Posts filed in: December 2005

January Toss

comments: 17

Dressers6 Though not quite January, the Tossing is already in effect (thank you Erica for that apt descriptor -- I'd never heard it before but I'm now going to go around saying it to myself daily). Yesterday, I got two new dressers. How excited was I. These are my first grown-up dressers, believe it or not, and the sock, underwear, and t-shirt tossing that went on yesterday afternoon was like early New Year's Eve in Times Square -- the hooting, the tossing, the exclamations. "I'm going to have a drawer just for my bathing suits!" shouted I.
     "How many bathing suits do you have?" said he.

It turns out that I actually didn't wind up having room for a bathing suit drawer, after all, but never mind. I couldn't have been happier. All my clothes fit beautifully in these two pieces -- hardwooded with dovetailed joints and brand new knobs -- and my newly cleaned up closet. When everything was refolded, extra unworn stuff turned out, and all placed in neat stacks and on its own hangers, it became very clear: I don't need any new clothes, I needed new dressers. I counted 47 skirts. That seems excessive, actually. But I love skirts and made (or designed) most of them myself so it was nice to see them hanging so expectantly again. Previous to yesterday they had been folded up willy-nilly and stuffed into one of those hanging shoe bag things. That's just wrong.

Childhoodbedroom It's unbelievable how happy storage makes me. I sat for about 45 minutes on the dog's bed and stared at my dressers in a state of utter peace and joy. I'm not kidding. When I mentioned in a previous post about the background in photos being a singularly reliable way of remembering how it was, and perhaps indicating something about how it will be, I was thinking entirely about this picture. It's my sister Julie in our childhood bedroom circa summer 1994, right before we both left home. When I look at this picture even now, I remember the panic I felt in that clutter then; our house was 1,200 square feet (and over 100 years old, with only two closets in the entire place), and five of us lived there for over twenty years (my parents for almost thirty). My sisters and I shared a room for much of that time, well into high school and vacations from college. I wish I could say that this particular picture shows something unusually cramped about the state of our quarters in general, but it doesn't; it's quite an average glimpse, and yes those are her dresses hanging from the ceiling. My childhood dream, aside from wanting a horse, was to have a small, empty desk with a few sharpened pencils and a banker's lamp where I could do my homework. I had gotten a Laura Ashley decorating catalog somewhere around eighth grade, and I bonded with it so ferociously that those lightened, calico-ed spaces imprinted themselves and became synonymous with my vision -- both childhood and adult -- of comfort and order and serenity, and happiness.

I love my new dressers. Thank you so much, lovely husband, loveliest of people, for this early birthday present. You see me as no one else ever has.

A good notion said Mr Salteena

comments: 12

Studiomag "Ethels room was indeed a handsome compartment with purple silk curtains and a 4 post bed draped with the same shade. The toilit set was white and mouve and there were some violets in a costly varse. Oh I say cried Ethel in supprise. I am glad you like it said Bernard and here we have yours Alf. He opened the dividing doors and portrayed a smaller but dainty room all in pale yellow and wild primroses. My own room is next the bath room said Bernard it is decerated dark red as I have somber tastes. The bath room has got a tip up bason and a hose thing for washing your head. A good notion said Mr Salteena who was secretly getting jellus."
     -- Daisy Ashford (aged 9) from The Young Visiters, 1919; via The Sweet Life: Reflections on Home and Garden (Chronicle, 2001)

This photo (if you click on it, I think it will look nicer) has been stuck in my imagination for a while. From the December 2004 issue of Martha Stewart Living in an article about calligraphy, this pretty collection is my new inspiration for repainting and reorganizing the studio. Thank you to everyone who suggested places to look for ideas; I love seeing people's work spaces more than anything. I find keeping craft and sewing supplies organized to be an absolutely daunting and hellish task. The potential for it all to turn into a yarny, tangled, unfolded mess is just so huge, at least for me. I'll admit this pic is a bit precious and unrealistic -- multiply each of these genres of supplies by about 40 and you'll get a sense of the sheer volume of stuff I have, and none of it near so charming. But wouldn't a little mug of colorful knitting needles (surrounded by at least a 12-inch no-clutter zone) on my desk be a simple, cheerful goal? I could sit and look at it and think adorably, "Now, what shall I knit to-day?" Yes. That's what I want.

Isn't it weird that we find ourselves so utterly ready for a little paring down and reconfiguring in January? I feel like this happens to me without fail every single year. I mean, I know it's cliched, but the urge is nonetheless and relentlessly there. A good notion said Mr. Salteena. Now, where is the energy to match?

Antiques, and Not Antiques

comments: 16

Blueygreenpottery72dpi It's disturbing how lazy one can become in so little time. I was supposed to be working on our belated Christmas cards this week -- I've been horridly tardy on these for years now, and I know there are family and friends out there who think we don't care about them anymore. I hope they aren't reading this, the evidence of my sloth. Left to my own devices, I've done nothing but putter around for the past two days, shuffling through my regular antique shopping venues, vaguely looking for my usual favorites: aqua blue creamers under $8, charming children's planters under $12 (I'm extremely picky about these and feel they have to have very cute personalities before I'll even consider turning them over to see the price), buttons still on sweetly illustrated cards (these I cherish, but can't really afford), teensy tiny chairs, and '40s-'60s sewing patterns. Today, the creamer in the foreground for $4, and a dozen or so vintage doll-dress and Barbie-clothes patterns from the '50s. It's been fun to just slip-slap around aimlessly -- the stores are rather empty and picked over, so you really have to dig, which I don't mind and actually prefer.

One thing I noticed was the vaguely disturbing trend for the dealers to include lots of reproductions in their settings, alongside the actual antiques. In fact, some booths offered mostly new stuff, styled to look old. Much of it I recognize from looking at manufacturer's catalogs and magazines, but if I didn't know better, I would be fooled. (Please note, I'm not a professional antique-r by any means, of course, just someone who appreciates things from other lives.) Nevertheless, it seems like the dealers should be required to indicate on their tags when something is reproduction, I think? I don't know if there are rules among the malls about this, but I know that as a shopper, I found myself completely skipping booths where I could see lots of new things whose tags didn't indicate their contemporary provenance. I guess it's my own fault if I don't know the dif, but I just didn't want to have to think that hard (on vacation, lazy, etc.).

The quilt in the background of this photo was made by my husband's grandma, the aforementioned Ruth of the brooch on my sister-in-law-made neckerchief. She had given him her car in the late '80s, before he left for college, and this quilt was in the trunk. I'm not quite sure when it was made; I'm guessing '60s? I don't really know what a postage-stamp quilt looks like, but I'm guessing, this. Although he (I) got it by slippery default, it has become a bit of a cornerstone in my collection of vintage stuff and in my style in general -- I appreciate it more than ever, almost fifteen years since. Picture me hugging it with eyes closed and a Snoopy-ish jig happening below and you'll see how I feel about it.

It's inspiring to me because a) it's not square -- it's trying to be square, but it is most definitely rhombuzoid; b) it's comprised of so many bright and clashing colors, which I would never do naturally but, it turns out, the freedom inherent in that is what I love most about this thing; so, a lesson there; and c) it's is the work of someone who liked tough little things. These squares are each about a finished square inch. Can you imagine? And they are zig-zagged within an inch of their lives. This is the sturdiest quilt I have ever seen, and I take that greatly to heart.

This Year, I Finished It!

comments: 19

Finishedwreath I did, I finished it. It was not a quick project! But I desperately wanted to finish it by the end of the day on Christmas (knowing, of course, how quickly I am "over" Christmas the minute it passes, though I try not to be). When I was a kid, we always opened all of our presents on Christmas morning, rushed to mass, then retreated to whatever corners we could find at home and delved quietly into our new books, clothes, and craft stuff for several long hours before going to our grandma's for dinner. Every year for several years I would lie on my bed and draw something on Christmas afternoon -- for a long time, it was pictures from Camelot in colored pencil. I'd forgotten about this little tradition until Sunday: Andy unfortunately had to be at the hospital; our house was recovering from our party the night before, its prognosis poor (i.e.: I couldn't bring myself to really put everything back in order yet, feeling incomparably lazy); and I settled into the quiet, silver hours to finish my wreath, something just for me. It felt so much like those old afternoons spent drawing, thinking about the year, the special quiet magic of the day. I think some of that spirit found its way into the wreath. I didn't finish it until it had long been dark outside. I wished I had remembered to stitch a tiny "2005" into one of the leaves, for posterity. I guess it's not officially too late; we still have four more days of the year.

Before, During, and After

comments: 5

Livingroom_3Before: All is calm, all is bright.

Blurrypresents_2During: Quick kids a-blur opening presents on a slow shutter speed.

Snuggledpups_2 After: Pups, all snug in their beds, waiting for Santa.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Socks like Brach's

comments: 22

Brachsandsocks_8 I tell my sister to come over this morning. "Okay, put on those socks and then stand on that chair."
     "I didn't shave my legs."
     "I don't think it will show. I'll Photoshop it for you if it does."
     "Why are you taking a picture of these? Are you going to sell them?"
     "No, I made them for my friend for Christmas and I have to give them to her soon."
     "I know, but why are you taking a picture of them?"
     "I love those kind of candies."
     "Dude, get on the chair."

Table for One at Ella Posie

comments: 18

Pho_shop_frontwin3 It's slow in the shop here today, strangely. Perhaps everyone is past the point of no return, and it's gift cards and on-line/overnight-it from now on? On the Posie web site, I've finally said I can't ship orders until after January 1, 2006, and when I uploaded that change to the index page I swear I could feel my whole body relax. Phew. Made it.

Surviving the Christmas season in retail seems to be about pacing, and boundaries. It can be easy to lose your "own" holiday in the frenzy of the store's holiday. It's so hard to say no to things, but the older I get, the easier it gets, somehow -- historically, both body and mood have rebelled in ways that trouble me when I overbook myself. I noticed on my way to work this morning that there were fewer cars in the parking apron where I like to put my car for the day; people are knocking off of work early and I think it's wonderful. Don't you think that everyone -- no matter who you are or what you do -- needs time to take a break and find some peaceful, quiet moments in what can be a treacherous season of activity? In retail, things are frenzied -- there is so much pressure to make up for the slow times of the year, especially for little tiny businesses like ours, who can't compete with the 50%-off before-Christmas sales offered by Mervyn's (I saw this on a commercial last night). Deep down, I know we have much more to offer than a discount, but still, it's hard not to feel pressured by these forces. I'm sitting in here by myself, after all.

But my window display is pretty, isn't it?

Oh the Weather Outside Was Frightful!

comments: 6

Ardenmakinghouse_1 But we had no place to go, and were fine with the snow! My dream came true and we actually had a snowstorm yesterday. I didn't even realize it until it had been happening for 15 minutes at least, so busy was I, cleaning the kitchen and putting candies in little bowls for our gingerbread houses. When I saw, I immediately went back to the kitchen and cranked up the hot cider. Now it really, really feels like Christmas and I am happy.

Ardenshouse_1 Uncle Andy was not so happy about this, and slid down Pill Hill in Mr. Pringles (my sister and brother-in-law's yellow wagon) and left it downtown, eager to bus it the rest of the way. By the time he got home at 9:30 p.m. (a 15-hour day) he was not half so happy as we were, gingerbread houses made, slippers on, and us tucked upstairs reading about the Brambly Hedge mice preparing for the Snow Ball.

Poor Uncle Andy, back at work today, too. There's slushy ice and thick gray skies -- who knows what weather awaits. Portland is ill-equipt to handle such storms -- it is hilly, and gets icy, and dangerous, so it takes very little for me to decide to stay in, no matter what I "need" to do. I'm about to hit the sofa with a Fair Isle sock on my double-points and some banana bread from the neighbors. I'm gonna squeeze every minute I can out of this one, to be sure.

Slow it Goes (or, A Progress Report)

comments: 10

Wreath2 Here starts my version of the Marie Claire Idees wreath. It took longer than I thought to wrap the sweater sleeves around the form, it being a curve and they being straight. The back is a mess of pins, but the front looks okay, I think. Consistently I was tempted to change the arrangement, or add something else, but then I would think, No, I want to see what happens when I constrain myself to a strict interpretation of their plan (other than color, obviously), even though my tendency is to do something other, out of habit, as we crafties generally do. I find great relief in this, and on the rare occasion that I make something just for myself, I almost always use a plan that's been designed by someone else, because damn I get tired sometimes.

It's the Sunday before Christmas and -- I feel like this last week really snuck up on me. Today is my day off and I am absolutely overjoyed for a little bit of time to myself. The wind has been ripping through our neighborhood for the past two nights -- I can't sleep at all. Friday night car alarms and various sirens volleyed their calls from every direction -- there were at least two going at any given time, off in the distance somewhere, but just loud enough so that I couldn't stop hearing them. When I woke early Saturday, I heard them still. Last night, no sirens, just that intermittent banging of things against windows and the whistle of drafts. I don't like wind. It puts me really on edge. I didn't wake until 9 a.m. which is about three hours later than usual, and it was lovely to wake up in a bedroom filled with sunlight! In the middle of winter. The wind clears the clouds and brings the sun. Really pretty.

Gingerbreadhouse This afternoon, gingerbread houses. Notice the plural. Arden is coming to spend the night, and I'd originally bought one for us to do together. Saw this one, in the current issue of Country Home magazine. Started to feel ever-so-slightly proprietary about how I wanted it to be. Knew she would feel the same (ever so slightly), being of strong creative genes herself. Got another house kit, and some Wheat Chex shingles for myself. Also, these little chocolate pebbles at Winco. What's a little ambition the week before Christmas? I have Olive, the Other Reindeer all cued up on the DVD player and I'm looking forward to some relaxing, crafting-with-a-kid time.

Ella Posie, our store, is closed from December 24th through January 1, and secretly I long for the vacation, and a good snowstorm. I'm going to try mightily not to think about how much bookkeeping I need to do for tax purposes (like, all of it, into the computer, for 2005, I'm so sad that I didn't keep on top of this the way I swore up and down I would when I was doing the exact same thing last year) and save it for January, and take this time to really reflect and recharge. And reorganize the studio.

If any of you have any inspiring paint colors, studio photos, or ideas that you can share with me or point me toward, I would love it, honestly. I feel quite uninspired by this task and desperately need the motivation. Oh, and by the way, I have no budget for this, other than for paint, so standing shelves, a table, some big cracker jars -- this is what I'm working with. I love the room itself so much, and I feel like I've just let it get out of control. I want to take everything out and then put half of it back in, in a better way. I'm going for a much sparser, more Scandinavian-like space. I need bigger pockets of air in my life in 2006.

A Long Drink of Water

comments: 10

Littlebig_cover The other evening, I lurched around the bookstore desperately, trying to find something to please me. All my life I have been a dedicated if capricious reader; I've read almost every night since childhood, but the number of books I'e stopped reading is countless. My handful of favorites is exclusive; I reread them more times than you might think it possible or necessary, and when I discover something new that obsesses me in that old, familiar way, I can think of almost nothing else until I'm (nervously -- now what will I do?) at the last page.

Last week, Andy had mentioned that on Christmas Eve we couldn't forget to toss in the fireplace  our "letters to Santa," the smoke of which goes out into the atmosphere on its way up North for Santa to decipher. This idea comes straight from one of my favorites, Little, Big by John Crowley. It's a book I was introduced to in college and had read aloud to Andy on our long drives through snowy mountain passes at night, when we lived in Montana, and which he eventually reread himself, so we share it now. It's a book that sort of makes its way into your life, and then -- you're different.

Originally published in 1981, I think there is a little bit of an underground following surrounding it; it made its way around my circle of college friends and its references pepper our collective vocabulary (and choice of baby names). It has gone in and out of print over the years; my several tattered copies make a patchwork of covers. Lo and behold, in my desperate quest to get something before they kicked me out of the store Monday night, I turned and was shocked to see this on the shelf right in front of me -- back in print (actually, it's been available for a while, I just didn't know). I grabbed it and ran to the cash-wrap. I could hardly wait to get into bed (see below).

I was introduced to Little, Big by my friend Erika, probably fifteen years ago now. I think she was doing her master's in English at the University of Chicago at the time, because I was visiting her in Hyde Park. She was older than I was; I didn't know her well (and have since lost touch), but I looked up to her and was always flattered by her attention. I'd plucked the book from her shelf, and she came over to show me. "Oh, here" she said, "read this." Page 2.

     She was not much in his mind as he walked, though for sure she hadn't been far from it often in the last nearly two years he had loved her; the room he had met her in was one he looked into with the mind's eye often, sometimes with the trepidation he had felt then, but often nowadays with a grateful happiness; looked in to see George Mouse showing him from afar a glass, a pipe, and his two tall cousins: she, and her shy sister behind her.
     It was in the Mouse townhouse, last tenanted house on the block, in the library on the third floor, the one whose mullioned windows were patched with cardboard and whose dark rug was worn white in pathways between the door, bar and windows. It was that very room.
     She was tall.
     She was nearly six feet tall, which was several inches taller than Smoky; her sister, just turned fourteen, was as tall as he. Their party dresses were short, and glittered, hers red, her sister's white; their long, long stockings glistened. What was odd was that tall as they were they were shy, especially the younger, who smiled but wouldn't take Smoky's hand, only turned away further behind her sister.
     Delicate giantesses. The older glanced toward George as he made debonair introductions. Her smile was tentative. Her hair was red-gold and curly-fine. Her name, George said, was Daily Alice.
     He took her hand, looking up. "A long drink of water," he said, and she began to laugh. Her sister laughed too, and George Mouse bent down and slapped his knee. Smoky, not knowing why the old chestnut should be so funny, looked from one to another with a seraphic idiot's grin, his hand unrelinquished.
     It was the happiest moment of his life.

I hope you like this book.

About Alicia Paulson


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




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.