A Happy Birthday

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The  most marvelous Andy Paulson had a birthday this week and we celebrated in style, picnicking at the creek and playing in the woods. A crow flew off with Amelia's entire sandwich — an untouched 6" turkey sub — right off the picnic table while we were down at the water's edge. It was actually kind of amazing to watch. He stalked it, then he took it. I was amazed that he was able to carry it. Amelia and I baked Andy a cake and decorated it when we got home. She picked everything, the colors and style and the decorations, and I just helped. We used my go-to birthday cake recipe (it's the best chocolate cake in the world, I think, if you need one) with plain buttercream frosting. Andy laid on the chaise lounge out back and read his book while we shouted hints out the back door toward him about what we were doing. "Oh, this looks good!" "Yeah! And we hope you like things that are green!" "We hope you like things that are pink!" "We hope you like things that are LURID!" He said he did, on all counts, so we carried out our plan fearlessly. Neon frosting, geranium flowers, rose petals, giant sprinkles, traffic-cone-orange powdered food coloring, and lots of blobs. I think it's one of our best ever, myself, and it was by far the most fun. Happy birthday to you, my darling, darling husband. I love you beyond words and am so thankful every day that you were born.

Thank you so much for all of your gentle and generous and thoughtful comments on my last post. I've been thinking about it all a lot and just kind of . . . absorbing, I guess. I was particularly touched by the people who said something like "well, of course you want to know these things — that's what we, as people, do." In reading those comments it struck me how, even in writing what I had written and sort of saying "oh, well, I'm not sure why this matters" in it, I was still on some level denying myself permission to be doing it. The looking. Or rather, I was trying to keep myself from feeling the need I felt to know, as if I wasn't really allowed to have feelings about it. But I think  I am. And I think that's something unexpected that I've gained from this experience: I'm just letting myself go there, and feel whatever it is I'm going to feel, or not feel, about it all. I'm encouraging myself just to be . . . human. Knowing names and dates and places doesn't necessarily answer the important questions. But maybe it is a start. It may also be the only part of the story I ever find. I don't know. I don't know yet.

Coincidentally, I started reading Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (which just won a Pulitzer for biography) several weeks ago and was struck by this:

Discovering how Charles Ingalls and his family came to find themselves a few miles from the shores of Lake Pepin, just a few years after Pepin County was first marked on a map, is a detective story tracking generations into the past. Pieces of the family portrait survive, but the whole remains elusive, obscured under the soot of time. It may never be complete.

That is always a problem, in writing about poor people. The powerful, the rich and influential, tend to have a healthy sense of their self-importance. They keep things: letters, portraits, and key documents. . . . 

But the Ingallses were not people of power or wealth. Generation after generation, they traveled light, leaving things behind. Looking for their ancestry is like looking through a glass darkly, images flickering in obscurity. As far as we can tell, from the moment they arrived on this continent they were poor, restless, struggling, constantly moving from one place to another in an attempt to find greater security from hunger and want. And as they moved, the traces of their existence were scattered and lost. Sometime their lives vanish from view, as if in a puff of smoke.

So as we look back across the ages, trying to find what made Laura's parents who they were, imagine that we're on a prairie in a storm. The wind is whipping past and everything is obscured. But there are the occasional bright, blinding moments that illuminate a face here and there. Sometimes we hear a voice, a song snatched out of the air.

That said, this book is so depressing, I must confess. A lot of it is about Rose, of whom I knew nothing, and now I sort of wish I knew less. (I haven't even read all of the Little House books themselves, but Mimi is super into the junior versions of them right now, so there has been a lot of prairie talk around here lately.) I'm on page 347 of 515 of Fires and although I don't like it very much I can't seem to actually stop reading it. But when I do finish it I plan to read something utterly trite, so please feel free to recommend all manner of beach-reads because I'm all over it.

Andy made bangers and mash with brats for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding, and Mimi and I finally did wind up making the rhubarb pie. If I could pick my wedding dress over again I'm pretty sure I'd pick this one:

PrincessCarolinePhilippeJunotWedding2

Princess Caroline's in 1978 (I think). From the pictures it almost looks like it has a gathered — like, elastic! — waist. I would totally do my hair like that, too.

Some of my new labels for stitch markers, lotion bars, and yarn should be starting to be delivered this week. I'm ridiculously excited to see them, and to launch these new things I've been working on for what feels like forever now. Andy and I drove out to pick up my very first wholesale order of bare yarn a few weeks ago, and I've been dyeing it little by little when I have time. I will tell you more about it as soon as I get myself organized enough. I went to a really fascinating lecture the other night about the state of the wool industry and our place in it given by Clara Parkes. I learned so much and I have so many more questions. There is so much more I want to know. I feel like I'm at the very beginning of a whole new phase of my creative life, and it is quite thrilling. And a bit overwhelming, honestly.

I also have finished stitching my next cross-stitch design, the third in my little series of seasonal pieces this year. This one is called "Summer Storm" (at least, that's what I'm calling it so far) and if I can collect myself enough to take some pretty pictures of it in the next week or so, we'll open pre-orders sometime in June. If you're not finished with Time of Flowers, don't worry — it will be several weeks before the fabric arrives and we have time to pull floss, etc. But still, I want to mention it because yes, there are two more in this seasonal series, this summer one and then one I'll do for the fall. And because the Time of Flowers fabric has been discontinued, we will probably do around five hundred of these next two and then call it good, and I don't want you to miss out.

I'm almost done with my Flax Light sweater I'm making for Mimi, and I've started a knitted dress for her that kind of looks like Selekjolen by Hoppestrikk. I wasn't able to find the pattern for it, and then when I did find it it was in Danish. I bought it, hoping to figure it out, but instead I just kind of started winging it. When I tried it on Mimi she told me she liked it while at the same time ripping it off her body as if it was on fire so, might not be worth starting over. . . . This is how kid-knitting is lately. I knew this day would come.

62 comments

Aww Happy Birthday to Andy!! His cake looks so pretty and festive. The Hershey's Chocolate cake is also my go-to cake, thanks to you! It's just the best. I love your kitchen - it's always so bright and cozy and inviting. Harry and Megan's wedding was a fairytale wedding indeed. My nine year old daughter and I ate scones as we watched.

Now that’s a cake! Have you ever read The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil? It’s the first in a trilogy and is seriously one of my favorite comforting, funny reads of all time (and it’s very British which is a definite plus). Happy summer!

Happy Birthday to Andy! :) So great to have a little person Mimi's age to make everything like that more fun, isn't it?

Two things - your last post about ancestry made me get back on that website and find all kinds of new things about the people who matter most to me - anyone who I have actually known, or my parents or grandparents knew. I love the knowledge of my DNA which was kind of surprising, but also - just the little hints of things you never knew, for example my great-grandfather's fighting overseas in WWI. That is so amazing! So thank you for that!

And secondly, I've read and re-read the Little House books many times and love them, and I'd recommend them HEARTILY if Mimi continues to like them as she gets older. I am going to have to hunt that book down, I think - I can't get enough of Laura Ingalls Wilder. :)

Okay, and lastly even though this is not on the list - I just want to say thanks for your beautiful blog, which I have been following for many years. I'm so glad you share with us all, and so glad your life is good (because of course I feel like I know you, lol). OH, and love that Princess Caroline wedding dress also! Anything with sleeves is GOOD!

KristenfromMA says: May 31, 2018 at 03:14 PM

Happy Birthday Andy! (waves)

Janine Allen says: May 31, 2018 at 04:06 PM

Be still my heart! What a luscious post. Starting with the peach yarn that reminds me of the angel food cakes from my youth that had confetti in them, to a real birthday cake, then rhubarb pie-- oh yes! And Amelia's sweet skirt. Thank you for such a delightful read. I want some of that beautiful yarn but I don't know since a stroke, quilting is so much easier.

Funny story about the chocolate cake. Many years ago (35+) my husband and I went out to a nice restaurant for his birthday. Can't remember what we had for dinner but for dessert we had a great chocolate cake. The next morning I called the restaurant to ask if they would share the recipe (something I had never done nor have I since). They were happy to share and gave me the recipe. I made it many times. Years later I saw the same recipe on the box of Heresey's cocoa! I have made it for years. It's great, made in a sheet pan with butterscotch frosting, for taking to parties

I just finished The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. It is totally mindless, which I needed as I read Fire and Fury before that. I can read deep and depressing books only if I follow them up with a light book.

I’m about the same age as you and Andy, so I’m still in the middle of running around after my own kids, but I have relatives on both sides who have taken up genealogy in their retirement, and there are stories about people whom I thought I knew all about. My mother and her siblings grew up next-door to their dominating grandmother, who was widowed in her 40’s and took over her husband’s business and participated in city politics. She was a tough cookie and well ahead of her time. But none of us never knew that she had a brother who died in his 20’s in the 1918 “Spanish Flu” epidemic, the same year she lost her father to cancer—all while she was pregnant with her first child, my grandfather. We knew that my grandfather’s name was the same as her father’s—we never knew that she had a brother with the same name. I guess she couldn’t bear to mention him. On my dad’s side, there’s a newspaper article about the death of my great-great-grandmother—killed in a factory accident while pregnant with her sixth or seventh child. She’s the one I think of whenever there’s a story about horrifying or unsafe work conditions somewhere — people who deserve safety just as much as she did.

I'm currently reading the Little House books to my five-year-old, who has become obsessed with being a homesteader on the prairie. Ninety percent of her day is spent pretending to care for her livestock, shear her sheep, or hunt for game. She is also filling our (real) barn with "hay" (grass pulled from the lawn!) to feed the cattle over the winter. Like you, I'm simultaneously reading Praire Fires, and it has been so...interesting, and difficult, and stress-inducing, to wrap my mind around the reality of the rather sugarcoated versions of stories in the children's books.

Happy birthday to your husband. Fabulous photos as usual. But really, where of where are you going to play in the water with your little one? Mine is a year younger and I too live in Portland and have yet to find a good playing stream.

*H*A*P*P*Y* * *B*I*R*T*H*D*A*Y*!*!*!* to dear Andy! What a wonderful cake! There really is nothing better than homemade cake. I loved all your woodland photos. I'm reading a pretty good book - if you like the movie "Under the Tuscan Sun" (which I adore) you might like this book by the same author - "Women in Sunlight" by Frances Mayes. I think you'd love it. I'm in love with your pastel yarn with colorful speckles! Have a wonderful weekend. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

I admit, I was a bit impatient in waiting this next post but there it is and worth every second of the time it took.

You are certainly one busy person!

Belated birthday wishes to your ever-so-loved-by-you hubby. The cake is just precious. I am so in awe at the beauty of your area of Oregon, your photos are always just fabulous. The dyed yarn is once again a complete eyefull and to tell you the truth I would have a problem choosing which one to pick as my favorite because they're ALL such a treat.

I started with my family ancestry research back in 2000 when I got what one could call a late start, what my computer and internet expirience concerns... every new puzzle piece found was overwhelming, to say the least. New knowledge gained made me hungry to find more. I am sorry to say since it is quite time consuming and because of still having to work I rarely find time any more. Besides that I ran against that brick wall, where your sources of information abruptly end. Back in 1705 in the town of my interest the French burned all but 3 houses down, destroying practically all civil and church records that had been kept before then. My only chance has been to search for family members with definite connections in other towns, trying to tie loose ends. Frustrating indeed!

I love seeing how your knitting for sweet Mimi progresses and am excited to see your new addition to the cross-stich collection! Have you done any more on your lovely little doll pattern project?

Greetings across the big pond from Heidi XOXO

Alicia, I was deeply touched by your previous post. I’m thinking about it ever since. About who we are and why is it so important to know someone who lived log before you. We don’t know my fathers father and I was always thinking of that man because we both, me and my father, have so much from that unknown person. Sometimes I forget about it, but some other days I can’t stop thinking about who he was and it really so important to me.
Your new post is wonderful, I love the images with the boats and the river and this shiny little girl with her dad. And this red-winged thrush in the nest, great picture! I’ve met this thrush just once about a year ago))

Great cake! Happy birthday wishes to Andy. So looking forward to the next kit although I am far from finished with spring flowers :)

Happy Birthday to Andy. Love the pictures of him playing boats in the stream, he looks like the very best dad. Love the story of the cake decorating as well. Mimi made an excellent job of it. We'll be making something similar here this week. CJ xx

Nicoline says: June 01, 2018 at 03:13 AM

Hello from Holland, and a Happy Birthday to Paul! I read you blog, really enjoying all the gorgeous pictures you share and the stories etc.
I LOVE to see you doing all these "simple" things with your darling daughter!
You are often out in the woods, or near a stream, and water etc, and I just wondered if you have heard of a delightful little game called "pooh sticks"....It's fun to play! We were visiting a few country homes in the UK recently, and there were little wooden boxes next to a bridge, all ready filled with twigs, ready for children (and adults too) to play with!
Happy summer to you, and best wishes from Holland,
Nicoline

Happy birthday to Andy !
I love this post, every word , every photo, so warm. It really represents your busy family live.
Have a nice weekend, love Manon

Lynn Marie says: June 01, 2018 at 05:21 AM

I don't know what I like best: the fabulous Birthday cake that Amelia decorated for her Dad or the yarn or the day at the creek---I always LOVE your photos and the stories of your life. Thanks so much for your beautiful blog. Anxiously awaiting the Summer cross-stitching reveal ☺.

Nancy Mosley says: June 01, 2018 at 05:33 AM

It looks like you had a wonderful time celebrating Andy's birthday! I love the neat places you all go too. They look so inviting. You can tell that Amelia has learned so much watching her creative momma over the years. I love her cake!! It's cheerful and looks delicious!!! My daughter adored Calico Critters and I'm saving them for grandchildren one day, Lord willing. :) Right now I have 4 teenagers. Look forward to seeing your new cross-stitch pattern. Happy June 1st!!!

Beautiful post! I read all the Little House books as a kid, over and over and then re-read them and other books about Laura as an adult. I may check out Prairie Fires.
For a minute there I was wondering what Sylvester Stallone was doing at Princess Caroline's wedding.

Oh my goodness! Andy’s cake reminds me of the food fight scene in the movie “Hook”! I always enjoy your posts, thank you!

Oh, tears and laughter! What a beautiful scrapbook of pictures you have taken of your family life! Thank you so much for sharing with us. The way you have incorporated old toys into everyday life is just so fun to see, and the love in Andy's actions. Was Amelia very much distressed about her sandwich?

Cathy Smallwood says: June 01, 2018 at 06:52 AM

Timeline...my father was a paratrooper in WW2. He saw action on D day and lots of other campaigns (a-la Band of Brothers. He was in the Battle of the bulge and seriously wounded in December 1944. He married my mother in 1947. I was born 1948 followed by my sister in 1950 and my brother in ‘53. He abandoned the family just a few weeks after my brother’s birth. (He did come back and try to reconcile but my mother said no)We had to go live with my grandparents. My mother was humiliated, shocked and devastated. Her hatred of my dad for this permeiated our entire world. No thought or consideration was ever given to my dad’s mental condition or health. He was bad....the mention of his name brought condemnation. We were denied any chance of exposure to him. Mother remarried. For many years I had an ache in my heart I thought was because he didn’t love me, I still don’t know ...but after seeing Band of Brothers I have a better understanding of him. PTSD was not treated much back then. Perhaps he suffered...but I know how you feel about searching....I choose to believe he loved me.

Ok, not a trite series, but oh such good, easy, gentle reads:

Maisie Dobbs
https://jacquelinewinspear.com/books/maisie-dobbs/

There's a whole pile of them to keep you busy. I adore them, so far...

Hi Alicia - And Happy Birthday Andy. What a cake - a real work of art. I love all the color. I also love that you are branching out into other things to make and sell - you are a marvel. Can't wait to see the yarn and lotions and potions. Have a great weekend. Kristin

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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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Photography

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.