I'm excited about these, my first log cabin quilt blocks ever. I made them yesterday at Daniela's house, for the Quilts for Quake Suvivors benefit auction. I think I finished six of them yesterday and am making more today. I think my quilt will need about twelve or sixteen total. Maybe I'll have some solid-colored sashing (maybe pale gray) in between all of the blocks. I'm not sure yet. There are lots of quilting bees planned (not just in Portland but in other locations around the country, too) — just click on the link above for more information, or get in touch with Susan (whose new book, Modern Log Cabin Quilting, is beautiful and serving as huge inspiration for me) or Daniela, the organizers. It's great of them to put this benefit together. I really enjoyed working on these blocks. I see a lot more log cabin quilting in my future.
Believe it or not, this is the way that natural light photographs in my studio because of the skylights. Isn't it weird (horrible)? It's nice in real life but in photos it actually looks flourescent. It is very dark out today, which probably isn't helping either.
I wish is was still the weekend. We had a great weekend. We rambled around town and kind of indulged in all of our favorite things. We went to Pistils and visited with the chickens (and the baby chicks) and got a hellebore for the parkway. I don't remember what kind of hellebore it was but it is dark purplish-gray.
We went to The Meadow and got some chocolate (for Andy) and some flowers (for me) and a birthday present for our friend.
The wall of finishing salts. In the summertime, they sell salted ice-cream sandwiches here that are glorious.
Mississippi Pizza for lunch.
I love their Caesar salad here, too. It's a laid -back and mellow kind of Caesar salad.
The next morning we got up early and walked through the neighborhood.
This is a blueberry cheesecake waffle (that middle blob is cheesecake pudding — what!) I found along the way. Don't worry, I couldn't finish it.
This is a strawberry waffle. Don't worry, he finished it.
Then we went up the hill to Cornell Farms.
The reward for Oregon winter is Oregon spring.
We got two rose plants for the west side of our fence and a clematis for the east side, and some violas called 'Valentine' and some mossy stuff for the pots on the front porch. When we got home we planted everything, trimmed the hydrangeas, and mulched the front flower bed [brushes off hands]. I call that a good day's work.
I went in and worked on crocheting a square with all of the colors from the weekend.
My adorable helper came over to help me measure it.
Mine now, thx ma.
(Seriously, the minute this puppers sees a blanket on the floor for any reason she comes over and gets on it immediately and then looks at you like, "Great. Thanks." It is just so funny. I know I always joke about it, but it's true that she is completely blanket obsessed. I think she got that from me.)
I've been working on writing this little dress pattern pretty much nonstop for, I don't know, it feels like ever. Forever. In looking at it, I think, "Forever? Really?" It seems pretty straightforward, Alicia: Yoke, bodice, skirt. Not too complicated. But oh! The ripping out! The redoing! The sitting and staring incredulously! The re-ripping! The re-redoing! The sitting and staring! Well, I did make four versions, one each of four different sizes, to test them all. But still, my efficiency seems to be at an all-time low. Everything this week feels like uphill. Treading water uphill. Maybe swimming in mud against the mud-current. Not sure what that's about. Maybe just the end-of-winter slog-through. The weather is still cold and rainy-muddy. Chilly daffodils nod and look around, crisp-yellow, as if they're eagerly waiting for someone else to arrive at the party. But I've calculated some kind of new effort:time ratio, and according to Alicia-math I would say it takes approximately 3.375 times as much effort to get one thing done in about 4.125 times the usual amount of time lately. And of course you add an hour for the hour lost in Daylight Savings Time. And then you multiply by 3 for the standard March Differential ('cause it's the third month, etc.). You guys, that's 44.765625. And honestly, that feels like an underestimation of approximately 16. 5. Are you feeling this, too? Or is it just me (and every single other person I happen to talk to, which, though, granted I don't know that many people, it seems worth noting)?
But whatev. I (finally, finally) made a dress. The color reminded me of apple blossoms. (Springtime! I've heard the elders tell of you and I want to believe!) I was, though exhausted, quite happy with the end result. I hung it on the wall and took its picture, as I've done with a thousand other things, and then, instead of going back to the studio, I fell down on the bed and watched 1.75 hours of TiVoed episodes of Bethenny Ever After while trying not to fall asleep. It was only about 3:23 p.m. I decided I needed some exercise. I stretched out my back. My back felt like it was made out of Legos. I did fourteen leg lifts. I emptied the dishwasher. It seemed like a lot more work than usual. It seemed Sisyphean; there were dishes hiding under other dishes, and more dishes under those. The dog laid flat out on her side on the sofa and watched me with one roving eyeball. She couldn't be bothered to lift her head. I understood. Today, there will be walking. Lots and lots of walking. One step, two steps, three steps — and on and on like that. I think I will remember how to do it. I don't care if it pours cold rain on my head for an hour and a half (which it will). We have been in the house too long.
Seldom do I invent anything to eat. I almost always cook from someone else's recipe. Very occasionally, I make it up as I go along. Sometimes when I make it up as I go along, it is really lame. This was one of those times when it was not lame and I was really psyched. I actually made something good without a recipe!
Well, I take that back — I did use a recipe for the dough, but I pretty much know that by heart. Ever since I learned how to MB from this book, I have used their "Loaf of Fresh White Bread" recipe for pizza dough, as they suggest. You can cut it into four pieces and make four individual pizzas (or pop half in the freezer and make more pizzas next week). For these pizzas, I rolled the dough out into two wobbly, 1/4"-thick circles, put them on a Silpat-covered half-sheet pan, and preheated the oven to 500 degrees F.
I trimmed and then arranged half a bunch of very thin stalks of asparagus in a baking dish, sprinkled them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and popped the dish into the hot oven for about 8 minutes, until the asparagus was roasted and slightly browned. I took the dish out and let the asparagus cool a bit, but I left the oven on.
Then I sauteed the white and pale green parts of one leek (slice it in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 1/4" slices — be sure to clean the leek well, too), seasoned the slices with salt and pepper, and then mixed in about 6 oz. of mascarpone cheese. Stirred this all together until the cheese melted; added a bit of cream here to thin it out. Tasted for seasoning again.
This made enough sauce to cover two individual pizzas. I spread the sauce over the pizzas, arranged the asparagus on top of the sauce, then added a about 1/3 pound (for the two pizzas) of medium-sized raw shrimp, which I had sliced in half lengthwise and coated in a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. (I had originally thought I would add a bit of thinly sliced prosciuotto and some mozzarella, but decided against it — I just wanted the flavors to stay very simple and fresh this time — but it would probably be good with these other things, too.) Then I popped the pizzas in the oven for about another 8 or 9 minutes until they were crispy and bubbling, and, oh! So good!
We had a great conversation while eating the pizza: "This is so good!" "I know, right? This is great!" "Totally great!" "Wow, this is good!" "I know, isn't it?" "Totally!" Etc., etc., etc. And they say married people run out of things to talk about!!! NOT!!!
A few weekends ago, I spent not a small amount of time watching various movie versions of Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles: the 1979 version with Natassia Kinski, the 1998 version with Justine Waddell (who is one of my favorite actors, and who you might know from the brilliant Wives and Daughters), and the 2008 version with Gemma Arterton.
I first read Tess of the D'Urbervilles in high school and have re-read it a few times since. It is a maddening and ambitious and tragic and symbolic novel on so many levels; I won't get into a textual analysis or even summarization here because that is way beyond my skill-level today (or any day, I'm sure) but, without giving any spoilers or details, be warned that this is a heavy movie. As difficult as it is, almost every spring I have the urge to revisit this story, especially in movie form. Several weeks ago, on a blustery Friday afternoon, I rented all three of the above versions (from our stellar local indie video store), stopped and got a latte, and settled in for a viewing. I started with the most recent 2008 BBC version featuring Gemma Arterton. I had seen it before, when it first came out a couple of years ago and was on cable, but for some reason, watching it this time, I was moved like I have rarely been moved by a movie. I finished it the next day, then put in the 1998 version. I watched about forty-five minutes of it (I had seen it before, as well) and popped it back out; I put in the 1979 version. Again, I watched only until about halfway through her time at the dairy and took it out, too. Then I put the 2008 version back in and watched the whole thing again.
It's true that it was really cold, really rainy, and I had nothing else to do. But honestly, I don't think the earlier versions hold a candle to this one. I was just so mesmerized by Gemma Arterton, who, in my opinion, turned in one of the most moving performances I've ever seen in my life, that I just couldn't stop watching. I have to admit that I sobbed both times, and possibly even more the second time.
Part of what choked me up, aside from the breathtaking and soulful Miss Arterton (as well as the other performances, which I think are brilliant) and the brutal, sad plot, is the stunning beauty — and implied fragility — of the scenery. If you watch the extras on the DVD, they talk about the filming locations (according to the BBC web site [unfortunately, none of the trailers there work for me], the movie was filmed in several places around western England in the spring of 2008). They discuss how the director made a conscious decision to include these big, long shots where you frequently see just one character walking alone across miles of open countryside, and there is something very vulnerable and profound about those images in particular to me. So many of the other scenes of the woods in springtime (especially the scene where she and Angel are talking under the tree) also really stuck in my mind and are still floating around there.
This past Friday I put together a Tess-inspired spring mantel for our living room.
The flowers are all fake (even we here in Oregon don't have such blossoms yet), except for the pot of clover all the way to the left that Andy bought at the nursery when we went. But the arrangement and the colors made me feel peaceful. I thought of ikebana and of gentle things.
I added a little sprig of blooming pink daphne to that little blue creamer, and found a tiny, real bird's nest (at an antique booth) to put under the cloche that Amy gave me for my birthday.
Opportunites for ways to donate to Japan tsunami victims abound. Thank you so much for passing along your ideas yesterday; I've collected them here in the order they came in, and hope that they offer you some options if you are seeking a way to give or participate. There are some really lovely ideas here — thank you so much, everyone. If you have any other suggestions, please leave them in the comments on this post and I think people will check there, too.
Linda Sonia mentioned Julianna's crochet-covered pebbles, from which 50% of the sales proceeds will benefit the Red Cross Japan Relief Fund. And proceeds from the sale of many things at Stitch Happens will go to the RCJRF as well.
Amanda mentioned Sarah London's Crochet a Rainbow project, where your donated granny squares will be stitched together into blankets to donate to people affected by flooding in Australia, the Christchurch earthquake, and the Japan tsunami.
Jessie is holding a raffle benefitting World Vets.
Christine let me know that Superbuzzy is matching $5 donations, which will then be matched again by Knitting Fever, Inc. (so your $5 donation turns into $20).
Fifty percent from Maggie's hooked rug auction will be donated to the Red Cross.
Susan always has lots of great suggestions. She says:
My friend Daniela and I are organizing a new project — Quilts for Quake Survivors — here in Portland and hoping other people will get one started in their areas too! Bolt, Modern Domestic and Cool Cottons are supporting us too :)
This hand-printed poster is a fundraiser for the Red Cross.
Modern Relief Japan is organizing a series of quilt auctions.
And Weeks Ringle has a lovely post up here.
Danielle mentioned that Fiberphile Yarns has created a new colorway called Sakura (which is the color of cherry blossoms) with a portion of proceeds from this yarn's sales going to benefit Save the Children's Japan Earthquake Fund.
Sarah mentioned that proceeds from her painting of a cute Japanese girl will benefit the Red Cross.
Kieran is selling camellia prints.
Thank you so much for all of the sweet comments yesterday! It is always so much fun to think about those days and write about them, especially at this time of year when the trees are starting to bloom and it reminds me so much of spring back at Augustana (though that comes a bit later there than it does here in Oregon). And that is always such a good memory.
I made some Irish soda bread (from the recipe in the Grand Central Baking Book again, and here) and Andy made his corned beef and cabbage and potatoes on Sunday and we watched Waking Ned Devine. Such a great buddy movie (and great scenery and music).
I know there are a lot of craft benefits for Japan going on around the blogosphere right now. If you are involved with or know of any, please feel free to leave any information and a link in the comments and I will definitely put together a list tomorrow to share with everyone here on the blog.
Andy asked me to marry him fifteen years ago today (if you need a giggle today, remember the funny engagement stories you told me from a couple of years ago? I love those so much). Occasionally, I have a moment where I stop and can't even BELIEVE we are married. It's the miracle of my life. Considering we knew each other for years without ever even giving each other the time of day, it is sort of a miracle. We met in college, when he was a freshman and I was a junior. I still remember where he was sitting (in the middle of the cafeteria, with a guitar) when I met him. He was always in the center of things, even then. We went to a small school. I'd look out the window of the Denkmann (Augustana people, you have to click on that link — it's so cool; in fact, check all of these really old Augie pictures out) library and there he'd be, on the quad, in the middle of the hacky-sack circle. I sucked at hacky-sack [me: kicks sack, falls down]. His circles always included a lot of different people. He knew the burn-outs, the frat guys, the skaters, the smarties, the nouveau-hippies, the geologists, the metalheads, the Deadheads, the preps. We were in the same small circle of good friends, maybe a dozen people in all (and those were about the only people that I really knew). Our group was tight, but out of everyone in it, he and I weren't close at all: We were around each other every day and were each quite close to some of the same people, but I wouldn't say that we had a memorable, let alone remarkable, connection to each other. Except of course for the fact that I was probably secretly in love with him, but even I didn't know that.
After I graduated, I moved away. The next summer, my dad called me one day and told me I'd gotten a letter at my parents' house. It was from Andy Paulson. My heart suddenly went zing! I was very surprised. A letter? From Andy Paulson? To me??? My dad sent it on to me. In the days it took to arrive, I imagined all sorts of things, the most hopeful of which was that Andy was writing to admit that he'd always had a secret crush on me. Squeeeeeeee!!! Yes, that must be it! It couldn't be anything else! Oh, hurry, hurry mailman!
Letter arrived: "Dear Alicia, Hi. I am a camp counselor at Camp Hastings this summer. My campers, etc. We went swimming, etc. The cabin smells bad, etc. Campfires, etc. I have mosquito bites, etc."
I turned it over. Upside down. Read it again. Between the lines. Not quite the love letter I'd imagined. Later, when I asked him, "So, why did you write to me, anyway?" he said, "I don't know, I think I was just writing to everyone I knew."
Oh! Still, I was determined to take it as a sign. When I moved home at the end of that summer, he had just gotten back from camp and was about to leave the next week to start his senior year at school. Our parents lived about fifteen minutes from each other. I stopped by his house one day. No one was home (except for a cat with no hair on the porch). I left a note saying I had stopped by. He called and asked me if I wanted to go on a road trip to visit another mutual friend. I said okay. We drove to Peoria in his mom's white Geo Metro. When we got out of the car, two hours later, we were in love. No kidding. It took two years [of barely speaking] and two hours.
I was 24, he was 22. We had a long-distance relationship, then, for two years (until we moved to Montana together in 1994). We broke up about a hundred times the first year. In retrospect, it was pretty hilarious. Once [now famously, since I've told this story many times] when we were broken up, he came to visit. He was driving me to work (I was waitressing) after we'd gone out to lunch. I remember hoping that the traffic lights would turn red so we would get to be in the car together for longer. I was really hoping he wanted to get back together. A couple of blocks from the restaurant, at a red light he said, "Alicia, I have to ask you a question." And I got really excited and thought to myself, "Oh joy oh joy! Here it comes! 'Alicia, do you still like me?' or 'Alicia, do you want to be my girlfriend?' or 'Alicia, can we get back together again?' "
He says, "Alicia, who do you think would win in a grudge match — the Hamburglar, or Mayor McCheese?"
Light turns green, car turns corner, I get out, slam door. Him sitting there with a very confused look on his face.
I would "break up" with him (which was really more him "breaking up" with me — I don't know, it was very confusing), but then I'd see him and I would think:
I may be slow but I'm not insane, people!!! You don't really think I would let him out of my sight, do you?
If you asked him, he would tell you that he doesn't even remember ever breaking up. As far as he is concerned, we've been together since the minute we got out of the Geo Metro, maybe even since the minute we met. And I love him for that. And a hundred million other reasons, including the fact that he is the kindest, most gentle, and most generous person I've ever met in my entire life.
The rock-solid pipes are just an added bonus, y' know?
We spent a melancholy weekend here, as I expect most people around the world did, heartbroken and subdued by the news and images coming out of Japan. I feel quite at a loss for any words. Andy had several days off so it was just good to be together. I woke him up and told him my dream this morning, and it was a sad dream.
We went to the plant nursery yesterday (where I took these pictures in the greenhouse with the phone) to get some flowers for the front-porch pots. It's a bit early still — only mid-March, of course, and frost is still a possibility for some time — but it just felt good to be around the flowers and the green and the smell of soil. Our big plum tree is in bloom and our yard is freckled with petals and a sweet scent. It is always the first thing to bloom every spring. We bought flowers and planted them in our pots. We went out several times late yesterday afternoon to look at them again, and again into the evening, too.
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
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.