Posts filed in: October 2011

Hurry Up and Wait

comments: 331

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Here we are, in Chicago, waiting for the arrival of a very special baby girl. The phone rang last Tuesday afternoon, prompting a flurry of suitcases, phone calls, housesitter arrivals, ticket purchases, last-minute instructions, and general running around the house in small excited circles, like side-by-side triple axels with barely stuck landings. But we somehow managed to make it out of there just fine. Zing!

Arriving, we found that baby had decided to wait after all — very good baby!!! Once again we are waiting for a phone to ring, letting us know that she is here! It's Monday morning at Andy's parents' house. The house is incredibly quiet. Andy's parents both left for work early this morning and now Andy and I are here alone, goofing off and passing the time, fussing with the temporary mini-nursery, folding baby clothes, playing with the kitty, walking around the lake, bouncing on the yoga ball, daring each other to see what baby formula actually tastes like, setting up baby monitors and bottle sterilizers, knitting tiny heartwarmers, trying to figure out how the baby sling works, trying to figure out how the baby carrier works, trying to figure out how the television works, checking the phone again, talking about our hopes and dreams, sitting on the back deck watching geese fly overhead through the cold, crisp air. It was not too long ago that this subdivision was a farmer's field.

On the verge of motherhood, in some ways I feel like I am suddenly, ironically, back in my own childhood. The sky looks the same as it did then, and also like nowhere else I've lived. The leaves look the same, the bare trees look the same, the leaves smell the same. The color of the light from the streetlights is the same. Passing through Oak Park on the expressway the other night I cried in the car, thinking of my dad and missing him more than I could say, thinking of how he was always here, always, always at home. Before this past summer, the last time I had been in Chicago was ten years ago, shortly after he passed away. He died in Oregon, but that never seemed right. One afternoon during our visit here last month, I sat in the park across from my old house for several hours and stared at it, and it looked just like my dad to me, and it looked like me, and it looked like my family. I felt like I was looking at people. Our life was so thoroughly there, in that place. My parents lived on Forest Avenue for almost thirty years until they moved to Oregon in late 1998 to be nearer to my sister and me (we were already there). For several reasons, I wasn't able to come back then, that autumn when they were moving. The house is in a cul-de-sac. It was strange to have to sit like a stranger, across the street in the park where the swings used to be; it was the same point from which I had looked at my house a thousand times before, pumping my legs back and forth on the swings: house closer, now farther, now closer, now farther away. I didn't dare get too close this time. I felt like I could walk off the sidewalk and right up the front stairs into the past. But I didn't want that. I could hear acorns falling from the hundred-foot-tall trees. I walked a few blocks down Linden to Thatcher and the edge of the woods, my first woods, and looked in at them. My dad had dragged us there to go walking around all the time when we were growing up, and we had mostly hated it. Go figure. I was told never, ever to go into them alone. And so I didn't this time, either. But I missed him, and wished he were here now, for all of this.

Andy's parents live farther out of town now. The suburbs stretch farther than they did when we were kids, the neighborhoods out this way a strange mix of farm fields and gated communities. I love the prairie grasses and the cornfields and the cattails that line the sides of the road. I love the the bare, black oak tree branches against the blue sky, the way the downtown skyscrapers rise like mountains. I love the rusty El tracks overhead, the busty pigeons, the wide, wide sidewalks downtown and all of the people and buses and taxis. I love the museums, the planetarium, the Art Institute where my parents met, the fancy old apartment and office buildings. I used to work in one of them, on the corner of Michigan and Madison, but that was a long time ago; I'm a tourist now. I'm absolutely amazed at and intimidated by how many expressways there are, how many lanes of whooshing traffic, how many people and malls and stores, how many things to eat. Andy is sitting in his dad's recliner at this moment, reading a book about hot dogs and eating from a gigantic wax-paper bag of cheese-and-carmel popcorn from Garrett's, which he walked into the room carrying on one arm, like a baby.

We wait, and dink around the house, and pray, and wait.

Sunday Drive

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These days feel like such a bonus. As the baby's due date inches ever closer (less than three weeks from today), we leave the house only a little bit, somehow, staying close to the phone and our suitcases, in case she arrives early. I really thought she would be six weeks early; I'm so thrilled to have been wrong. The past three weeks have been a gift, and although the past few months have been filled with a kind of emotional intensity I've never experienced before and still can't even describe, each day of them has been so precious to us.

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I look around at everything, at the things we do and the places we go and the people we are, and wonder how they and we will change. I can't wait.

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Yesterday morning we decided to drive up to Multnomah Falls and have brunch at the lodge.

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We talked about . . . babies. :-)

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I think this will be a pretty nice place for a baby to grow up.

Cuteness from My People

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In our family, people were always making things and selling them. All the time. It was just what our People did. Our dad was very entreprenurial. He was a musician by night and a commercial artist by day (I don't even know if there is such a thing anymore), but in his spare time he was always inventing something and selling it through mail order. The one I remember best was the light that you put on the top of your car antenna that went on whenever you were talking on your CB radio. That was an awesome one. My mom, too, always had businesses while we were growing up — she made and decorated cakes to order for friends and neighbors (our little sister, Susie, is now a professional pastry chef and wedding cake designer), she sold bread-dough baskets and wreathes, she made jewelry. I had my first business at age 13, when I sold model horse accesories (blankets, saddle pads) that I made out of felt and embroidery floss through a classified ad in a model horse magazine. My sister Julie is one of the most amazingly creative people I know. For many years she has designed a line of greeting cards; they are now sold at Target, Whole Foods, and Cost Plus. (But don't ask her about them because she will get all twitchy and modest about it; I know this because I just this very moment tried.) She recently opened an Etsy shop with her own very Julieish style, which I love.

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I swear, I didn't plan this metaphor yesterday, but you know what they say about apples. Not falling far. My most excellent and exquisite niece Arden, Julie's daughter, has likely inherited more creative talent from both of her parents than anyone in the universe (says her proud auntie). But she is her own girl, and she has very specific interests and a unique style, and now her very own Etsy shop, too.

Remember this post, when we were learning to make a granny square? Four years ago. Sigh. That went way too fast. Way too fast.

I love my family. They are awesome.

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I think I'm going to make an apple pie, but I might look for a different apple pie than the apple pie I usually make. I love apple pie. This apple is a Jonagold. I don't know if I've ever made a pie with Jonagold apples? I like sweet apples. My grandpa ate a yellow apple — I guess it was a Golden Delicious apple — after lunch every single day. He peeled it with a sharp little paring knife at the kitchen table. When I went to Italy when I was in college, I walked into the room at our pensione (which was somebody's very old apartment that they'd turned into a sort of hotel) and it reminded me so much of my grandparents house, with a little square oilcloth-covered table, that I promptly burst into tears. The strangest thing was that my grandma's house had a very particular smell — kind of like Italian cooking with just a hint of mothballs — and earlier that same day, on the train from Munich to Rome, all of a sudden I had smelled that exact same smell. And I'd never smelled it anywhere else; my grandparents were gone, their house long sold. So when I later saw the table I just cried.

My grandpa was the fastest eater I've ever seen. My father was constantly yelling at him to slow down. But he ate an apple a day and he lived until he was in his late eighties, I think. Every time I eat an apple I think of him and his yellow apples. Always yellow. From the "pepper store," which is what we called the Italian greengrocer he liked to go to. I think it was this one, in Elmwood Park. Caputo's. I see from reading their history page that the founder was from a seaside town in Italy that was close to where my grandpa was from. I wonder if he knew that. He probably did. Those guys liked to stick together.

Alpaca and Wool

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I have a strong personal preference for alpaca and ultra soft merino wools. It's taken me a long time to figure this out, in a way, because when I first started knitting and crocheting I didn't really know anything about fibers other than how "soft" or "scratchy" they were in the skein, and what color they were. Color was the biggest consideration. I would make all sorts of choices based on very particular shades of colors, and pretty much completely disregard fiber content, yarn weight, halo effects, drape, etc. It kind of makes me giggle now. But over and over again, I would start making something and even though the color was lovely, and matched the color of something in my imagination, the fabric I was making was bewildering me — I wouldn't like it, and I had a hard time understanding how the yarn in the skein (which is obviously how you buy it at the yarn store, and often they don't have a sample made up) translated into a particular finished product. My brain just couldn't extrapolate that very naturally. (And I STILL, after years and years of knitting, can't read yarn labels easily, and I've just totally given up. The first thing I do when I walk into a new yarn store is try to figure out if they've labeled their yarn by weight [i.e., worsted, DK, sport, etc.], and I breathe a huge sigh of relief if they just keep all of the yarns organized by weight. If I owned a yarn store, this is TOTALLY HOW I WOULD DO IT. Still, some do it by color, some by fiber content, some by brand [that one truly bewilders me, though I suspect it just makes it easier for them to shelve, or something?]. But anyway.)

So, after many fails, where I would make something and it would have a sheen to it that I didn't like, or I would be knitting and just feel like it was requiring more effort than necessary (specifically with respect to the yarn and not the pattern), or the finished fabric would be sort of rigid when I wanted it soft and floppy, I would be very confused. And I finally noticed that every time I happened to knit with alpaca and with certain wools (or with llama or camel), I would feel much happier, and the thing I was making came out looking like the thing I was dreaming about. "Oh! I get it!" Then I started (years and years into all this), just out of pure curiosity, actually reading the label for fiber content (because I still can't read it for gauge, and always seem to have to ask someone to help me). And lo and behold the yarns that I love now are always alpaca/wool/camel/llama, and nothing with any sort of microfiber, or cotton, or acrylic, or whatever. And that is how I apparently reinvented the wheel for myself the hard way by spending a lot of time and money and knitting a lot of fails. Some things come so easily to me, and some things — egads, I flunk. Just not quick on the uptake. It's like Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny when he's talking about how many times he had to take the Bar before he passed (I love that movie). Isn't it like seven or something?

But, I guess, eventually he wins the case, so. . . ?

Knit knit knit.

A Skinny Little Onesie

comments: 80

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It's ribbed, so it's all skinny. Hopefully the arms will stretch out a bit. I stretched the body a bit when blocking but the arms didn't want to cooperate, really. I think it's really cute. I knit the second sleeve backwards, oopsie. I sort of think I did the first sleeve wrong, too. Here is my Ravelry link with all of the info on the pattern and yarn. And buttons. I followed the pattern exactly, I think. The yarn is so soft and luscious. It's fingering weight so, egads, now you know what I mean by the 2x2 rib. Endless. But it massaged my frazzled brain into nice smooth waves, I do think. So it was good. I finished it too quickly, in my opinion. Knit knit knit. I did some pants (not pictured — forgot to photograph those) at the same time, alternating. (Those pants are cute, don't you think?) I only seem to be able to knit lately. Nothing else.

Well, purl. I purl, too.

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Russet Fields

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Beautiful weather. Time alone together. The feeling of expectation. A walk in the russet fields. Sweetest of the sweetest people. Pumpkins and pies. Making a quilt (him). Knitting (me). Woodsmoke and raindrops. Sunflowers and birdsong. The whole weekend felt like a gift. Every minute.

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This russet-field beauty was at Kruger's Farm on Saturday.

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"What kind of dog is that?" Why, she's a Cardigan Welsh corgi :-). My little Clover Meadow so bright.

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She lags behind if I'm behind.

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Everything glowed.

Chicken Stew with Biscuits

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Ina's chicken stew and Stephanie's sweet potato biscuits. I was first made aware of the brilliance of this combination one night at dinner at Melissa's, and I am forever grateful. I have made the stew with Ina's biscuits many times before, but Stephanie's biscuits are exponentially better. Don't make Ina's, seriously. Make these. This dinner takes a while to make, and I knew it would take slightly more effort than I had available, so I bought a roasted chicken instead of roasting one myself, and froze half of the unbaked stew and biscuits (separately). After dinner I promptly collapsed in an overfed but happy heap, and then burrowed back into my shavings pile at 8:45 p.m. last night. A new routine.

Thank you for the freezable suggestions! I think I'll clean out the freezer and do some stocking up this weekend. I truly love to cook but I'm possibly the worst meal planner you've ever seen. If I have to plan ahead I just tend to stand helplessly in the middle of the kitchen and look scared of everything. Because I am. Time for a crock-pot cookbook, too, I think. My crock-pot history is really hit-or-miss. Some of the things I've made have been good, some of them honestly inedible. Which is sort of tragic, after six or eight hours of "cooking." To find out you need a plan B at 6 p.m. But I really do love stewy-type things that go over noodles or rice in the fall and winter. Anyway, time to get organized in the kitchen.

Russet Morning

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It's pretty, this morning. But oh, it's dark. It's rather dark. The sky feels low and damp. The air feels cold and damp. Our firewood won't be delivered until Saturday and I can hardly wait. I tried to burn an enormous log yesterday without chopping it and it didn't go very well. But we're out of good wood, and I have a longing for flickering light and warmth today, when it's nothing but drizzly and dark outside. I was fast asleep by 9 p.m. last night, and slept until almost 6, which is the most sleep I've had in ages (I know you'll tell me to enjoy it while I can, so I am). I felt like some sort of hamster, curled in a ball and burrowed into my warm fluffy shavings, resistant to any movement that might increase the exposed surface area of my body. This morning I've turned on the heat. This evening, chicken stew with sweet potato biscuits. Highly freezable. Trying to think of other fall foods that I can freeze for the future.

Aliteration!

Sit and Knit

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Strangely, at this moment, I feel vaguely caught up. This is so weird. A little while ago, I was reading. Like, a book. Book-type reading. It was weird. Now I'm hanging around and drinking tea. WEIRD.

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I haven't had time for things like this in a while. It feels very nice. The only thing I've done in my kitchen lately is open various containers of take-out food. I was going to bake something this afternoon but I decided to just sit and have a private tea party with Clover Meadow instead. And then work on the 2x2 rib some more (though it's not really "work"). I think I made the right choice.

Thank you so much for all of the feedback on the Addi needles and other types of interchangeables. Now I am wondering if I can test drive them at one of my LYSs — I'm definitely going to try to do that. And also test drive some of the other brands. That was very good advice. And thank you also for the info on various baby shops — so fun and oddly relaxing to look at those, somehow. Yay! Thank you!

It's raining. I have some candles lit. The windows are all still open. I am ordering a cord of already-split firewood this year so we don't have to chop it. All of the work on the house is done except for weather-stripping the front door, and waiting for the replacement hardware for the new wooden screen door. A new mattress has been ordered for the cradle. There's chicken curry in the fridge to be warmed up for dinner. I feel organized for the first time in weeks. I almost never feel that way. But it feels really good. I should try to do it more often. (I think that every time.)

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.