Posts filed in: November 2013

Nope.

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On yesterday's menu we had butternut squash soup from the book. It was awful. It was a lot of work and ultimately tasted raw and boring and made me mad. Don't make it.

Earlier this week, however, we made Cat's suggestion, Honey Sesame Chicken, which, everyone, including Amelia, agreed was delicious. So I think I've made four things now and three of them have been good so I am pretty psyched. I know, I'm still talking about this! What's really tricky is that every single time I have put a bunch of stuff into the crock pot and turned it on, I have looked at it and said, "Gross." Because it really does not look like it's going to work. So far, 75% of the time it has. The other 25% of the time, you're hungry and mad. But I will keep trying, because the schedule is just too tempting. IT works great. Just gotta keep trying to find those seven or eight recipes I can rely on. . . . The Honey Sesame Chicken stays.

I've been something steaming hot to drink every afternoon. Today I made hot chocolate. But usually I make tea. Some people asked what my little hot-pot thing was in a photo a few posts ago. It is this little milk frother/steamer. It is awesome. It holds 12 ounces of milk, and you can froth it or just spin and heat it. Much, much better than the microwave or the stove. I've been obsessed with the chai from Townshends lately. My favorite is the Masala Chai. What I do is pour 6 ounces of milk and 6 ounces of water into the little pot (with the flat disk, so it doesn't froth), add 1 and a half tablespoons of tea, and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Then I press the button with the three plumes of steam coming up (that means "make it hot"; two plumes mean "make it kinda hot"). That takes about six minutes, so I leave the tea to steep in it for two more minutes while it's still on the hot plate, and then I strain it (I use this strainer). It is so yummy. They have about ten different chais there and I am working my way through them all. So far I have tried the Kashmiri chai, the Bond Street chai, and the Pumpkin Spice. Masala is my favorite.

My girl is so sweet. She napped today for quite a while while I played with the dog and read. I've never seen anyone who wakes up happier than she does. All sleepy and drowsy and fuzzy and smiley. Oh my gosh I love her so much.

What I also love about these November days is that they are already playing Christmas movies. MY FAVORITE GENRE. I watch Christmas movies every day, from the minute they start playing them. I should make a list of my favorites. I will. But someone asked me which Netflix documentaries I have watched and these are the ones I can remember (though I swear there were more that they have taken off of streaming and just made DVDs now?):

You've Been Trumped — Trump builds a golf course in Scotland. Ugh. This guy.
First Circle — Three families in the foster care system. Heartbreaking. Discouraging.
Park Avenue — Disparity of wealth in the U.S. Depressing. Discouraging.
Somewhere Between — Adoptees from China. Very moving. I cried.
Fatherhood Dreams — Gay men who are fathers. Very moving. I cried.
First Position — Young ballet dancers in competition. LOVE.
No Impact Man — NYC couple with toddler give up electricity and more for a year. (I think this one is only on DVD now, but it was good.)
Nursery University — I don't even know what to say!

I love documentaries. I like that the Netflix thing suggests ones to watch, too. I need that. What are your favorites?

Today it's freezing! Frost! Excited! Can't wait to go out.

The Crock Pot is Hot

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It's been nice and cold and dark and a little rainy and a little windy and just . . . Novembery. Mama is tiiiiiiiired. What is with the time change, seriously. Why does one little hour of difference make such a difference? Baby Mimi wakes at 3:00 a.m. Or 4:00 a.m. Or, blissfully, 5:00 a.m. (which is the old 6:00 a.m.). Ugh. It's too early even for birds. There's nothing up besides us at 4:00 a.m. She's the most chipper (and adorable, it must be said) person I've ever seen in my life at 4:00 a.m., I will give her that!

Thank you for the crock pot — slow cooker — suggestions! Very cool! We made Jennifer's Split Pea Soup that day and it was amazing. It actually needed longer than I had given it, so we saved it for the next day and made some Dutch oven bread and yeah, that was a seriously good dinner for a cold November night. Thank you, Jennifer! I printed out a bunch of other recipes that you suggested and will work my way through them. I also noticed that several people recommended America's Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution, so I got that. A lot of people seem to like this book, and most of the criticisms I read — you need to do a lot of prep before putting stuff in the cooker, the meals cook in four to six hours, which isn't long enough if you are at work all day — aren't problems for me at all. I have much, much more time and energy in the morning to shop for and prepare stuff. I actually really like cooking at that time of day, and since I'm home all day I can time it so that it's ready at dinnertime. We eat by five and are thick into the baby-bedtime routine by six. And honestly, at around four I just want to know what's for dinner, not be trying to make it. I don't always feel like this, but in the fall I definitely do.

So yesterday we thumbed through the new book and decided to try the Swedish meatballs. True to America's Test Kitchen style, the book is super informative and they give you lots of explanations for why a recipe asks you to do this or that. (I've watched the show for years and gotten the magazines, and I love this approach, though sometimes the dishes that I have made from them don't actually wind up being my favorites.) I think these came out really well, though I would not add the sour cream in the last step — the result was a sauce that seemed too heavy and almost cloying and too-sweet; but I should've known that was going to happen, because I don't really like the taste of sour cream in most sauces. I think I would stick with heavy cream thinned with broth or water to finish it off. That's just me. Served over buttered noodles with a green salad topped with roasted roots, yum. Good. Two dinners in a row!Next I'm going to try some chicken.

Thank you for your sweet words about the new animals! I'm really excited about them and have a lot of new ideas. Unfortunately no, neither patterns nor kits for anything new will be available before Christmas. But they will be available eventually. We are making some pretty awesome changes to our production process around here. I met with a business consultant a few weeks ago and it has been kind of life-changing for me. One result of that meeting is that I will be outsourcing all of the fabric cutting for future kits to a local sewing production factory called Spooltown. I've needed this for a while, and I am so excited about it I can't even tell you. This place is so cool, and I am thrilled that we have an amazing local resource like this. I was so excited at my first meeting with them that I couldn't stop talking. Their sewing and production space is gorgeous; I will take some pictures of it when we start the cutting for the new stuff (which won't be for a while, though). Anyway, I have lots of new ideas in the works, and now there will be more time for me to design. I will fill you in as things progress!

Works in Progress

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What a busy week we've had. Lots of coming and going and people in the house and then us going out and then coming back. Activity. In my mind I'm making a fox and a kitters and a smock dress and leg warmers and duffle coats for tiny animals. Well, not just in my mind — in real life, too. But more often in my mind, and only occasionally in real life. Testing out designs to see if they work is kind of crazy! There's no way to do it but to do it, and there are a lot of fails. The coat prototype took all day. I think I made five kitterses before I had one I liked. That's a lot of blanket stitch. But blanket stitch is weirdly satisfying. I really don't know what it is about blanket stitch. It's such a great stitch.

So, new projects! I will tell you about them as I get myself organized. I have a new sketchbook, so that's a start.

Today it's gorgeous out. All sunny and bright and breezy, with some leaves still falling and fluttering, shadows flickering. Yesterday Amelia and I had a very long walk. We sat in the coffee shop for an hour and people-watched. She fell asleep. I just sat. It was really fun. I can't remember the last time I've sat in a coffee shop alone without working, or without writing, or without talking to someone, or without eating (I had a hot chocolate), or without reading the paper, or without texting. Just sitting. Sunday morning. Lots of people out. The weather was perfect. You can tell that everyone is out, trying to soak it up before it starts raining again. We took the short way home, through the shops and restaurants, and it was so nice to be out with everyone.

Any favorite crock-pot dinner recipes out there? This is iffy territory for me. Crock potting it has been hit or miss. This always seems like such a good idea but it never sticks. Is there a reason for that, or do I just not have the right recipes? I've got one standby I think I'll make tonight, but if you've got any links to any real HITS, let me know?

I send my sincere gratitude out to all veterans and those in the military and their families today. Thank you for eveything you sacrifice to keep our country, our homes, and our families safe. Thank you.

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I bought a new sewing machine a couple of days ago! It's a Pfaff Ambition 1.0. I was sold on it almost entirely because of the way it makes buttonholes. You put the actual button you are going to use in the back of the buttonhole foot and pick which type of buttonhole you want to make, line up the bottom of the buttonhole, and press a button. Automatic stitching commences. Done. The buttonhole is done. WHAAAAAAAT! You may have known that sewing machines do this, but I did not!!!

My old machine was ten years old. It was . . . okay, not great. This new machine is only my third sewing machine in over twenty-five years of sewing. My first one that I took to college and had until I got the second one ten years ago basically did a straight stitch and a zig-zag stitch, period. My second one did a bit more (it is also a Pfaff, but pretty near the bottom of the line — can't remember the model number because it's in the shop now). When the guy at the shop looked at it he actually congratulated me on being able to sew on it — it apparently has so many problems he was pretty amazed I was getting straight seams at all. So that's being fixed and I will keep it, as a backup machine. I'm ridiculously excited about the new one. It purrs. It really does. I thought that was just an expression of speech but it turns out its for real. I think this is the first thing I've owned that is not a cat that actually purrs. Excited.

I made Amelia a little brown dress from a couple of vintage patterns (mostly Simplicity 9532). (I would've used just one but it didn't have all the pieces, so I had to mix and match.) The fabric was old — it's been in my stash forever, and I think it was from the '80s. The shape of this dress is one of my very favorites. If you start looking at sewing patterns you will start to notice that even within the same basic dress shapes, there is a lot of variation in the shapes of the pattern pieces. I had two patterns for dresses that looked pretty much exactly the same in the cover illustrations. Turns out, the skirt front and skirt back on one was about 50% wider than the other, which obviously results in a much more gathered, much fuller skirt. I've been looking at the pieces a lot and trying to come up with my favorite set of basic pieces for a wardrobe for Amelia. If you have a bunch of patterns it's pretty fun to actually mix and match sleeve shapes and skirt widths and yoke shapes and make new combinations. Well, I think it's fun at least!

I wrote to the lovely Lindsay a month or two ago and asked her if she wouldn't mind if I copied the adorable matryoshka costume she made for her adorable daughter, which I'd seen on Pinterest. She very kindly said yes and I was thrilled. It was so much fun to make. I drew the design with a fabric marker and then painted it with fabric paints — my first time using them. Then I lined that painted panel with more white cotton and stitched the whole thing like a pig patch to the front. I took Amelia up to visit Daddy at work for Halloween and she had a blast. She was very serious in her costume, which cracked me up. We had a very long, very fun day and she conked out by 6:00 p.m., so no trick-or-treating this year (and Aunt Susie stayed downstairs to answer the doorbell for the neighborhood. Her favorite costumes were the "Sleeping Cowboy" (ha!) and the "Gothic Prom Girl." It was definitely my favorite Halloween so far!

(Oh, and her knitted booties [which are some of the only things I can get to stay on her feet!] are from Misha and Puff. I just love them.)

Fall continues to roll through the city. The rains have started this week — rain in the forecast every single day now. For the first time, I feel a little sad about that: It will change my daily morning walks with Amelia a bit. I have rain gear, yeah, but walking around in the gray old rain definitely won't be as nice walking around through the golden sunlight, under a canopy of red trees, through the crunchy dry leaves, over the snapping acorns, smelling the delicious scents of woodsmoke and frying onions and crab apples. It'll be walking through mud and very cold water falling on your head. Aw, well. That's what chai and cinnamon buns were made for. At least I'll feel like I've earned them now.

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.