Posts filed in: January 2009

Spring Colors

comments: 74

PrettyPaint

Thank you for all your enthusiasm, kind words, and encouragement about the new book. Thank you thank you. I really needed to hear that this week. I love that so many people are excited about embroidery. Because embroidery is awesome. Which we knew.

I'll get some tutorials and little starter patterns together here on the blog and my web site over the next year to get you ready to work on the book projects. And in answer to some of the questions that came in, while this one's not specifically a beginner's book (though there will be lots of "getting started" information, as well as illustrated stitch glossaries to walk you through every stitch used in the book), embroidery is one of those things that is really quite simple to learn, and you can easily learn it from a book — but you get better and more confident with practice. There's absolutely no substitute for just doing it. And before you know it, with practice and patience, you will be wonderful. The most important part of it (or of making anything) is just falling in love with something and wanting to make it. If you can do that, you can make it.

Today I'm switching gears and working on a new kit and pattern for spring, available for pre-order next week. It has nothing to do with embroidery, but it does have to do with birds. . . .

Birdie1

Specifically, cute ones.

A is for Another

comments: 180

EmbroideryBook3 As I've hinted, behind the colds, curries, and coconut custards, I am working on another book! This one is a collection of thirty embroidery projects that incorporate cross-stitch, crewel, and regular floss embroidery. It will be published, again by Potter Craft, in the spring or summer of 2010.

I have never worked as happily on anything as I am on this book. Everything — manuscript,illustrations, charts, and photos — is due on my editor's desk on April 15th. I started developing the projects earlier this fall, and every day of creating them has been so satisfying and enjoyable. I honestly think I will be sad to be finished with this one, which (for lots of reasons) I couldn't have said about Stitched in Time. For one thing, I have had a lot more time to work on this new book (as of yet untitled), compared with the wild-eyed and desperate dash-to-the-finish-line that was Stitched in Time, and that has made so much difference.

Last spring, soon after Stitched in Time was totally out of my hands and off to the printer, I started thinking about what I wanted to work on next. An article I'd written for Hallmark magazine had come out just a couple of months before; in it I told the story of my accident and talked about how important embroidery was to my recovery during that bewildering, terrible time. I hadn't really thought about embroidery, let alone done any really big embroidery projects, in a long time, but writing about it reminded me of how intensely connected I feel to this amazing medium. After the article came out, I received so many letters and emails from people who told me of their equally therapuetic experiences doing embroidery, and other kinds of detail-oriented, contemplative handwork. The letters really moved me. When my editor called and asked me what I was thinking about, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

This book is a collection of my dream projects, really. I've interpreted so many of the things I love here — intricate cross-stitch motifs, vintage monograms, tolework borders, folky hearts and flowers, naturalistic botanicals, delicate alphabets. Some of the designs are old, treated in new ways. Some of the designs are new, incorporating traditional techniques and stitches. All of them, first and foremost,are things I just love. I'm so grateful to be able to contribute something to this medium that has given me so much.

I can't wait for you to see it!!! Now it's taking too long! :-)

Coconut Custard

comments: 70

CoconutCustard2

The weather here in Portland this winter has been so perfect, in my opinion. On Sunday morning, we woke up to a beautiful blanket of snow on rooftops, trees, and lawns; the day stayed cold and sunny, and in the afternoon we went to Stars on Ice with Andy's sister, who was visiting. This morning it is silvery blue outside, and another light snow is starting to fall, dusting the tips of my fall-planted pink daffodils, just starting to peek through the cold dirt. For once my house is tidy, my to-do list pretty well checked off. After flurries of deadlines and thousands of satin stitches, I am eager to clear my mind. I find myself in the kitchen, making custard. This one's coconut.

Coconut Custard

5 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut (I'm sorry, for those commenters questioning, I don't know what this is called or how it's sold in other countries; in the U.S. it comes in a bag, or you can buy it in bulk.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In large mixing bowl, beat eggs well, then add the sugar, milk, half-and-half, and vanilla. Stir in coconut. Pour custard into a two-quart glass casserole dish and bake for 35-45 minutes until center is set. If the top looks like it's getting too dark, cover the dish with aluminum foil. Serve warm.

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You could always put the custard into a pie shell, but it weeps like crazy as it cools — foodies, are you supposed to dehydrate the coconut somehow, first? It's not a big deal — I just pour the water out of the dish after it cools a bit (just make sure the whole thing doesn't come plopping out into the sink, of course), but it would definitely soggify your crust if you had one. Which would just remind you of eating coconut-custard pie on late nights at Baker's Square in high school, so it's okay.

The snow has really started coming down. It looks just like shredded coconut.

She's consistent, at least.

comments: 70

KitchenDay1

I stayed in the little kitchen all day. Well, when I was at the grocery store I wasn't in the kitchen, but when I was home I was pretty much in the kitchen. I decided to make chicken stock from scratch, even though we just had chicken soup a couple of weeks ago, and we had Indian chicken over the weekend. So many of you said chicken soup again, and, I do what I'm told. So, homemade stock from Ina's new book, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics (and how cool is it that Ina Garten and I have the same book designer [Marysarah Quinn]?), and curry chicken soup from The Silver Palate Cookbook, with really nice parmesan-garlic bread from the bakery.

(One note about the grocery store? WOW is it expensive. Things have really, really gone up there. My store just recently had a remodel, so maybe they are trying to pay for that, but I think I'm going to have to shop somewhere else. Sigh. I fear it's the same everywhere, though. . . . Bring on the plans for a Victory Garden this summer.)

KitchenDay2

I thought I might make a Dutch apple pancake for dessert, but I forgot to get milk. I thought the eggs looked so pretty in the bowl, though.

KitchenDay3

I listened to Blind Pilot radio at Pandora (thanks Bee [who knew I love the Avetts and recommended this]! It was seriously perfectly what I wanted), then sat in the nook while the stock bubbled, and looked around at stuff. It looked wintry, but warm. Quiet. I was missing my friend JoEllen and hoping she'll move to Portland.

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KitchenDay7

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After a few hours, out came the yellow curry. Can you smell this?

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How about this? Mmmmm.

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By the time the soup was ready (oh, and you might want to skip the step about putting the broth and rice and onions and carrots through the food processor and instead do it in the blender in a couple of batches, unless you enjoy having hot soup pour out of the food processor all over the place, including the top of the partially opened dishwasher and the floor, but it definitely adds time to the "time you'll spend in the kitchen" if that's what you're going for), it was quite dark. But I was happy. Thank you so much for all the recommendations. I'll be returning to those comments for more days like this — thank you!

Missing my kitchen.

comments: 129

Kitchen3

I "met" my (luckily, self-imposed) deadline on Wednesday, two days late, and stayed up (late) last night visiting with a beloved friend and woke up this morning (late) with a teensy bit of a headache that's sticking around, so I'm thinking I might take the day off and just putter in the kitchen. What should I make? What's your go-to menu when you're looking for a little kitchen therapy on a cold, cloudy day in January?

Can you include music to go with the cooking, too? I can't think today.

I just want to cook and listen.

My Blog's Subtitle

comments: 75

Now, you know, don't you, that the actual name of this blog is "Posie Gets Cozy: Chicken Tikka Masala, Rice Pudding, and Me," right? I thought you were aware, but I just wanted to make sure. So, then:

ChickenTikkaMasala2

I am determined, determined, to get this  dish right, and I really think I am there. And by "right" I only mean "the way it tastes at India Grill when I order it," because I can't afford to go out to dinner anymore, ever again. Last time I made it I used a different recipe and method, but this time I went back to the original recipe I used to make it the first time I tried (and again, please please please don't put the enormous amount of salt they call for in either the marinade or the sauce — 1/2 teaspoon in each turns out to be plenty). If you love Indian food, I really think you'll love this classic, made at home. If you're not sure about Indian food, seriously, try this. Maybe only use half of a jalapeno pepper instead of the whole thing if you're nervous, but just try it. You'll like it. Andy also made naan and it was perfect — we substituted a bit of whole-wheat pastry flour, and oh, delish. (The recipe calls for it to be grilled, but he did it on an electric pancake griddle, and it was fine — I'm sure you could do it in a dry nonstick frying pan, as well?) I wish I had more process photos for you, but it's just too dark out too early now. We were very content, and watched our Keen Eddie DVDs while we ate it. (Who loved this show? Wasn't it cool? Naturally it was so cool it was quickly cancelled, drat.)

Also, on a side note, Typepad? Your new platform, or whatever you call it? It's making my photos look junky and pixelated when they're resized.Why did you change it. I had it all worked out. Now I might change the format of my blog, which will make all the old posts look insane, but I think I'm going to have to, because I can't get these pictures to resize nicely when they're in place, and sizing them at 100% at 365 pixels (the width of this column) is just too small, and they still don't look right. Anyway, I just had to say that. I kept hearing people complain about this and I never knew what they were talking about. Now I know, so I'm adding my complaint to the pile, for what it's worth.

Can I bribe you with kheer (Indian rice pudding) to change it back?

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Alicia's Kheer

4 c. milk
1/2 cup basmati rice
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

(This isn't really a traditional kheer, it's just made with what I happened to have on hand, and I like it.)

Rinse well and then soak basmati rice in cold water for a half an hour. Combine milk, rice, condensed milk, and sugar in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until milk is reduced by half and pudding is thick. Add cardamom, stir, and let cool to room temperature before serving.

A beautiful day.

comments: 84

BeautifulDay1

"Praise Song for the Day" by Elizabeth Alexander

[Read by the poet at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, January 20, 2009. The link will take you to the poem the way she actually wrote it and not with my crazy line breaks (I just wrote it out as I heard it on TV), and they actually have permission to reprint it, which I don't :-).]

Design your own sampler!

comments: 37

Sampler 

At the American Girl web site. Click here and then on Felicity's House, unscramble the word, and play :-)

Pens and Pencils

comments: 51

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Behind the scenes, I'm working on a Monday deadline for the new book. Not the BIG deadline — my draft manuscript and final photos aren't due until April — but just one of the many little deadlines that keep you staying the course. I'll tell you about the book next week, when I can get my mind around the big picture better; right now it's drawings and draft photos and fourteen stitches per inch combined with all the small details that you try — oh how you try! — to get right the first time, so that when the technical editor goes to do her part (and so far, in my life, it's always a her), you feel like you've given her the best that you have, so that her effort isn't wasted, energy sent off to that weird limbo-like place where we'll fix that later. . . .

Pencils

There are a lot of drawings in this new book, which has meant that for most of my snowbound December I was happily ensconced under my full-spectrum lightbulb, merrily tracing templates and coloring them by hand, using new colored pencils (that supposedly don't "shed" dust all over the place, and I would say that's been true — I love them) and my faithful Berol Prismacolor markers. For so many years, I looked at those markers with intimidation. My father was a commercial artist; he worked from home and had a big set of markers that we were warned never to touch. I know why now — they're hella expensive, and very, very saturated: No Crayola washable markers, these ones. I rarely asked my dad to buy things for me, but I remember going to the art-supply store, it must have been in Maywood, off of First Avenue near the DesPlaines River, an unlikely place, its seems to me now, tucked on the side of the woods like that, but that was probably why he liked that one. I picked out some art supplies and he bought them for me. I don't know what they were; I would've been in high school, and able to buy my own, so this was an unusual gift, but he loved to give gifts. It was winter in Chicago, I remember, late one snowy, pewter-gray Friday afternoon, and we went there together in his big truck, and drove home a different way than usual, northwest instead of southeast, back to the house. I didn't get my own fancy markers until several years ago. Andy bought them for me as a birthday present, maybe five years ago, and they sat, mostly unused, until now, when I've used them so much I can almost recite the names of their many colors by heart. Poppy Red. Goldenrod. Scarlet Lake. Lime Green, which is, strangely, a pale olive-y gray.

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It's funny, the things you remember. It was nothing, really, when so much else of importance is gone. Writing this reminds me of the day I did the drawings for Stitched in Time, just a couple of weeks after Audrey died, remembering that raw and jagged ache, the Durer rabbit, the incredible stillness of the house, that glass of orange juice. It feels so good to draw things, somehow. I can't really explain it. It just feels so good, watching that beautiful color hit the page.

"Okay, who's sick?" or, the best chicken soup you'll ever have someone make for you.

comments: 57

[The following is copied from Andy's personal cooking notebook, with credit and apologies to the authors of The New Basics Cookbook, which originally inspired this soup for us many years ago. Whatever you do, don't omit the fresh dill here. Trust me.]

ChickenSoup1

Chicken Soup

1 whole chicken (about 4 lbs)
2 onions, halved
4 celery ribs, with leaves
4 carrots, peeled
3 parsnips, peeled
4 whole cloves
3 cloves of garlic
6 sprigs of fresh dill + 1/4 c fresh dill, chopped
6 sprigs of fresh parsley + 2 tablepoons fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 quarts water
2 chicken boullion cubes
8 oz medium-sized shell pasta
1 1/2 c frozen baby peas, thawed

"Rinse the chicken well and place it in a big soup pot. Throw the onions, celery, carrots, parsnips, garlic, cloves, sprigs of dill and parsley, salt, and pepper in. Add the water and bring this stuff to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 2 hours. Every once in a while, skim the foam off the top. Remove the chicken from the soup and let it cool off a little bit. Remove the skin and bones (not as gross as you might think -- I wear insulated rubber gloves which I scrub before and after use) and then pull the meat apart, shredding it. Set this aside in a bowl. Strain the soup, getting rid of the veggies. Return the liquid to the pot and add a boullion cube. Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. This will intensify the flavor. At this same time, start some water boiling for the noodles. Throw a boullion cube into the pasta water to cook that flavor into the pasta. Cook only as much pasta as you will eat at this meal (leaving the pasta in soup that will be reheated overcooks the pasta and grosses Alicia out). When the pasta is cooked, divide it into individual bowls. Reduce the boiling soup to a gentle roll and add the peas, shredded chicken, chopped dill, and chopped parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. When this stuff is all heated through, pour it over the pasta into the bowls. Good with Airborne and pulp-free orange juice as beverages."

ChickenSoup2 [Worked for me. I feel great today. THANK YOU HONEY!]

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.