Posts filed in: July 2006

Flowers in the Vase that I Bought Today

comments: 28

Flowers2Saturday, really. Liked that CSN&Y reference tho. Took the weekend off — ahhh. We puttered around estate saling, buying blooms at that little house by the creek near Reed College, across from the farm stand. The lady cuts flowers from her garden and bundles them up in buckets, and leaves them out on the driveway next to a box where you put $3. I couldn't resist. That's cottage industry, and I adore that house, every time I drive by. The pitcher was already in the car, coming back from an estate sale, and it all matched my little crochet-hook case in a way that inspired me to get out some yarn and relax. Ahhh. Nice weekend. Hope yours was, too.

Gorgeous sunflower photos over at Jenny's today. She's in Italy. Just go see. Dreamy.

Night Tart, Sweet, and Mellow

comments: 46

Cat, yellow and grayI made a tablecloth the other day, a tester present for my friend's birthday. I'm going to send her four sets (I have eight, total) of these thrifted yellow dishes (below) because I know she'll like them. Bridget, who herself is yellow and gray, took the opportunity to get right up on the table and roll around, so this cloth might be mine. . . . I think it will be fun for my friend and me to have the same table setting for our little dinners even though we live on opposite ends of the country.

She grew up in Sycamore, actuallyMy friend grew up in corn country — DeKalb, Illinois, where they also have magical things like frozen custard stands — and as I was peeling the corn for Ina's Cheddar Corn Chowder (minus the cheddar) I swear I could smell all those incredibly hot summer nights we spent driving back and forth across the state on our ways to and from school in our little vintage dresses, in her mom's old car, smoking Marlboro Lights, feet out windows, listening to the Pixies and Jane's Addiction, trying, always trying to figure things out. I hadn't realized that the smell of those summers was actually corn. It made me miss her terribly. But the soup came out very nice. Of course, I ate it alone, but even that seemed okay, to be alone with that memory and savor it, too.

Soup for oneI have been cooking a lot. A lot. I have really, really changed my attitude toward dinner, just regular at-home dinner, because of Ina Garten and this blog. I know I've written about this many times, but it occurred to me last night, as I was setting the table, that this could be an actual change for me, and not just a fad, or a temporary and capricious interest, as so many of mine are. Maybe I am actually someone who can handle going to the grocery store and making nice dinners and tables regularly, not just when people are coming over, or twice a year, at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I noticed that Ina regularly had one or two friends over for dinner on weeknights, and the table is always beautiful, and everyone is taking joy from the whole experience — the shopping, the cooking, the guys who come and fix up the table (it's always guys who come and fix up the table, have you noticed?) — and I know it's all for TV for them, but it's working for me, too. This summer has felt rather chaotic, in some ways: trouble in the world, trouble in the lives of people that I love, the shaky ballcage of change and transition. And shopping, cooking, and caring about the table a little bit has soothed my nerves, even more than crafting has, somehow. Perhaps because cooking's end result is to make other people feel special and taken care of, at least for dinner. Which feels like so little, in some ways, but also the most one can do sometimes.

He did grill the shrimp, actually Now, Mr. Sexy-Shirt over here certainly looks like he doesn't have a care in the world. But he does, I think, and he might be liking all these dinners a little bit. (Note: yellow dishes, as mentioned above.) Nurses work 12-hour shifts, so it makes eating dinner together a bit challenging, but I'm going to try harder to wait for him, especially now that I have a new shoe that lets me walk around a bit later in the day than before. Last night it was getting late by the time he got home from work for Ina's Grilled Herb Shrimp and Mango Salsa, topped off by a plum tart with real pastry cream (my first ever attempt).

Mini-light chandelier It got dark real quick after that, but it was so nice and cool outside that we threw up some lights and hung out for a while. Though I do miss my Midwestern lightning bugs, I must say I appreciate a mosquito-less night even more, and we were unbothered by beasts of any kind, save for the occasional kitty squabble somewhere beyond the fence. The blue jay babies are all grown up and now there are about twelve, shouting routinely at us from every tall vantage point they can score. Summer is halfway over. Have I done what I wanted to do? Yes and no. That's okay. There's still time, though I'm starting to realize that there is an inevitable tinge of regret that colors every August, somehow, and part of growing up is learning to be okay with that, so I'm trying that feeling — calm acceptance — on, too.

Night casseroleTonight we are going to see Crosby Stills Nash and Young with my mom, who was supposed to go with her friends. But her friends weren't able to make it, so passed on their seventh-row seats to us. Seventh row? I don't think I've ever sat in the seventh row at a show in my life. I think it's even at an outdoor venue. It's my mom's first-ever concert. I've never seen Neil Young before, either. Still rockin' the free world after all these years, not fading away. I feel lucky to get to see it.

More California Pottery

comments: 28

China1Square cups are cute. I got all this, along with the creamer and sugar bowl, for $7 at a garage sale last weekend. It's Weil Ware, made in California sometime between 1930 and 1950, and from what I can tell this pattern is called "Rose" in green. The guy who was selling it told me he bought it because he was going to crack it all up and make a mosaic. My dramatic gasp made everyone at the garage sale look up in surprise. "Noooooo!" said I, clutching the stuff to my chest and forcing the money on him before he changed his mind.

China6I don't know too much about Weil Ware but I like all of it that I've seen (except for the bamboo — I don't really like bamboo anything). I'd gotten this little snack set earlier this month at an antique store, and since there are several different patterns from this company that would all coordinate, I'm thinking about looking for at least three more snack sets, in different patterns. They'd make cute dessert-serving stuff. If I had more room, I'd probably collect china. I just love it. I might already be collecting it, in fact. It and Asian groceries with good packaging. Though the fish bouillon, soybean drink, and chrysanthemum beverage are cheaper, at least, and not as heavy.

So Charmed, I'm Sure

comments: 22

PosiebraceletDo you know my friend Jodi Bloom? She makes fantastic things. Several years ago I had her make me a charm bracelet for my birthday. I told her about myself and she put everything together in her inimitable way. It came out even better than I could have dreamed, and contains charms symbolizing all the things I care about in my life: A pink vintage apple blossom, an "A" for Alicia/Andy/Audrey, Illinois and Oregon symbols, leaves and buttons, a rose for Portland, a snowflake for Chicago, a heart for my love, a thimble for my work, a key to my house, a nurse's syringe, an enamel corgi picture, a rosary chain. It's an incredible piece of jewelry.

Sewingbeeleyla2Jodi sent out her So Charmed newsletter over the weekend and I found something else I loved. This necklace is called "Sewing Bee for Leyla" and Jodi is going to redo it for me with different buttons to match my new quilt — gray, yellow, mint, pink, aqua. I'm very excited. I don't wear jewelry that much, but these pieces are more than jewelry. And they're more than pieces of art. They're really personal, especially since Jodi is who she is. Jodi is an intensely creative person with an incredible ability to "see" people. She gets to the heart of things, immediately, and I always have the sense that it is the heart of the thing that interests her more than any other part of thing.

ChinesenewyearEvery piece of jewelry (and other things) that she creates has a story — she is a writer, too, and it shows. She tells stories through charms, and it amazes me that not only does she tell her own stories through her work, she is completely willing, even seems to get energy from, telling other peoples' stories for them. With them. Her work has an intense, humorous, edgy, rich quality to it that feels just like the life I lead, and the lives I am interested in knowing about.

Valerin It's hard to pick favorites from her site to show you here, and on Jodi's site they're always shown in context, with Jodi's ideas and inspiration alongside. I love reading about every piece, who it was made for, and how it came to be. And it's fascinating to click on the photos and see the amazing assortment of little charms themselves. My grandma had a charm bracelet and I remember going through each and every charm, over and over again, marveling and wondering what each charm meant, and where it came from, and why.


But Jodi has a hefty collection of ready-to-wear pieces, too, as well as earrings, handbags, and now even dresses. Everything is done with precision and care. I can spend hours looking through her things. It's like being invited over to the coolest girl in school's house and checking out her bedroom. Didn't you always want to do that? I did.

Carnation Curtains

comments: 27


Okay, y'all really are scaring me with your scary dollhouse advice. It was much as I feared — people actually saying, "Don't do it!" Egads. I ask you, plaintively, where was this outcry when I was all naive and "Yay! Me and my dollhouse!"? Well, that's alright. It reminded me of this one story that my husband's grandma told us a long time ago. At her retirement home, she had a friend, Mabel, who needed to have her gums scraped. (Now, I don't know exactly what that involves but I assume it's very literal, and, much as it sounds, not very nice.) Mabel was apparently quite worried about this. So the dentist asked Ruth (Andy's grandma), who'd had her own gums scraped with no great drama, to reassure Mabel and tell her what a cinch getting one's gum's scraped really is. Easy peasy. So, as Ruth told it, she immediately went off and found Mabel, who was reportedly quaking with anxiety in her rocker, and said, "Oh! It's terrible! It hurt so bad! They scraped and scraped and scraped! I thought it would never end!"

I will never forget when she told this story. It was one of the few times I'd met Ruth and I was sitting on the carpet, absolutely wide-eyed, looking up at her while she told it, thinking, "That is the cheekiest thing I've ever heard in my life!" Ruth was giggling and giggling at her own naughtiness. She had to be in her mid-80s at the time. This is the same Ruth who, at our wedding, when someone said to her, "My, Ruth, what a wonderful day you must be having, seeing your grandson get married!" replied, "Oh, yes: Get in the car, get out of the car. Get in the pew, get out of the pew." Too funny. She also called me "Maleesha" pretty much every time she referred to me, which wasn't often, but enough to make me bubble with laughter now, whenever I think of it.

Anyway, I know it couldn't really be true that decorating a real house could be easier than building a dollhouse, but I must say that late in the afternoon, when my new vintage curtains arrived, I was much relieved to have regular-sized stuff to play with again. Thanks, Autum! Autum sent me a heads-up a couple of weeks ago when she spotted these pretty cafe curtains on Ebay and told me about them. I ordered them pronto (so love the "buy it now" buttons instead of going through the whole auction thing, etc.) and am thrilled with them, absolutely thrilled. Fighting off the temptation to cut them up and make myself a dress, then get this bag, then go out and solicit an invitation to a garden party, preferably one indoors and with central air, I hung them in the guest room. That lamp is sort of sweet, I think. It's vintage, and has a twin. I love having lamps in pairs.

Curtains2Eventually, I think I'll put the curtains in our room, to go with the quilt (remember that?). I haven't completely flaked out on it, it's just that I bought an enormous box of safety pins to pin the top/batting/bottom together and I can't find the pins. I remember I was sort of shocked at how much a big box of pins actually cost, and am determined to find them, though I have absolutely no memory of even taking them out of the shopping bag. Nevertheless, if I'm anywhere in the vicinity of the fabric store tomorrow, I guess I will get some more, and get this thing finished. I can't possibly have the quilt and the dollhouse and the fall bags and Jeanne-Marie's bookbag and my own bookbag all hanging over my head at the same time, can I? Not to mention Pam's belated birthday present. Unfortunately all I have felt like doing is sitting directly under the ceiling fan until my eyeballs dry out, watching Passport to Europe and pretending I'm Samantha Brown. Love that girl.

This heat's supposed to break tomorrow. It's past time to get something done around here that doesn't involve lying prone with a clicker in one hand and a teacup of frozen M&Ms in the other — that is, if you don't call making it all the way through your TiVo lineup "getting something done." I've been informed that such "accomplishments" really don't count. Jeesh.

A Dozen Bitty 'Prons

comments: 41

Hallway_2Inspiration struck late for this round of Club Little House for me. That whole "gotta work on fall handbags" thing? Got pre-empted when I, panicstricken, remembered that I really needed to get my act together for the Club Little House deadline July 31, to be mailed tomorrow. Unfortunately, I hadn't a clue what I wanted to do. But all the little scraps from the passementerie packs and the quilt just looked so cute, I thought I might take a bit of inspiration from my own house again and do a sort of "back hallway" peg rack for the dollhouse. Remember this, the real-life Paulson household back hallway, the dilettante housewife's hallway? Yeah — it's about as phony as the dollhouse hallway, as you now know, if you've been reading this blog for a bit(ty).

Bittyaprons4 Then, here, a bitty 'pron with its own peg rack and tiny whiskbroom, just one of the twelve sets I made on Saturday. (I'll probably post the others after they've been received.) These are about an inch and a half long, trimmed in vintage bias tape with a small patch pocket for bitty clothespins. If you've been wondering about where all the crafts got to around here recently, I've been wondering that too; it was pure delight to take an entire day to stitch these by hand with teensy tiny stitches. It took hours and hours and hours. I didn't care a bit. Man was I happy. It was the second whole day I'd had to myself in weeks and I couldn't have been happier than to spend it stitchin' 'prons. Don't ask me why I keep saying 'prons. I can't stop. I had such a good day. I had been feeling lately like I'd lost a bit of my mojo. It was good to feel like me and a needle and thread can still get happy together. Phew.

Bittykitchen3 Here's my bitty kitchen vignette. Unfortunately, I have zip zero nada in the "house" part of the dollhouse department. Took the kit out of the box and nearly fell over with sheer dread at the idea of putting it together. Dude. Have you seen one of these kits? Seriously. Am I building a scale replica of the White House here? No. I just need four rooms. From the looks of all the parts and pieces that poured out of the box it was clear that I would be spending . . . a long time. Putting it together. I don't even really want to put it together. I just want it, ready for me to put my stuff in, I now realize. Why did the man at the dollhouse store not show me the brochure of the ones that were already put together? This separate brochure was included with the kit, stuffed at the bottom of the box after you've already taken out every bitty piece of the kit. I have never greeted a brochure with such regret in my life. Why did I not get the pre-assembled dollhouse? Why did I not open that box from the other end, and see the brochure before I took everything out of the box? Because there is no way in hell it's ever going to fit back in to get exchanged for one that's done already. Okay. Spazzing. Deep breath. Serenity now. Etc.

See, it's like this. I have about as much desire to put together the 'house as I do to, like, reupholster a chair or do alterations on a pair of your pants for you. That is to say, none. Zip zero nada. I never want to reupholster anything as long as I live. Yes, I like to sew, but only certain things. Yes, I like to make small things, but only certain small things. Like bitty 'prons and whiskbrooms, and only twelve. (Barely twelve.) Not a slipcover, not your pants, not the binding around my quilt. None of those. And I want to put together my dollhouse about as much as I want to clean my real house. And you know how much desire I have to do that. Zip. Zero. Nada. Oh. No. Ugh.

Let me just ask anyone who has done it before — let's just pretend for a minute that I am going to put this beasty together — should I actually paint and paper it before I assemble it? Or do I put it all together first? I'm getting conflicting reports. Bitty architects/interior designers, please weigh in here. I need you.

Chicagoans Forever

comments: 27

Pizza3You know what stuffed pizza is by now, yes, even if you've never set foot in the Windy City? It's Chicago's signature dish, much like cheese-steak sandwiches are to Philly, baked beans are to Boston. It's hard to say exactly why some foods don't seem to be able to be reproduced in, say, Oregon, but we try. Oh, we try! My sister Susie, who is a great cook, was the first to make stuffed pizza for us and show that it could be done. This is Edwardo's Famous Stuffed Spinach Pizza from the book Pizza: More than 60 Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pizza. It really comes as close as anything I know of to the real thing. (Someone emailed me ages ago with a link to a blog post and their hubby's stuffed pizza recipe. If that was you [assuming you still read this blog], let me know and I'll add the link here, and I'm so sorry I have such a horrid memory!)

Andy made this pizza last night and it was truly as good as it looks. It's not that hard to do, and it bakes in a cheesecake pan, unless you happen to have a special stuffed pizza pan and that's nice too. We actually have special pizza plates but I couldn't find them last night (again, terrible memory). So love that man when he's in the kitchen!!! If you don't have a cooking hubby, or you know a Chicagoan who is jonesing for a slice of home, you can actually order stuffed pizza on-line and have it delivered in dry ice anywhere in the country from Giordano's, the way my sisters did for my birthday this year. I highly recommend this as a gift. Very highly. It was a huge treat and very affordable, actually!

This post is also a little bit for the illustrious Lisa, who apparently won gold medals every time she dove into the water at the Gay Games in Chicago this past week. I don't imagine that she was eating any stuffed pizza there, of course, but who knows. Swim, girl, swim!!!

Oh, the Irony!

comments: 35

Pho_la_mackintosh_lgDearie me, 102 degrees predicted for today, and here we are with the wool. It's not because I want to, it's because . . . I just have to. I have to start thinking about fall products because the fall ball is the hardest ball to get rolling. Planning things for summer when it's chilly, blustery winter is kind of a no-brainer. Planning things for fall closets (and, let's face it, fall has the best clothes, no?) is like cranking up the fireplace in your swimming suit — it just doesn't seem right, somehow. I don't know how people in industries (fashion, magazines, etc.) where they are always working six months or farther ahead do it. When I worked in book publishing we were always working like a year and a half ahead and I seriously could never get a grip on it. If anyone started talking dates over a week and a half away, I would kind of get this empty-eyed donut-glaze happening and have to say, "Uh, you just lost me." Which, you know, wasn't great. Even now people say things like "Spring '08" (and I really don't know why they would be saying this but I feel like they always are saying it, somehow, and then I start twitching) and I can only barely imagine when that is, and what comes between now and then.

Nevertheless, every year as I'm scrambling in September, I make a vow to start sooner. It takes me so stinking long to plan, source, cut, sew, and finish my stuff I just have to start now. Must. Start. Must. Start.

But oh, the irony! Please don't break, air conditioner!!!

Lovely River, then Delicious Dinner

comments: 21

Anniversaryriver2This is kind of what I imagined Oregon to look like before I moved here. That's Andy, in his orange swim trunks. He spent a good chunk of the late afternoon sitting on his floaty raft, paddling around. I laid in the shade and read, and took deep soul-searching woodsy breaths, inhaling that soft, soft pine-needle smell of the forest. I have rarely been in the forest since my accident, and although as a child I hated the forced marches our father took us on in our neighborhood forest preserve, as an adult, living in Montana and Oregon, I realize that I do love the huge, quiet pine-treed woods (so often to be found within city limits here) and do not get to them near enough. If I could manage to set up camp like Amy does, I would live there, I think. How in the hell and the hootenanny she managed to get a full-size bed into the tent I really don't know but . . . is that allowed? Wow. This changes everything.

Anniversaryriver_1 We left the river around 5:30 and made it home an hour later to start dinner; I thought eating by candlelight might be nice. I made something that we call "Lasagna Rozale," named after the apartment building where we lived when we were engaged in Missoula, and where we first made this. From the February 1996 issue of Martha Stewart Living, these lasagnas are not smothered in red sauce (which I personally can't stand) the way so many seem to be; they are layered with bechamel and an only vaguely tomatoe-y sort of Bolognese sauce.

Anniversarydinner4Though the recipe originally called for polenta "noodles," dried porcini, and veal, we modified things to be much more Orange-Street-Food-Farm (our very small neighborhood grocery store) friendly, using regular noodles, button mushrooms, and Italian sausage. Nevertheless, it is our hands-down all-time-favorite romantic meal. I thank you all quite sincerely for the kind anniversary wishes you left for us yesterday. I share this recipe with best wishes for many happy years and romantic dinners of your own.

Lasagnas Rozale
Serves 2

For the sauce:
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
2 t. olive oil
2 t. butter
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
3 oz. lean ground beef
3 oz. ground pork
3 oz. Italian sausage
Salt and pepper
1/2 c. red wine
12 oz. chopped tomatoes (boxed or canned)
2 c. chicken stock
1/4 t. nutmeg

For the bechamel sauce:
2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 c. plus 3 tablespoons milk
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. nutmeg

Other ingredients:
6 lasagna noodles
10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
3/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan

Anniversarydinner_1 To make the sauce:
1. In large skillet, heat olive oil and butter over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and have let off their liquid, about 5 minutes. Add carrot, celery, onion, and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, 3 to 4 more minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in separate skillet, break up and brown all meats over high heat, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add 1/2 t. salt and 1/8 t. pepper. Drain off fat and add meats to skillet containing vegetables; mix everything together. Add wine and cook until liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, stock, and nutmeg. Lower heat to medium low and slowly simmer, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes. Much of the liquid will evaporate but sauce will remain very moist. It can be made 2 days in advance and stored in refrigerator. You will have extra sauce after lasagnas are assembled to use over pasta, etc., for lunch the next day, too.

To make the bechamel:
1. In a saucepan, melt 2 T. butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring frequently, 5 to 6 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring milk and salt to a boil. Slowly whisk the milk into the flour mixture until completely incorporated and smooth. Add the nutmeg and reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Anniversarydinner2_2 To assemble the lasagna:
1. Boil lasagna noodles in large pot of salted water until about a minute before you normally like them to come out. Drain and rinse with cold water, then cut (shorten) to fit two 12-ounce individual ovenproof casserole dishes.
2. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat; add spinach and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until wilted and tender. Remove from heat and drain in a colander. Set aside.
3. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread 5 T. meat sauce into each of the casserole dishes. Cover with 1 lasagna noodle and spread 5 T. meat sauce evenly over. Spread 2 T. bechamel over the meat sauce and evenly distribute 2 T. chopped spinach over the bechamel. Sprinkle with Parmesan and cover with 1 lasagna noodle. Repeat layering process. Spread 1 heaping tablespoon of Parmesan and dot with butter.
4. Bake until tops of lasagnas are golden and juices are bubbling, about 20 to 25 minutes. If the tops are not yet brown, increase heat to broil and place lasagnas under broiler until tops are speckled brown. Let stand 10 minutes; serve with red wine, simple salad, crusty bread, fancy deserts, and lots of love.

Oh — and I forgot to tell you a tip about the parasols hanging from the pergola thing (thanks for the reminder, Hildy!). So, we have one of those trellis things, I never know what it's called, over the patio area, pictured here. (The lantern is several years old, from Smith & Hawken.) My friend Nancy told me about something she'd seen her friend do over her trellis thing in Italy once, while she was waiting for stuff to grow up and cover it. She floated parasols above the boards on top to give a bit of shade and extra romance. You just push the parasols up between the boards while they're closed, then open them. I would say that if you do this, it would be best to weight down the handles of the parasols somehow; I had four up there and two blew out and across the yard, even though there wasn't much of a breeze. The things act like sails. But I would think a couple of little bags of rice attached to the handles, or something like that, would help? Pretty idea — I'd been meaning to do it for ages. Would even be lovely with jelly-jar lanterns hanging from the handles for a little extra candlelight, no?

Did. Do. Will.

comments: 61


July 19, 1997
St. Edmund Church, Oak Park, Illinois

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