopped, the sun came out, everything melted, we sped up to 35 m.p.h., and by the time I'd gone from 122nd Ave. to 82nd Ave., it was like it had never happened. I could not believe it. I turned left and continued on down the road to WinCo, where I got two different kinds of sugar-cookie dough, a huge bag of gumdrops, and a new spatula. And some frozen egg-rolls. I tried to tell Andy about it later, when we both got home from different sides of town (turns out there was nary a flurry on his side), and I could quickly see I would have to work to impress here. If I hadn't seen it myself I might not have believed it, but still. (And, by the way, if you couldn't guess yesterday, it was me nagging him about the vet, him nagging me about the toilet; the bit is gender-neutral and works for anyone, anywhere.) "Dude, seriously, I'm serious, it was totally snowing . . . look!" I said, pointing to a teensy little pile of already-dirty snow leftover around the trunk of a tree. "Wow." "I was really scared! I don't know how to drive in the snow anymore! Somebody crashed! I thought I was going to have to sleepover at Fabric Depot!" "Not the worst thing." "I know, but all I ever wanted to do was . . . nevermind."

Cookies5It was like he was from East Hampton or something. What's up with that.

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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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.