Posts filed in: March 2006

Andy Hosts a Party

comments: 3

Stpatsinvite1_1 March 10, 2006

Dear Arden,
Top 'o the mornin' to ya! Blarney and Too Rye Aye and all that.
I was wondering. . . can you come to our St. Patrick's Day dinner party next week?
It will be on Friday the 17th at 7:00 and I will be making an Irish dish called corned beef and cabbage and we'll drink root beer (or regular beer). We might also have Lucky Charms cereal for dessert (but I don't know about the dessert yet)
Can you come? Please1! Oh! And please wear something green. I am also inviting grandma Sue and aunt Susie (I'm pretty sure she won't be able to come - too far and too short notice). Will you invite your brother and mom and dad? Be sure to tell them to please wear something green. I sure hope to see you on St. Paddy's Day! Blimey!
Love,
Uncle Andy

Worse for Wear, though Still in Bloom

comments: 14

Aftersnow2Here are the primroses after yesterday's snowy coverage, a little floppy, a little disheveled, but who's not. I took the day off yesterday, completely. It felt really good to do that after such an emotional week! (And, just real quick again I wanted to say thank you to everyone for your comments lately that are still coming in, and your emails, and your references on blogs -- I know I won't be able to answer most of them personally because, quite frankly, whenever I read them I start sobbing again, but I just wanted to make sure that you know how important your words were to me. I printed that whole thing out and put it into my special folder of things that I keep forever. Thank you.) So, I puttered around alone and watched the snow fall -- by the way, it's falling again, big fat hockey-puck-like snowflakes. I've never seen snowflakes so big. I watched the news yesterday afternoon and they said the snow on the mountain (Mt. Hood, a 14,000 mountain about an hour away from Portland, seen rising luminously above the east side when it's clear) was the best in several years. So exciting for them there! We didn't get up to Timberline Lodge this winter. If you ever consider coming to Portland, you should definitely try and make this a stop on your tour. It's the ultimate monument to the saving graces of handcrafts. Built at the height of the Great Depression, Timberline was commissioned by the federal Works Progress Administration and built entirely by hand -- from the construction of the building itself (on a remote site on the side of the mountain, no less) to each and every piece of furniture, rug, watercolor, and banister -- by unemployed craftspeople who taught others, others with no experience whatsoever, to hammer, nail, stitch, carve, and weave that building into existence. And what a cathedral of spirit is it. It's a place that is dear to me and to generations of Oregonians. When you go there, try to stay overnight at the Lodge if you can. It's not the height of luxury by any means -- but in some ways, it's the most fantastic place you'll ever stay, especially if you are someone who believes in the power of handmade things. The optimism and healing that the project must have engendered in its creators is evident in every step of that circling tower. It represents the best of Oregon, and is beloved. And covered in new snow!

Cupcakes2_1 Anyhoo, yesterday I decided I desperately needed a day of puttering, and cooking, so I made Thai Yellow Pumpkin and Seafood Curry from Nigella Bites (which was delish, although I used halibut instead of salmon because I don't like salmon) and some St. Patrick's Day cupcakes for the girls at work. I know this will probably get me kicked out of the craft-blog community for saying so but: I just don't really like chocolate. I want to. I want to experience the life-changing I-don't-even-need-a-vacation-after-this-one-bite-of-Scharffenberger, but all I can think of, every time I cave and do something chocolate, is Nice, but I wish I'd left out the chocolate. Also, if anyone has any cupcake-baking advice, please advance it this way. Almost every single time I bake cupcakes, two things happen: I wind up with way more batter than they say I'll have, and so I have to make more cupcakes than they say I will, and then when they come out of the oven they shrink like little old wrinkled marshmallows, pulling so far away from the sides of the tin that they're just floating around. I put the two biggest cupcakes in the front of this picture, so they look better here than they actually do in real life. I want a dense, heavy cupcake, not a miniature one that feels like a March breeze will blow it out of my hand (mouth). I think you'll tell me that I'm beating it too much, and there is too much air in the batter. Maybe I should mix the flour in by hand, instead of by Kitchen Aid?

Well, I have to go to work today, so I'll be able to catch up on blogs I haven't been reading. Also, I hear that the Family Circle Easy Knitting spring issue is out on newsstands, though I can't find it. I have a capelet pattern in there I've been wanting to see. The magazine has been in a bit of transition -- no longer published by Soho, it was sold to Meredith (who owns Better Homes and Gardens), though it's still called Family Circle EK. To further confuse, my pattern is crocheted. Also, the web site associated with the mag is out of date, and the editor says they will eventually have a new site but no current plans for that now. So it will be interesting to see what this looks like, and if it is good. There are so many new grocery-store-type knitting mags out there all of a sudden, have you noticed? My question is, is it better to have more magazines or better magazines, in general, in the industry? I guess we'll see.

Tricked

comments: 15

Frosting2I expect this scene played out in more than one bedroom across Portland this morning.

6:01 a.m.
The Hubby (dressed and on way out door, running upstairs to say goodbye): " 'Bye, hon. I love you."
Me (asleep): "M mmmm mmm, mmm." (That's "I love you, too," in Sleep-ese, the universal language of sleepers.)
Hubby: "I have to go right away because I have to go ship all your thirty packages you asked me to ship on my way to work."
Me (feigning sleep): ZZZZzzzzzzzz.
Hubby: "It snowed."
Me (bolting upright): WHAT?!?!?!
Hubby (trying to push me back down): "Shhh shhh! It's okay!"
Me (screeching): WHA-WHA-WHA-WHAT?????
Me: "My anemones!"
Me: "My primroses!"
Me: "My SAXIFRAGIA!!! That cost $7.99!!!"
Me: "And also, there are only fifteen packages, not thirty. Oh and, but, thank you for doing that, too, anyway, never mind." (He was already gone.)
Me: "Where am I."

A frosting of snow on the rooftops, pretty behind the plum blossoms, though striking fear in the hearts of spring worshipers. It feels pretty warm out there to me now, at 7:45, but there must have been quite a bit of snow, because it's awfully slushy on the porch.

In case you're wondering why this would elicit so many exclamation points, it's because, well, we barely ever get any snow, even in December let alone March, and I was talking to my girlfriend who lives in northern Wisconsin (who used to live in Portland) last night and really kind of rubbing it in about how pretty and green everything was turning here already (my subliminal tactic for getting her to return to Portland), when they are still mired in icy slush. (Nevertheless, I was gnashing my teeth with pure envy when she said that all of her friends live within walking distance of each other -- ah, to live in a college town again! Man!) She reminded me that it once snowed in June when we all lived in Montana. That's just wrong in ever so many ways. Rooftop snow in March in Portland is enough to make me twitch.

Update, 9:29 a.m.: Snow falling everywhere!

Update, 2:08 p.m.: Seems to have stopped completely. I am okay with that.

Spring '06 Craft Mix

comments: 20

Presents1Is it my imagination or are fabrics just getting better, and better, and better? Like, the whole industry has suddenly taken a giant upswing? I went to Bolt, a new-ish fabric "boutique" here in Portland on Alberta, and the place was just sparkling with lovely prints (including a bunch of the new Denyse S. ones, of which I got three). These are some wonderful prezzies I got last week: a whole bunch of beautiful half-yards from the beautiful and illustrious Lisa, and this little hot-orange bloom and a mixed CD of music to craft to from dear, generous Blair.

I don't actually remember from whom Lisa said she got the fabric, or if some of it is vintage, but what is it about getting stuff that someone else picks out for you that is so exciting? These pieces are excellent for me. It's also such a relief (to me anyway, since I am terrible at this) to listen to music that someone else picks out sometimes. Blair's CD has stuff I hadn't thought about it a while, like Dinosaur Jr. and New Order, those old friends. Around here it's been the Arcade Fire non-stop lately (and I, not Andy, discovered them, which is really weird because they are really good, and by his own admission he had listened to the CD "about twenty times" in one week), as well as Kathleen Edwards, the ubiquitous Modest Mouse, and Wilco, the old stand-by. I'm pretty conservative, musically, if only out of sheer laziness, and teenager intimidation at the music store. I go in and buy a used Kate Bush cassette (and there's my first problem -- what dork still buys cassettes) and slap it proudly on the counter, daring the 19-year-old punker to scoff -- like, go ahead, ya little whipper-snapper, I can take it -- and then of course he does scoff, and I can't take it, and I just grab my tape and sing to Hounds of Love in the privacy of my old car, thinking privately, "He's crazy! This is awesome! Kate is awesome! " Never mind that Kate probably has seven grandchildren by now or something and I'm still thinking she's "alternative," but you know. And this is why I like to receive CDs made by other people. Thank you, Blair! Thank you, Lisa! You rock!

Hole in the Sky

comments: 16

HeartsSpring, with rusty little hearts all a-bloom. The front yard looks great! (The back yard is another story -- there is nary a blade of grass to be found: all mud, all the time. It seems it will not grow for us -- it goes from mud to bone-dry dirt.) But the front yard looks great. I'm so glad I got bossy a little bit earlier this year and used "feel sorry for me" weekend to get a little yard work out of Nurse Paulson. It's not just for me, though, it's for everyone (this is what I told him), including passers-by, because who doesn't feel sheer joy at seeing those fronds unfurling out of the muck. Spring in the Northwest, if you haven't experienced it, is absolutely magical. It's like a fairyland, tiny petals falling everywhere.

Wall_1 We are full-on amateurs in the garden. My guiding principals are like "If it grows, that's great. If it doesn't, rip it out. If it sort of does, chop it back to something green and see what happens." I do much, much better with fake flowers than with real. I will say, however, that I used those little water crystal things last year -- I don't know what they're called, but they come in a package and you mix them into your potting soil for your potted plants and they swell up with water and keep your plants alive about a million times longer -- they are worth every penny. Can you see the little daffodil bulb sitting on top of the dirt on the left of the picture above? So cute. It must have popped out over the winter.

Clematis2 My old teacher Bill Kittredge wrote a book called Hole in the Sky. I think the phrase is used metaphorically to describe many different kinds of things, but I take it literally. It's what I (and probably a bunch of others -- duh) call that phenomenon when the sky is dark, and thick with purple clouds layered back like waves. And then there is a little hole in the dark clouds, and the sun shines through that little tiny opening and lights everything on the ground, turning the greens fluorescent and the air clear as water. The first time I experienced it was when I lived in Montana (appropriately -- this is where I knew Bill) and it happens here in Portland quite often, usually around sunset when the angles are low. It is gorgeously beautiful when it does, and it never lasts long; you must drop whatever you're doing and run outside, and look all around, at everything. You can sometimes tell it's happening from inside the house because the interior light will change -- it almost feels like a solar eclipse. It happens a lot in the spring, when the sky is melodramatic and given to capricious excesses.

Of course, a hole in the sky is a metaphor, too. And this blog has felt like that the past couple of days for me. I poked a little hole out and shined a bit of wavery light. You blasted me right back with a million candlewatts. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. Thank you.

Him and Me = We

comments: 13

AnemonesThank you. For each and every one of your comments, and your kindnesses, we both thank you, from way deep down inside. For the past day we've been in and out of the house, and occasionally one of the other of us would stop by the computer to see what someone had said. There'd be silence for a few minutes, and then you'd hear sniffle . . . sniffle . . . . Then we'd switch places and the other would hear sniffle . . . sniffle . . . . Then a couple of times you'd hear BOO hoo hoo hoo hooooooo! Hoo hoo hoo! (that was me). He'd rush over and start reading and it'd be real quiet and then I'd hear sniffle . . . sniffle . . . . . . . . . snort [nose blowing].

Thank you, everybody, for listening. It means a lot, to us both. Thank you.

Love, a

An Anniversary

comments: 183

Foot Today is the eighth anniversary of my accident. Exactly eight years ago I was plowed over by a garbage truck while I was crossing the street. I was in the crosswalk, crossing with the light, and the garbage truck turned into the street I was crossing and mowed me down. The guy said the sun was in his eyes and he never saw me, and didn't know that it had even happened until he heard the scream. I just said one word: "No!"

This was before September 11, or the tsunami, or Hurricane Katrina, those horrifying, unthinkable things we watched for paralyzed minutes thinking, "That can't really be happening, can it?" It's what I was thinking when I realized that the truck was accelerating and I wasn't going to make it entirely out of the way. I wish it had occurred to me just a few seconds earlier that indeed it was happening. (I'm grateful, of course, that it didn't occur to me one second later.) Sometimes I think that if I had watched those towers fall before the morning of my accident I wouldn't have wasted a single second believing that the world couldn't possibly blow apart in such a . . . prosaic . . . way as that colossal giving-over-to-gravity was. He got my ankle and foot. I hit the ground. I had what is known as a "de-gloving," and that's as literal as it sounds; the tire that ran me over stripped my ankle and foot entirely of soft tissue and skin like it was taking off a glove. Tendons and busted bones remained. It was 50/50 try to save it/amputate it. We chose try to save it, but it was a tough call. They amputated my toes, and reconstructed my foot out of a big muscle from my back, and most of the skin from my left thigh, all the way around, and butt cheek. I was 29, a newlywed, newly arrived in Portland. If you had asked me where the hospital was, I wouldn't have been able to tell you. We barely knew our way around town. I was still unpacking presents and putting them away.

I remember seeing Andy's face above me in the ER. I knew things were bad from the way the docs were acting. Everyone was moving very quickly. I truly believed that their IVs, their machines, wouldn't work on me; I wasn't like other people. All my life I had never felt like anyone else, and now that would bear out, and everyone would know what I had been trying to tell them -- instead of blood I expected to leak green slime. I had never been in a hospital before. I was shocked to wake up after -- to have survived -- the first surgery, absolutely shocked. I know it sounds bizarre, but I truly didn't think that the laws of nature applied to my physiology, and every day, as the doctors came in and said that things "looked good," I was filled with a sort of cosmic, timeless relief: I was human. My systems responded to treatment. I knew I would need every possible advantage I could get in order to recover, including professional encouragement, and regular human blood, which it turns out I do in fact have. If they said to me, as they made their rounds each morning, "You're such a good healer!" I would quiver with a sort of sobbing gratitude that was about so much more than a foot. If they forgot one morning to say it, I would ask desperately, seriously, "Am I still a good healer?" Yes, they would say, you still are. I felt entirely unequal to the situation in every possible way. Andy slept in a chair by the side of my bed every night. He met the docs at the door at sunrise each morning with a legal pad of questions. He held my hands and brushed my hair. He was not a nurse then, he was a geologist. We knew on the first day in the hospital that he would become a nurse, though. He had that look of epiphany about him. He did become one in 2003. Visitors came and went. Nurses, total strangers, cared for me so tenderly, changing my dressings and washing me, it broke my heart. I got a lot of flowers. I remember one day when I was getting a ton of them. On the fifth or so bouquet of the day, a gargantuan arrangement, I wailed, overwhelmed by the outpouring of floral support. The nurse who brought it in started to cry, too. We looked at the tag to see who the roses were from. Lo and behold, they were for someone else entirely; she had brought them to me by mistake. Oh God we laughed at that. It was the first time I'd even smiled in weeks. I don't remember many, many things about the hospital, but I remember that moment, when we laughed. I had a vision about the world when I was there. It came to me one night as if a little door opened and I looked through and eavesdropped on the truth. I saw that the world was constantly falling apart, it was always in a state of little things always falling apart, and then there were these brigades of individual human angels, with kind eyes, apples and stitches, repairing, fixing, mending, patting, bandaging the wounds of the world, and putting it back together, piece by tiny piece. I hadn't known that repair was done on a gestural level, a cellular one. It shocked me that I hadn't seen it that way before.

It was a sad, scary time. I cried constantly. I was very, very scared. I was in the hospital for a month. When I got home, it was suddenly spring and I was so grateful I hadn't missed it. I watched it roll into the yard from my bedroom window and I felt hopeful watching things bloom in slo-mo. I was in bed for months as my patchworked skin grew back, my re-routed blood vessels networked, my back muscle became foot, my bones reknitted themselves. The cat plastered herself to my side and growled if anyone got too close to me. Andy went back to work full-time, and continued to do all the cooking, shopping, laundry, and the general endless bussing and fussing required by someone who can't walk, not to mention the emotional coaching and salving of heartache, and panic. Every night he slept on the floor, next to the bed, and I woke, crying again, at 2 or 3 a.m., needing to be put on the bedpan. (Sometimes now, when I'm too lazy to get out of bed in the morning, I will say to him, "Hon, can't you just bring me the bedpan?" and he will scream, "Hon! No!" and we will think this is hilarious, the way that only people who've used bedpans in the first year of marriage do.) I don't remember him as anything other than cheerful, hopeful, confident, endlessly energized, though I'm sure that when he wasn't with me he was as scared and tired as I was. It took six surgeries over six months to fashion me a sort-of foot. I walked for the first time, unaided, almost ten months later, because I forgot my crutches at Thanksgiving. It took years before I had the wherewithal to think about other things. But I will wear this stuff forever. It protects my foot and allows me to walk. I don't take a step without all of it. Obviously I need some new stuff. I never see it from this angle.

Occasionally, I feel a weird nostalgia for my time in bed. The long quiet afternoons. The backyard cats quietly stalking each other under the bridal-veil bush. The absolute removal of all of my responsibilities. My intense focus on whatever I was embroidering. The imaginary world I created in the handwritten scrapbooks I made from my old travel diaries. The reassuring vapidity of daytime TV. The birds that came to the feeder a few feet from where I sat. Letters. No computer. The joy of short and long visits. I heard a story on This American Life several years ago about the strange longing for prison that sometimes affects ex-cons. (It's Act V of Episode 119.) It was really good. I feel that sometimes. It was an incarceration that felt a bit like childhood. You don't usually get to experience that sort of dependence, and boredom, as an adult. There was something incredibly decadent, and illicit, about it somehow.

Last week I could feel March 5th approaching. I'm not big on anniversaries in general, really, but of course, the subconscious always remembers the big ones, doesn't it. This may account for the hissy fits at home, in coffee shops, at work, and a-blog, or possibly I'm just psycho. I wasn't exactly pitch-perfect before all this happened, believe me. Nevertheless, I hope you will forgive my excessiveness lately. Posie means so much to me; it is the Second Alicia. The first one was nervous and flirty, a long-distance walker who had never owned a car, and traveled abroad by herself. This one makes gardens out of fabric, fusses about the house, and tries hard almost all the time. But you know this one. I absolutely do not believe that everything happens for a reason; I never did, and I still don't. I believe that we fashion sense out of the things that happen, and create a kind of meaning in the result. And at the end of the day, you just gotta plow on through! There is no time to waste or worry. There are so many more Alicias to be, I know.

Thank you to everyone who helped me survive, including Dr. M, my plastic surgeon, boy wonder, wherever you are. I am so happy to be alive.

Pretty Birds and Poufy Flowers

comments: 6

Pho_bout_pinkicingrose_lg_1 I love spring. I love the "oomph!" feeling of it, the oomph of everything pushing up, and out, so much more than the "bah-byyyyyyyye" feeling of fall. I sat on my porch this morning in pajamas and a parka, watching the birds play and silently reveling in that half hour of light when the automatic sensor of the front-yard streetlamp hasn't yet alerted the bulb to turn off, but the sky is irreversibly rosy and pregnant. Then there's that little "click," and the light goes off. The split second between dawn and morning.

Pho_birds_maisie_lg_1 That's my favorite time of day. It's so quiet, even on our own street. I went down to the front wall and the parkway and had a look. Brownish. Lots of leaf gunk clogging up the works down there. Lots of roses that didn't get pruned properly. Lots of dead stalky things that never got clipped sticking up at broken angles. And still, an anemone poking through it all, and plum blossoms fluttering. I saw only one other person, my neighbor, and she was in pajamas, too, so we just waved good morning and left the other to her still-drowsy perusals.

Pho_bout_cherry_lg_1 I never, ever thought I was a morning person, but of course I've become one now that I almost never use an alarm clock, and never have to get up early. When I do have to get up early, of course I cannot. The hub wakes up on work days at 5:30 a.m., and I generally beat him to it, and grab the first shower. It's vaguely disturbing how motivated I am by the idea that coffee is brewing, but by 5:50 I can think of nothing on earth so wonderful as that first sip. I would so be in line for fancy coffee makers and such, except that our cabinets sit only like 14 inches or something above the counter, and there is only one coffee maker that I've found that fits below them, and it's just some random one-button Mr. Coffee-type.

Pho_birds_cheerie_lg_1 Isn't this little hunchy guy cute? His name is Cheerie. I finally got the new birds and flower pins put on the site. I messed up the site quite a bit in the process, too. It is so terrifying to change the template, and then watch it update all 372 html files. I just always feel like one wrong button could delete . . . everything. Or at least mess it all up. Which it kind of did. At least the spacing between lines in the sidebar. Which it turned out was kind of okay, but still, not intentional. I feel like Dreamweaver (the site design program) actually knows I am afraid of it, kind of like a horse can feel fear transferred from your butt to its back. Dreamweaver feels my fingers approach, and puts its ears back.

Pho_birds_cora_medI'm so glad that it's spring. Andy started his seeds a couple of days ago. I think he's doing mostly herbs. What are you doing, hon? I never asked. He came up from the basement after getting his stuff in trays and said, "Oh yeah, they sent us this free packet of wildflower seeds. Did you want me to spread those?" NO! No, please! I do know that much, from watching my parents fall for it years ago, and then battle the resulting chaos. They really should label those things "free weeds" and save all us neophytes with tiny suburban plots the grief. It would be so much kinder, really.

Happy Pill to follow the Bitter One

comments: 18

Lance Good medicine. This is Lance, short for Lansopranzole (or Prevacid), given to everyone on the cardiac-care unit. It acts as a gastric-acid-pump inhibitor so that heartburn isn't mistaken for heart attack. My husband made Lance for his patients, so that they would have something to smile at as they're choking down their meds. Lance's tentative though very kind grin worked on me too, though the real thing would've been nice to have this week, as well, as I rushed from corner to corner of my life, ranting. A gastric-acid-pump inhibitor. What a lovely collection of words! I'm guessing that if one wasn't feeling well, they would probably sound pretty good, actually.

Wes2Andy is a sporadic though talented and extremely imaginative knitter. Lance is a modification of Jess Hutch's Odd Fellow from Unusual Toys (which Andy's sister Jen made for us from the book we gave her for Christmas). Andy made Odd Fellow for his nephew Max in Chicago (who, although it was just his birthday and he reportedly got a bazillion toys, wanted Jen's original OF -- how cute is that), and "Wes" is probably winging his way to Illinois as we speak. He stopped in the recording studio first, to pose for a few shots.

WesAndy's first knitting project, years ago now, was a huge basket-stitch (?) green scarf, with a stockinette panel and his initials charted and purled in relief. He was one of those people that learned the basics in about four seconds and was already saying, "This pattern sucks. I'm writing my own." (Not yours, Jess. Yours are awesome.) He knitted every morning on the bus on the way to work, his yarn coming out of a tiny hole he drilled into his vintage briefcase.

And yes, he has a brother, but he's married, too. Sorry.

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.