Posts filed in: October 2013

The Light is Changing

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Ohhhhhh, dear. It's getting dark so early now. The light is changing. In the afternoons, the light in the kitchen is just gorgeous, all rosy and glowing and warm. But by six p.m. it's dark. And at six a.m. it's dark. And those dark hours always seem to sneak up on me somehow. Every single lamp in this house, either table lamp or overhead, is on a dimmer switch. I tweak them throughout the day, if necessary, and sometimes don't turn them off until afternoon. I'm remembering our winter routines: oatmeal in the morning (which Amelia and I both love), soups in the evening, and pick out all of your colors for anything you're making at midday. Never pick them out by lamplight. Unless you like to live on the edge.

Knitting and sewing, knitting and sewing. My sister Susie and her fluffy cat Ellie, recently relocated from Charleston, South Carolina, have moved in with us. Aunt Susie babysits for an hour or two every morning and Amelia is beside herself with joy over her new playmate. I go back to the studio and sew. I have so many ideas. It feels so good to have time to work on them. Getting time to work on them a bit gives me energy and also sort of calms me for the rest of the day. During nap time I stitch hems by hand or tack down linings while she sleeps beside me under the big quilt. (I have to remember to bring eeeeeverything out there with me before she falls asleep; woe to the hand-stitcher who forgets the spool of thread when she still has three-quarters of a hem to stitch, and a sleeping baby's head on her lap.) When she wakes, we go into the kitchen and cook for dinner. She sits in her high chair eating diced apple and watching me. We talk. She doesn't have any actual words yet but she never stops talking in her own Amelia language, which includes lots of pointing and lots of saying "Uh oh!!!" Adorable. Little lovey. I like cold weather because she's snuggly and warm.

It feels good to slow down. It's been, really, a pretty intense year, and I think I'm just realizing how intense it actually was. In my mind, I'm formulating my plan for this next year and already it feels so good. It's slower, quieter, more deliberate. It's like a stash-busting plan: Dig into what you already have and do more with it: fabric, yarn, dry goods in the new pantry, recipes, time, these spaces, quilts, my people. But without rushing. Afternoons. Make tea and chill out. It's okay to do that. I have to keep reminding myself. Slow and steady is what I like. Let this baby girl grow and change and whirl through the woods and the rooms with what seems like lightning speed, and give her big soft arms and a pile of quilts to nest in when she gets tired. The fake fireplace is glowing and fake crackling. I have plans for an Earl Grey latte. Greta cleaned the office yesterday and it is bright and shiny. There's more wool than I know what to do with. And my sister is home. Happy.

Oh, This and That

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This past week: a little o' this and a little o' that. Sewing a bit, knitting a bit, hand-sewing a bit, cooking a bit, just like I wanted. The weather has been so beautiful that everyone in Portland is just pretty much walking around in a haze of delight. This — this lovely, warm, sunny, crunchy, very colorful, very beautiful month — is just not what we usually get, for autumn. Usually, just as the leaves turn October-pretty, we get them for one day. And then the next day we'll have a huge rainstorm and everything will get knocked off the trees. And then everyone will rake all of the leaves in the pouring rain, and the city will come and collect them in the rain, and then that's winter. This picture-postcard autumn — well, everyone, all over town, is smiling. It makes such a difference.

I made Mimi a little lamb from a pattern in the book I Love Patchwork for her birthday. Her name is Heather. We all love her. It was really fun to make her. I embroidered a panel on the back of her skirt with a special message and the date. It reminded me that I had a stuffed Winnie the Pooh from about birth until I was about in high school. Maybe I even took him to college, I can't remember. I took him with me to horse camp at Culver Military Academy in Indiana. My third year there, I was probably fourteen or fifteen. I was roommates that year with both my first-year roommate and my second-year roommate. We had a triple dorm room on the third floor. My two roommates were as different as night and day. One was a teen beauty-pageant queen from a little town in Michigan. The other one was street-smart and edgy and snuck out every night to smoke pot with her secret boyfriend (who I would later meet again many years later when he was, totally coincidentally, dating a [different] friend of mine at our college). I loved bothmy roommates. They didn't like each other at all. The only thing they did enjoy doing together was taking my Winnie the Pooh and hurling him out the window into the quad. I would be screaming with laughter, and have to run all the way down three flights of stairs to get him before someone picked him up, and then I'd have to run back into the dorm so no one would see me with my bear. And then the girls would wait until I'd forget about Winnie for a minute, or one would distract me with talk of trail rides and hoof picks, and the other one would grab him and throw him back out the window. And everything would start again. They could not believe I still had a stuffed animal. We would be laughing so hard we couldn't talk, and I could barely run. They must have thrown him out the window twenty-five times. I was exhausted. There was nowhere I could hide him that they wouldn't find him. That bear was so threadbare and gross it didn't even look like a bear. It looked like a hairball. Which was part of the reason for all of the screaming as the bear got tossed around — no one but me actually wanted to touch him. But I really loved him. And it made me happy to see the girls getting along for any reason. To this day it sticks out in my mind as one of the funniest things that ever happened to me. The other thing I remember is saying to the beauty queen one time, "Don't you hate it when you go somewhere and you're totally wearing the wrong thing?" And she said, quite sincerely, "No. That never happens to me. I'm always wearing the right thing." Hah! Awesome! You go girl!

Okay, what else. Mimi's sweater coat. Thank you for the advice on lining the coat! It turned out that it wasn't bad at all! I laid the sweater out on the fabric and cut each shape (back, two fronts, two sleeves, hood) out with a generous 3/4" seam allowance. Then I sewed everything up with 1/2" seams. So there was plenty of ease and it just went in like a glove. I stitched the lining in, all the way to the edges, by hand, and then did the buttonholes in the lining just behind the knitted buttonholes by hand as well. I should have taken a photo of that. I'll do that. I'll get a picture of her wearing it, too. It's pretty darn cute, and now she has a cozy winter sweater. Happy! And proud. It was a pretty big project, actually!

What else. Sausage-kale soup! It was DELICIOUS! Better than the Olive Garden ;)! The recipe is here. My friend Sarah convinced me that I needed to make better use of my food boards on my Pinterest. I just had one food board at the time. When I went to take her advice and reorganize it, everything I had pinned to the board was either 1) a sweet, 2) a curry, or 3) a fish taco. Everything. That's pretty much all I had pinned. Sugar, curry, and fish tacos. Oh-kay. No wonder I never know what to eat for dinner. So I am determined to do better with this. I really think it will make life so much easier because I enjoy cooking but I am mostly pathetic at figuring out what to make. It's like my mind just blanks the moment I have to decide. It's really unfortunate. I've created a few more food boards now and I really do need to take the time to add more things to it because in the long run I think it will be a fun thing that will actually make life easier, too.

I did use the Pinterest boards to try to find another black bean soup recipe and then wound up making up one of my own. We baked the no-knead Dutch oven bread to go with it. And it was a very nice weekend fall dinner, if I do say so myself. With some butter and honey on that bread, aw yeah.

Black Bean Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 teaspoons Mexican seasoning
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 14-ounce cans of black beans, with their liquid
3 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon chipotle pepper sauce
1 teaspoon molasses
1/2 pound broiled shrimp (toss them with some olive oil, Mexican seasoning, and salt and pepper and put them under the broiler for a few minutes, under pink), cut into bite-sized pieces
Sour cream with a little chipotle sauce stirred in

In a large soup pot, saute the jalapeno, onion, and carrots in the oil for ten minutes or so until soft. Add spices and garlic and saute for another minute. Add the black beans in their liquid, the stock, the chipotle sauce, and the molasses. Bring to a boil then turn soup down to a simmer and let simmer for 30 minutes, more if you like your beans softer (I do). Garnish with broiled shrimp and sour cream. Not bad.

The Pumpkin Patch

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I've never been a big fan of Halloween. Pumpkin patches, though — pumpkin patches I like a lot. Pumpkin patches out on the island, with dear friends and excited kiddos, with the morning fog settled into the hills and dales, with the trees turning red and the brown fields starting to sleep, with the birds swooping and singing in the cold morning air, with the flowers bright against the grayish-greens, with the pumpkins bright against the murky mud, with rumbling hay rides out to the farther fields, with caramel apples and sausages and apple cider for lunch, with cow trains and corn mazes and a big bag of apples to bring back home. With a little girl who's seeing it all for the very first time. I am, too.

Then: One

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Thank you for all of your sweet birthday wishes for Amelia. Oh, but it has been a brilliant sort of blur around here the past few weeks! A lovely blur, sort of like watching a merry-go-round whiz by. Our party was so, so nice. Everyone came, all of our friends, and neighbors, and Andy's parents came from Chicago, and Amelia's birthparents and birthgrandparents were here, and my family, and lots of kids of all ages. We had gorgeous weather, and there were crabcakes (and cupcakes), and hot cider, and wall-to-wall partiers all through the afternoon, and Amelia had a blast. We did, too. I hardly took any pictures because there was just so much going on, and there wasn't room, somehow. Balloons, flowers, children, presents, people: To watch her eyes light up the way they do at all of it, for everything and everyone, is just pure magic. Oh, dear, dear girl. You love, and are so very loved.

Right now the child is crawl-herding the corgi, and that's pretty much how it goes. Around and around in circles, always the corgi fleeing, always the baby giggling. She's just beginning to walk around the furniture on her own, and many, many (many) times a day we practice marching, with me holding her hands, and her giggling, both of us marching back and forth, back and forth across the house. It's pretty awesome, this whole learning-to-walk thing. I watch her standing with her hands balanced on the sofa cushions, then letting go with one hand, then both hands, wobbling and sitting down hard. Looking over at me to see if she should cry. Aw, naw. You're doing great. Try again!

The day after Amelia's birthday felt much more like New Year's Day than January 1st ever has, to me. I was surprised at how it felt. I'm so looking forward to this next year!!! Less working. More cooking. More sewing. More playing. More outings. One is pretty cool so far!

Happy Day

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My big, beautiful, bouncing, brilliant baby girl turned one whole year old yesterday. The three of us strolled through the neighborhood for hours, stopping for lunch and to get groceries to make lasagna and a chocolate cake. We talked and talked about everything, and crunched through the streets while the red leaves swirled overhead. It's hard to find words to describe my joy that she is in the world.

This morning she sleeps with her head on my lap; I type this one letter at a time with my left index finger while my right hand holds her little foot. It was a big weekend, with a big birthday party, and lots and lots of people, and grandparents visiting, and an apple festival, and a fancy lunch downtown, and lots of beautiful new things to play with. Today we're laying low; maybe a walk later to go get some rosemary-mint shampoo, and to take a ride on the swings. It's a gorgeous day here, with squirrels romping, and the smell of woodsmoke lingering, and this rosy, gorgeous, glowing October light filling the windows, which seems like the perfect present for my darling's first ever day of being one.

Wild and Wooly

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Hello, dear friends. How are you? It's a lovely fall morning here in Portland, Oregon. I'm drinking an apple cider. We've already been up to the store for more flour and more sugar, more apples, and some teensy little pumpkins. The packages for the day have already been picked up. My trusty helper girls are taking a very well-deserved day away from here. And Mimi and I are going to go to the party store later to pick out some balloons. It's a good October Tuesday.

* T H A N K   Y O U * to everyone who purchased an ornament kit, or supplies, or a pattern, or anything at all from us over the last week and weekend. I am truly astonished, and my heart's in my throat with gratitude at the response. Thank you. Almost every single one of order is already out the door (except for a few that had size #12 needles or fabric markers in them; we are waiting for another shipment of those that was supposed to be here yesterday, but it apparently got mistakenly sent to San Francisco instead — go figure — so it's on its way back [it originated in Portland, by the way]). But we expect that everything will be on its way out of here tomorrow or Thursday, depending on when that package arrives. It's been seriously intense here! In addition to Greta, I had Shila and Lauren (and of course Andy, and my mom) helping out, and if we could've bottled the energy flying around this place it would've probably blown the lid off the bottle. Lots of people, lots of work, lots of stress, lots of laughs, lots of everything. I love these girls. They are so special to me, and I could not do any of this without them. I owe every single person who helped me this week an enormous thank you. Being a working mama is no joke, man. Neither is being a working papa. I am exhausted! Thank goodness for take-out dinner, helpers, grandmas, mechanics who drop your car off at your house after they fix it (that was awesome), neighbors who have cans of tomatoes when you need them, groceries within walking distance, and playgrounds around the corner. Yeah!

I'm so sorry that not everyone who wanted a kit got one. That is the worst part for me, and I truly apologize that there is only so many that we can make. More of the new kits sold out in one day this year than we sold during the entire season last year, so it's just so hard to know how it will go. The PDF patterns for each ornament collection are available for immediate download if you missed out on the kits. And all of the older kits are all still available. If we wind up with any Night Before Christmas kits left over after everything has shipped I will definitely let you know.

The weather here has been classic fall, with probably one of the most beautiful weekends this past weekend that I have ever seen. It was sunny and crunchy and cool. At the end of each day, we took long walks up to get coffee, or go to the park, or get burritos, or spaghetti. I got to read some of my new Kinfolk cookbook, which came in the mail and is so, so, so pretty and makes me want to get my pantry in order (I haven't had time yet — bah!). Amelia wore a lot of things made out of yarn, I noticed. It's kind of awesome that she is now fitting into a lot of things I made so long ago, like her Springtime in Hollis sweater (which I honestly think is pretty much the perfect pattern) and her blue Mina dress (I didn't get a good picture of the skirt, but I was pretty psyched because that thing fit perfectly). Her adorable scarf and boots (not that I can keep ANYTHING on her feet, seriously) I got on sale last winter from Misha * Puff. Her Sunshine Day blanket is everpresent in our stroller three-quarters of the year. I finished that border on the Latte Baby Coat and one sleeve. My hands hurt so bad after I finished the border. I love the way it looks but agh, that was tricky to pull off for me. I used size 11 needles, too. But it is super cute and I am anxious to finish the other sleeve over the next few nights and get it lined with flannel. I've never lined a knitted thing before, I don't think. Any advice?

Yesterday afternoon I got to take the most delicious nap with Amelia on the sofa bed in the living room after we got home from the park. The window was open to the cool air and the sunlight was golden. The girls were working in the back of the house and Andy was out, so it was just us two, snuggled under the quilt together, Clover at our feet. It had been several days since we'd gotten to do that and oh, oh. Pure bliss for me. Pure bliss. When she wakes and her hair is all crazy and she is still warm and shy and sleepy and confused and [I'm right here, baby] buries her face in my neck, oh. Girl. Thank you.

Night Before Christmas Ornament Kits (SOLD OUT): Older Kits Now on Sale!

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On the night of December 24, Santa will be getting ready to visit one little house tucked under some great big oak trees in a sparkly little city in the great Pacific Northwest. . . .

Introducing my new 2013 ornament-making kit: NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

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It has a Nestled Child, all snug in her bed with her kitters . . .

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There is a mouse we call Notevena, and she is definitely stirring . . .

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And there's that everpresent little dream I dream each year: How I would love (for my baby girl) to wake up to the new-fallen snow!

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Each Night Before Christmas Felt Holiday Ornament Craft Kit contains materials to make one of each of the three ornaments, including:

16 pieces of wool blend felt in assorted colors
Coordinating DMC cotton embroidery floss
1/4 yd imported French gingham ribbon (for hanger)
1/4 yd imported French cotton lace (for hangers)
1/2 yd imported French cotton ribbon (for curtains)
Beads and sequins
Stitching instructions
Pattern templates
Illustrated embroidery tutorial

You will need to have your own:

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Wool batting or Polyester Fiber-fill
Sharp embroidery needle
Dressmaker's chalk pencil or fabric marker
Dressmaker's wax-free chalk tracing paper
Glue
Tiny needles for sewing on beads
Sharp fabric scissors and paper scissors
Motivation
Snacks
Fireplace
Kitty-puppy foot warmers
Television to watch streaming Netflix documentaries
Someone to cook dinner and bring it to you because these will take you a while

:)

We have also put together limited editions of previous years' kits, including 2012's kit, WINTER CABIN:

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There is a Lighted Window, to welcome all passersby . . .

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There is a Western Bluebird, to provide the winter song . . .

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And there is a Whistling Tea Kettle, to make the Earl Grey . . .

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And 2011's kit, SWEET HOME:

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It includes a Blue Door, with a wreath to welcome you home . . .

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A Glowing Candle, to light the night . . .

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And a Wild Bunny to keep you company . . .

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We also have 2010's kit, SNOW DAY:

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It includes a Red Wool Coat, to keep you warm and dry . . .

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A traditional Norwegian Selbu mitten, to keep your hands toasty . . .

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And a Polar Bear, far from the Arctic Circle, peeking out from behind the trees.

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2009's ornament-making kit, WALK IN THE WOODS, is also available:

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It includes the Cozy Cottage, with the wood fires burning:

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The Snowy Tree, sparkling with ice crystals:

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And my favorite, the Little Deer, who watches shyly from the trees:

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And last but not least, the first, 2008's kit, ICE SKATING AFTERNOON, as well!

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There's the Hot Cocoa Cup, to warm you up:

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The Ice Skate, with pom-pon for good measure:

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And lastly, the Gingerbread Girl, the sweetest of all:

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Please click on the links for each of the kits above to take to you the web shop pages, which list what's included in each and what you will need to have. Each ornament kit costs $30 each, plus shipping.

About the skill level needed to complete these: In previous years I said that, while I don't think of these kits necessarily as a children's or a beginner's project, if you have some experience working some basic stitches, these ornaments take more time and patience than skill. I will include directions on transferring the designs to the felt, and basic diagrams for completing the types of classic embroidery stitches you will need to know — backstitch, lazy-daisy stitch, satin stitch, French knot, and blanket stitch — but once you are comfortable working those stitches, if you just take your time and settle in, you will be fine. Someone asked which the easiest kit is, and I have to agree with Lori (I think it was my dear Lori) who said the Walk in the Woods kit is the easiest. Snow Day is the hardest, I think.

If you are interested in ordering any of these kits, the very best advice I can give you is do not wait to place your order. We will ship them out as fast as we can. In previous years, these kits have sold out every year long before Christmas. This year we are doing a slightly larger quantity than we usually do for the new kit, but a lot larger quantities of the older kits. Even so, once these are sold out, it is very unlikely that we will be re-issuing these kits again. This is it!

All six patterns are also now available as downloadable PDFs HERE. A list of the specific felt colors and piece sizes and floss colors you need can be found HERE. You will need that list, so don't forgot to click on it (and a link to it is available on each of the product pages, as well). If you are purchasing a kit, you do NOT need to purchase a pattern. Printed patterns come in each of the kits.

I also have new supplies like glue (though we can't ship that internationally; see below), sewing needles and tiny needles for adding beads, wax-free chalk tracing paper, and water-erase fabric markers that will help you make these ornaments. You can find them all HERE (and the specific items you need for each kit are suggested in the sidebar for each kit, too). I have a limited supply of these items, so if you are interested in them please order soon before they sell out!

We do ship internationally. Please read my information about that HERE. The only thing we cannot ship internationally is the fabric glue, because it is prohibited. If you are overseas and you do accidentally put it in your cart, we will refund that part of the order and ship the rest of your things.

Because we are shipping so quickly, PLEASE make sure that your shipping address is correct when you place your order. In some cases, we are shipping orders the exact same day the order is placed, so it's important that you check your address on your end properly before submitting your order, because once it's out there, it's out there! If you do need to change your address, or anything about your order, or add things to your order, etc., please email me immediately. I will not be able to change your original order for you (because the system won't let me), but what I will do is cancel the original order and have you place a new order with everything you need in it. Because of the volume of orders that come in very quickly and the number of people that are helping me with this project, this is the only way that works for us to minimize mistakes on our end. I do not accept phone orders, or checks in the mail.

Okay. I will stop talking now. Thank you again, I truly and sincerely thank you, for your interest and enthusiasm for these kits for all of these years. Your generosity and your excitement mean so much to me, and it is a privilege to be able to make these kits and patterns for you. I love this job and I truly thank you for kind words and your purchases, every single one. Thank you. Xoxoxo

***UPDATE: To anyone who was trying to order the digital PDF of the Night Before Christmas pattern and was getting charged shipping, I made a mistake on the web site and had something check-marked that I shouldn't have — you should NOT be charged any shipping on digital patterns. This is fixed now and I apologize for the frustration (and thank you to those of you who let me know!). Sorry about that!

This and That

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Thank you so much for all of your kind words about the new ornament collection. Thank you, thank you! I'm very excited that you like them. I will put them on sale tomorrow morning, Thursday, October 3. Just come here to the blog and I'll have all of the photos and links and information right here.

I've been tucked in the office for the past few days, really digging into this project that, up until now, Greta has spearheaded. It feels really good to be back in the office with the girls (we have backup this week, too!), listening to Pandora, soaking up the occasional sunshine coming in through the skylights, getting soaked by the almost-constant rain when we take the recycling out, getting frequent visits from Amelia as her dad or her grandma bring her in to say hello, eating breakfast at my desk, singing every word to "Wagon Wheel," Andy pulling late nights listening to old Willie Nelson concerts assembling Ice Skating Afternoon kits and texting me (upstairs in bed knitting) frequently about how much fun he was having (not kidding — hilarious), and also texting me a long list of ways we could improve the ergonomic correctness and general efficiency of our system. Ha! Kinda reminded me of the old days, when he and I did everything ourselves. I don't think things have changed that much, really. We just do different things now, and we have Amelia here, who makes everything wonderful. I had to re-photograph all of the kit photos for each collection yesterday, and spent a little bit of time with each ornament, remembering how each of them came about over the years. I really love them. They have been a pretty big part of our lives these past six years, actually.

Over the weekend, it seriously poured. Wind, rain, wind, rain. We had a great, sopping-wet time despite it at the flock and fiber festival with Amelia's birthgrandparents. Ten minutes after we got back home the power went out because of the storm, and was out most of Saturday afternoon, until early evening. It was kind of nice not to be able to work, especially because Andy was home, too. I took a long candlelit bath, and Meems came in with me at the end. The girl loves water and I love playing in the water with her. I got to sit on the sofa-bed and read Vanity Fair (the magazine, not the book) while she napped beside me. When the power came back on on Sunday, Andy went to work and Amelia and I cooked. Butternut squash macaroni and cheese (I kinda made it up), black bean soup, no-knead bread. Our friend Sarah came for lunch on Monday. I bought a reproduction of a painting by Edward Hicks called David Leedom Farm, 1849. I love it. It's over my dresser. At night I've been working on the little sweater coat I've started for Amelia. I'm planning to line it with flannel. The pantry is installed and finished and I literally haven't had any time to stock it. Big preparations are underway for Amelia's birthday party. I really just can't believe it's been a year. Sweetest love, a whole year.

***To those that have asked about the book with the lamby pattern, it is I Love Patchwork by Rashida Coleman-Hale. I'll tell you more about my lamb after I give it to Miss Mimilove.

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.