Posts filed in: September 2013

Ornament Kits Update

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Here's a sneak peak of the Nestled Child, the Newfallen Snowflake, and little Notevena Mouse, the stars of my newest felt ornament collection called Night Before Christmas, inspired, of course, by my little one and how excited I am to begin sharing traditions (as this story is for so many people) with her!

I will give you ALL of the details about this collection (as well as my previous five collections) when the kits go on sale next week, probably Thursday or Friday. I'll keep you posted, don't worry. We did things a little bit different this time in terms of felt. We had the manufacturer cut most of it for us this time, and, for reasons to boring to go into, you will notice that you will be getting more felt than you need to create these ornaments. That is because in order to have them cut it, we had to simplify the number of sizes of pieces we had, so we sized up on many of them. That's okay for you because you can use the felt scraps for so many other things (like flower clips). We also did things different in terms of floss. This time, instead of including individual skeins of every color you need (sometimes up to nine or ten skeins per kit, I think, and often you would only need a few inches of floss of that color!), we pulled floss from giant cones and cut it into small, customized hanks for each kit, the way we've done with our Maggie Rabbit kits and the Winterwoods kits. This is how we will do all of the floss for all of our kits from now on. We've tried to be generous with the amount of floss, but of course if you ever need any more to finish the project, just let me know. We had to determine amounts retroactively for the first five kits this time, so there was some guesswork, but I feel good about it, and I think it will be fine.

I've also added some new supplies to the web shop to help you complete the kits. Wax-free dressmaker's transfer paper, fabric markers, tiny needles for sewing on the beads and sequins, and fabric glue (though this can't be mailed overseas) are all new in the shop.

Digitally downloadable PDFs of each of the previous patterns are currently available in the shop, and one for the new collection will be available as well. If you already have lots of felt and floss at home, these are a good option.

I think that's it for now, but I'll check back in after the weekend and let you know where we're at! Have a good one! xo, a

Fall Food

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Aw, yeah: I cooked and baked and brewed. Buttermilk oatmeal bread, hearty mushroom and sausage pasta sauce, pumpkin spice pancakes, and homemade chai. All of it was very good! (The raviolis, by the way, were these, and they were AWESOME awesome awesome — I am really weird and picky about my ravioli because we do not have the same brand here that my mom used to buy when we lived in Chicago [she says it was Mama Celeste? does that brand still exist in the Midwest, or beyond?], and these are the closest I've ever tasted to those, my childhood favorite food, so I'm rather joyful now, because I just love ravioli, and you know how there are some things that you just want to taste a very certain way?).

(Speaking of, calling all Chicagoans now living in Portland: RUN to Bridge City Pizza in Woodstock [or just past Woodstock — or maybe it's still Woodstock there]. Oh. My gosh. You will completely freak out. The guy [nicest guy ever] who owns this place is an actual south-sider and he actually makes Chicago pizza the way Chicagoans think of pizza. And cuts it in sqaures. And puts it in the big white bag with the staples at the end that is transparent with cheese grease by the time you get home. You guys, this is the pizza. This is not the stuffed pizza. This is not the thick-crust pizza. This is the heavy, cheese-and-sausage, white-bag pizza. And you know what I'm talking about. Tell him the girl from River Forest [me] and the guy from Elmhurst [Andy Paulson] sent you. [And if any of you are from River Forest and you grew up eating River Pizza, you may start almost-sobbing like I did.] It really, really tastes like home. Andy actually called the pizza place back after we got home with our pizza the first time we tried it and he said, "This actually changes the whole city of Portland for us," and I was just standing in the background chewing and nodding vigorously with tears streaming down my face, unable to speak.)

I'm kidding. But he did call and say that. And I think his voice had a little quaver in it.

Mimi and I walked up to the get the chai ingredients yesterday in the rain. It's been raining for a couple of days, though it is still warmish, which is just delighting me. In the effort to get the mud room space ready for the pantry (which arrives tomorrow), I've been thinking about what's going in the pantry, and thinking about how to reorganize all of our kitchen storage space in general. I started to get a little excited about cooking again. It's really been a while. It's hard to admit this, but summer food just doesn't appeal to me that much, cooking-wise. This past year I really haven't cooked that much because of the baby, but now that she's older and much more willing to hang out with me in the kitchen for longer stretches, and now that it isn't four thousand degrees in the kitchen and we can use the oven again, and now that it's pouring rain and there really isn't anything calling us outside ('bye river, 'bye park, 'bye woods) for days at a time, I guess I finally hear the call of the Dutch oven. Of the slow-simmering sauce. Of the bread that takes hours to rise. Of the chopped onions, the butternut squash, the apple pies, of the long, lazy, candlelit mornings, of the bubbling Irish oatmeal I so love, of the spicy chili, or the black bean soup. Yeah. I like fall cooking a lot. I'm pretty excited about it again, especially because every day Amelia is trying new foods, and this girl loves to eat!!!

Anyway, that pasta sauce above was really nice, especially, I thought, because of the green pepper. A little sweet, but I like it sweet. The pumpkin pancakes, well, yum; we've made those many times and I think they are my absolute favorite pancakes. That's just a good recipe. (And I do have one of those beautiful crepe pans [mine's from the Mirador] that makes making pancakes pure pleasure.) The bread was good and dense and salty. The chai was a little too delicate and a little too rich; next time I will make it stronger by cutting the milk to only one cup (instead of four) and adding one more cup of water, and keeping everything else the same.The flavor was just what I was looking for, but I want a bit more intensity, on a cold, rainy, glistening, beautiful, cozy little old September afternoon.

It's Pie Time

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The weather here has been so glorious: rainy mornings, sunny afternoons, cool breezes, an occasional thunderstorm to nap through (or, if you're the dog, to tremble through :( poor thing). We made our most beloved sour cream apple pie with only two and a half apples instead of five — it was raining, and we didn't feel like walking up to the store. Still so good. That pie. It's such a great pie. IT IS A GREAT PIE.

I'm in a rush today so I'm talking fast and loud. We are having our mudroom turned into a an honest-to-goodness pantry, with shelves and cabinets and drawers and doors and those kinds of things. I'm so thrilled. There will even be room to hang coats. EXCITING. Storage. It makes me so happy. Today Andy is going to clear out the room as it is right now, filled to bursting with an enormous rack of metal shelves, canned goods, dustbuster, paper towels, dog food, turkey-cooking pan, popcorn maker, cake decorating tackle box, bags of pasta, various Tupperware that doesn't belong to us, oh ugh. Just, disorganized stuff that will now, hopefully, have a nicer home. The cabinets will be white MDF with Shaker doors like our nicer built-ins but not as nice (and not as expensive). We need to repaint the room to match the kitchen, I guess (and by the way the name of the paint color in there is Terrazo Gray), even though they are not physically connected. This is my inspiration photo.

My little bird has so many pretty little teeth now. Four, with a fifth, and a whole bunch of others just poised for erruption. This girl. Oh my sparkling stars how she lights my world. I just love her so much. She now gives kisses, which are kind of like face smooshes, to everything — us, her animals, her books, her toys, her blanket, her pillow. It's all I can do not to sob every single time.

P.S. I got Clover to smile for you, too :) Sweet darlings.

Fogelbo

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We did something cool today. We had breakfast at the Original Pancake House (bring cash, and bring lots of it, because this place is ridiculously good but also ridiculously expensive) and then went to the Scandinavian Heritage Foundation garage sale at Fogelbo, the home of Ross Fogelquist, in southwest Portland. I was walking around the garage sale and had bought my stuff and was about to leave when Ross asked me if I wanted to come inside and look at the house. I was so excited. Ross was the acting Swedish Consul for Oregon for several years. The home is filled with incredible Scandinavian (and other Europen and American) antiques. Ross's parents purchased the house, which is a Steiner log cabin, in 1952, and he grew up there from the age of thirteen. He said the neighborhood used to be all farmland. (Now it is totally suburban.) He was so friendly to us and let me take photos all over the house. It's very lived in and very well-loved. What a treat to get to go inside. I'd seen photos of it on the Internet but it was so cool to actually get to go in. You really feel like you're in a different world there.

At the garage sale I got the cutest apron, two little prints, and a candle holder. Andy got a completely disgusting fake-fur Viking hat that he keeps putting on his own head and trying to put on mine. Mimi was either so happy to be home or so tired that she laid her cheek right down on the dining room floor and it looked like she might take a nap. But it only lasted a second before she was off to the races. I realize that this is a very paneling-heavy post. But there's apples. Yay, it's almost fall!

(The first two pictures are from the pancake house, and the last four are from our house; the rest of them, including that exterior shot, are at Fogelbo.)

Summer Wanes

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Some days dawn chilly and cloudy and cold, only to heat up; by mid-afternoon the sun blares and glares, glinting and golden at its low, desperate-seeming angle. On the river, where we lounged with neighbors and kids all Sunday afternoon, it blazed straight along the path the river took, no shade, no blue. All the blues are greens. Even water feels shallow and warm and cloudy, rocks dry and dull. There's a promise in it, somehow; our picnic is lazy. There's nowhere else to be right now. School is starting, leaves are falling. Eagles and hawks circle high above, and I close my eyes and make this memory for later, when it's raining: Tall trees rising up the side of the ravine; a tiny house high on the hill; the shade flickering, flashing; our babies babbling in the sand, and our great luck, to have our neighbors as friends.

The day before had been our annual neighborhood block party. Our other neighbor Barbara took that darling picture of Amelia, head in her plum bits. Isn't that the cutest picture??? Holding her chin. Be still, heart. After I put her to bed, I went back out and sat talking until late with the ladies. I never go out at night; that night I didn't want to go in. It got dark so early I was surprised. Above us, oak trees towered, starting to drop their acorns in the dark. Around us, our houses sat, starting to glow with evening lamps and flickering shapes of the husbands at home, watching the game, the kids. I talked and talked, saying my things. These ladies are so nice. How kind they've been to me, all these thirteen years we've lived here. How generous with themselves, and their hopes for us, and their love, now given so joyfully to Mimi. So blessed I am.

Yesterday Amelia and I walked all over the place, then down to the cafe for some gelato. She sat on my lap, pressed her cheek to my face, placed with my necklace, touched her nose and forehead to mine, watched the trucks and dogs go by outside, ate mango gelato, pointed at every light on the ceiling (there were many), and snuggled shyly on my chest whenever anyone spoke to her. At home, Greta (dear Greta) assembled Christmas ornament kits in preparation for the Big Release, a date for which we haven't yet set (but I'm really hoping we'll be ready to put them on sale by the end of September). This year — oh lawd — we're going big. Three thousand kits — five hundred of each one we've done for the past five years, and a new one for this year — are in progress. We had the felt cut by National Nonwovens. Over thirty thousand individual pieces of felt. I just broke out in hives, writing that. Piles and piles and piles of felt are taking up every possible inch of space in our offices. We had to do those quantities if we wanted them to cut the felt, and we did. Please buy our kits or I'll probably have a nervous breakdown. That's my sales pitch.

More on them later!

I very, very much like to make chicken stew with sweet-potato biscuits when in need of reliable, terribly yummy stuff.

I'm beyond ready to be finished with the yoke of my Chanterelle sweater. I have four more little sections to go and then I'll scream with glee. Taking too much of my already-sucky concentration. I'm teaching Andy how to crochet today. He wants to make an acorn rattle for Mimi for her birthday. He seems to be better at crochet than at embroidery. So it could all work out just fine.

That Color

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It's weird that a woman with no time and a baby that is crawling all over the free world pretty much every minute of the waking day would do something like hand-pleat a big piece of fabric and then smock it by hand and then block it and then baste it and then cut it and then sew it into a tiny dress that needed a ton of hand finishing (linings sewn in, a giant hem). Weird but true, people.

Meems goes to bed at 7 p.m., and I swear, the minute I turn on that monitor and click that nursery door closed my basket explodes, and out bursts the yarn, the floss, the needles, the thread, the fabric. The flying fingers. A flurry of quiet industry ensues, until . . . I pass out around ten. . . . I like it. I like to sit and think about her, about the day, about the year. It's especially nice to do it with my feet up, and my face washed, and my nightgown on, and a breeze blowing through the evening window, and a puppers or a kitters on the bed. Nothing else to do. A deep, deep sigh. Slowly the fingers find their rhythm. One of my favorite parts of the day.

I bought vintage McCalls pattern 2447, intending to use the smocking iron-on transfer that was included, only to find that forty-some-odd-years later the transfer didn't work. So, plan B: hand gathering, using this tutorial. That went fine. I made up my own smocking design and colors. Random. Don't overthink these things or you'll never get anything done. I followed the directions on the pattern for finishing the rest of the dress. It was a handful, but I was in too deep to turn back. Need a hook and eye for the back. Boom. Can't wait to see it on her. The color is just dreamy to me. I must really like this color. It's a dusty pink but warm. I must think of it as Amelia's color because I keep using it for her.

My Lilla koftan? Meh. It's okay. Came out sort of oddly proportioned. Didn't like how the placket didn't overlap. I've seen other peoples' versions of this sweater and they are much cuter. I think I would use a plied yarn and larger needles next time. Make it drapey. The Milk Glass Pink came out quite pretty, though it's still on the blocking board. Too hot lately to put these on the poor child. We had an enormous thunderstorm the other night, however, and that was just awesome. Cool and cloudy today and I am beyond delighted.

Now on my needles is Ravi Junior. Isn't that the most gorgeous pattern? I look at patterns all the time but I only just ran into this one. I'm using Quince and Co. Chickadee in the color Chanterelle. It really is such a lovely color. Or kind of a non-color. Sort of brown, sort of pink, like the underside of a mushroom, or a very old ballet skirt, or an antique book about flowers, or the wallpaper from the back bedroom in your grandmother's house in Iowa. That kind of a color. One that's just right for summer's slide into fragrant, cloudy, rose-hipped early autumn.

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.