Posts filed in: August 2006

The Shape of Things

comments: 33

PoppydishThe last day of the theoretical last month of summer. I realize that the dunce-factor has risen exponentially around this blog in the past few weeks as I confess to a total lack of understanding of many basic concepts. But really, I've learned a lot this summer.

One of the things I've learned is how to cook a lot of new things. So many. When I think back to Andy's birthday party, before I became Ina's acolyte, I can hardly believe I didn't have a good pasta salad in my repertoire, for instance. I can think of so many now, and so many other yummy things, too. That's exciting. I'm picturing great dinner parties for fall — all those upcoming cold, rainy Portland nights warmed by candlelight and casseroles and company. It's funny — having cooked my way through so many of Ina's recipes, I feel ready to explore some new collections, and maybe even take a cooking class.

I found out a few days ago that a booth at the antique market is going to be ready for me at the beginning of October, so I'm excited about that, too. I have so much stuff for the booth, a bobillion dishes and other hard-to-store stuff, and right now it's all over the house. A lot of it still needs to be photographed and put up on my new web site, which will probably be ready to go sometime in October, too. It will be good to get the stuff out of the living, er, dining room, and do some reorganization and repainting. I was so excited to see these spice jar labels in the new Martha because I've been meaning to redo all my spices, too, which are pretty old and scuzzy; I just found sixteen little glass bottles at a garage sale, all for a dollar. Then I'll treat myself to a new bottle of vanilla, a few whole vanilla beans, and maybe even some precious saffron. . . .

I definitely didn't finish all the sewing I wanted to do this summer, not by a long shot. But I did finish the back-to-school dress, and I'll try and get a photo of the back-to-school girl in it today. But I never made this dress, and I never got to the fair I wanted to wear it to. The Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival is coming right up, however, and we always make it out to that. I can't believe it's time again. I haven't started the Duro-ish dress, either, though it seems like the perfect thing to wear, and I do totally intend to make it, when I can find the fabric I want.

I think I'm going to take a blogging break next week and massage a few things into shape around here, get some stuff finished, and maybe even have a couple last summery flings before the rains start.

The Mental Block

comments: 26

Hi everyone. Woke up this morning to the sound of rain. Love that.

Thank you for all your help yesterday with the cord cover thing and the roses thing, and thank you for saying you liked the rooms. I don't really want to call an electrician to move the outlet — I don't care about it that much, just having a little painted cover would be better than big white cords hanging out and cheaper than doing surgery (the house is 1927, so I don't think it's drywall, but then again I only barely know what drywall is) — so I will follow up on those suggestions. I have this weird psychological block when it comes to doing things to the house, honestly, and believe me, it has absolutely nothing to do with preserving its historic integrity. It has everything to do with the fact that I am severely lacking in money, imagination, and know-how, or rather, the motivation to get the know-how. Part of me just doesn't want to know how.

Fan2 Some people look at houses and see all sorts of potential for change. Andy and I are both, unfortunately, useless not the world's greatest at thinking that way. About the most handymanish thing that I can get Andy to do is install a ceiling fan where a light fixture was, and then we both stand about twenty-five feet away with our arms folded over our heads when he flicks the switch to turn it on, utterly sure that it's going to blow right off the ceiling and decapitate someone. Every time it works I swear he is even more relieved and surprised than I am.

Fan3 So in answer to, who was it, Amber, who very rationally asked me why I didn't just plaster the roses on to the bricks, my answer is, "Exactly." Fabric, paint, nails, curtains, glue guns, pillows, whatever — those I understand. Those are my peeps. I'll change those every five or six minutes, faster than the human eye can detect. But saws, drills, screws, adhesives, wires, anything that has to be wired in, any holes that have to be cut in something — eeeeeyikes. Irrational fear. Blank stare. Quick calculation of checkbook balance to see whether someone can be hired. Mild feelings of panic when answer is "no." Nervous contemplation of hated toolbox.

Not me, Andy.


Kind of.

Sorry hun.

Going More Swedish

comments: 58

Diningroomxmas2 This past weekend I thought about paint a lot. Fall seems to be painting time around here, which makes sense, as we anticipate all the warm, cozy nesting that'll happen as soon as it starts raining. We spent all of Saturday morning at Miller Paint, getting new colors for the bathroom (aqua) and kitchen (gray), which haven't been painted in almost six years and are looking kind of yucky. This is the "dining" room, last Christmas. I say "dining" because it's really supposed to be a living room, but last year around this time we switched the living room into what should be the dining room, and put the dining room table (which we don't sit at very often) into the living room. It's a better arrangement — we have one of those front doors that opens directly into this room, with no real entry way or anything like that, so it was hard to arrange living room furniture, I thought. The only problem now is one of semantics, as in, "Where's Audrey?" "She's in the living, er — I mean the old living/new dining room , er — over there. C'mere Auds!"

Diningroomtgiving4 Here it is last Thanksgiving, with the table pulled out. I like the room, but now that I've lived with it for a year, I feel it is too dark, so I've been looking through every old issue of Domino, trying to figure out what would be better. What I like about Domino is that it really seems to show rooms that successfully combine both vintage and modern styles. What I'm thinking for this one is Swedish-ish: pale gray for the walls, and lots and lots of whites/neutrals (I have cream curtains in storage), and lots of modern accessories, to temper the fussiness. Like a really modern, simple hanging light fixture — a glob of unfussy white Christmas lights? I think I saw something somewhere that was like an embroidery hoop with lights wrapped around it and hanging down — swagged over the table. I think I'm also going to top that table with a 60" round piece of plywood and leave it more "in" the room, instead of plastered parallel to the wall, where it sort of functions as a big desk. The plywood and the paint are the only things I want to spend a dime on.

Diningroomtgiving3See those blobs on the fireplace? They're plaster roses that I hot-glued onto the bricks and then piped plaster vines and leaves around them. The roses were made with plaster of Paris put into plastic candy molds — I did this about five years ago and got the idea from the Christopher Lowell show, so I can't point you toward better directions. What I will say is do not use hot glue to put them up. These are never coming off, honestly. I think we'll have to ruin the brick to do it. So, cute idea but not very responsible. I don't have any other ideas for putting them up there but maybe someone else does.

The reason I don't like this color is that in real life it too-closely matches the color of this room, which is directly opposite and connected by a big arch:

Newlivingroom1The colors on the paint chips looked hugely different to me, but in the rooms the shadows on the light color are almost exactly the same as the highlights on the dark color and visually it looks like one long rectangle of the same shade. At a dinner party we went to on Saturday, our friends confessed to testing twenty-six different colors of white for their kitchen cabinets. And it was worth it, they said. Eeeeeyikes. That will never be me, alas — no patience. I'm more of a pick-it-in-the-paint-store-and-hope-for-the-best kinda girl. I definitely don't always get it right, but what can I say.

And also, something I've been meaning to ask, does anyone know if there's some kind of paint-able cord-cover thing, or conduit that I can get to deal with those white cords on the right side of the photo? For some reason, this plug is three feet up the wall.

Don't you just have to wonder: Who thought that was a good idea?

Hurry IKEA, hurry! (We're getting one in Portland — anyone know when?)

Simply Green-ish, Me?

comments: 24

Simplygreen_partiesDo you know Danny Seo? I know some of you do. At only 29, he is a most-illustrious and inspiring fellow! An "environmental lifestyle" expert, he promotes a creative, stylish, and eco-friendly way of living that he calls "simply green." I like it.

The very talented and regularly hilarious Felicia Sullivan from Harper Collins sent me a couple of Danny's books, Simply Green Parties and Simply Green Giving, a few weeks ago. I'll admit that I was slightly nervous; I don't really consider myself environmentally friendly. I mean [backpedaling furiously], I don't consider myself unfriendly, not consciously mean or anything like that. But in all the small ways that we have to make choices about what we buy, use, drive, wear, and eat, I will say that I am only vaguely motivated by environmental friendliness. I am more often motivated by something more like "how many things can I manage to worry about and still get what I need to get done, done." I do recycle faithfully, and shop as much as possible at local, independent retailers, and thrift-shop regularly, and occasionally make stuff out of other stuff. But I don't ride my bike anywhere and I have air-conditioning and I eat meat and I am completely baffled about whether to choose "paper" or "plastic" when I've filled up my own brought-from-home shopping bag at the grocery store. And I have no doubt that I make myriad decisions ignorant of their environmental impact all the time. I'm not proud of it; nor do I think I'm particularly unusual. Nevertheless, I do like to think of myself as someone who is interested in actively living a relatively "low-impact" lifestyle, and I am interested, like many of you, in simplifying my life even further, and making deliberate choices about the potential effects of my actions on a larger scale.

So, anyway. Anyway. I was vaguely nervous about receiving the books. I didn't tell Felicia that I was worried she was, er, sending them to the wrong person. I was ready (good lapsed Catholic) to feel more chagrined than inspired, somehow. WRONG. I needn't have had any fear.

Simplygreen_givingDanny Seo is a regular guy, who lives in the regular world. When he writes I feel like he is talking to me, a person who also lives in the regular world, a person full of good intentions but with little money, a finite amount of energy, an imperfect understanding of everything, with forty-five things going on at any given time — and he is talking to me in a completely accessible way. The guy is so nice. Nevertheless, he has made it his mission to understand how the cumulative effect of our small actions yields big results, in ways both good and bad, and he explains it in such a friendly, understanding voice that you come away from the books feeling energized, inspired, and motivated. His voice is that of a very encouraging, very down-to-earth (no pun intended, really) friend who believes I have potential. Who knew I was doing so many things right? Who knew I could so easily be doing so many more?

These books, full of clever, simple projects for entertaining and gift-giving, have a message that goes beyond the collection of charming, individual ideas. All the beautiful (digital) photos are shot with found or thrifted props at Danny's house, and the book itself has been produced with environmentally friendly materials. (There is also something really refreshing about all of it coming from a guy's perspective, I must say.) In a lot of ways, the books do what our favorite blogs do (and Danny has a new blog, too): They show you how to make cool things, and talk about the stories behind the things — but they also include many thoughtful sidebars and resources, along with specific ways to easily become more involved in important environmental causes, and tips to help us develop the habits of conscious eco-friendly living in the smallest of ways. Just knowing about some of them means I will do them.

Felicia, you smarty; turns out you sent the books to the right person after all. Thank you!

Thank You

Thank you, my friends, for all your kind words on the post below, and for just reading it in the first place. I'm always so honored, and very surprised, that anyone is out there, listening. I never really know what I'm going to say when I sit down to write something, or at least I never really know where it's going. Sometimes it leads me somewhere that means something to me. It's double-remarkable to look up and see that I'm not walking alone. [Big wobbly smile.]

Scenes from a Dogwalk, Late Summer

comments: 83

Dogwalk1Oh, we did have fun, Audrey and I. We walked all around our little neighborhood yesterday, checking things out. It was pretty sleepy-quiet out there, just the way we like it. This is our neighbor's dappled driveway. I love scenes like this. All these photos are of things a few blocks from our place.

Dogwalk2One of my least favorite and most-lingering effects of being run over by a truck has been losing the ability to walk around the neighborhood the way I used to. As a child and teenager and even when I lived there for a couple of years after college, I walked every inch of my hometown. I had skipped, ridden, galloped, sauntered, slapped my way down Forest Avenue a million times, probably two million. I did not own a car until I was thirty years old. I walked everywhere, in every kind of weather, like a mailman. One snowy, cold afternoon, my next-door neighbor, that lovely, soft-spoken, grandfatherly Irishman Joe May was pulling out of his driveway and saw me walking to work (two miles away), asked if I wanted a ride. Oh no, I replied, cheerily. I have plenty of time. He shook his head, chuckling, and said, "You are crazy. Beautiful, but crazy." It was one of the best moments of my whole life. I mean, I already knew I was crazy. I didn't know about the other thing. I was warmed all the way across town.

Dogwalk6 When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time out of my own house, dreaming of other houses. I didn't know that I lived in a special town. This was Oak Park (and River Forest), Illinois, home of Frank Lloyd Wright and dozens of his houses; they litter the place like exotic butterflies, but your friends live in them, they're just places you walk past on your way everywhere, school, the library, the bakery. I mean, it's completely outrageous, how pretty those houses are, how magical those streets. In my pedestrian travels around OPRF, I noticed every yard, every front porch, every flower planter, every lightpost, and took copious mental notes. In my anxiousness to escape my own and live in any other house, I bundled parts and pieces of all the houses that I saw and created imaginary ones of my own; my fantasy houses were sophisticated and extreme, filled with dumbwaiters and Prairie-Style great rooms and carriage houses in back gardens, and trees growing straight up through living rooms.

Dogwalk9 I know that working on these "houses" saved my life, for I did feel that I was working as I was walking. I knew, I just knew, there could be a better way, that spaces could change everything, that someday I would be old and get to leave and be in charge of atmosphere. I would not let anyone smoke in my house. I would make people go to bed at regular times, and there would be nice sheets. I would never, ever have blinds closed during the day. I would give everyone a little table of their very own, at which to do whatever kinds of things they wanted. I would actually care if the residents of my house were unhappy.

Dogwalk7 I'm all grown up now, and have my own dear little house. It certainly doesn't have a dumbwaiter — it doesn't even have a garbage disposal — but it is very happy. I knew it could be, and I was right, I was so right. Your space can change your life. I still love looking at houses, though. Our little neighborhood in Portland, where these pictures are from, is a mix of big old houses and squatty little cubes and overblown gardens and dried-up yellow lawns. It's full of working families and shared driveways and shabby apple trees that drop their gloppy packages on the sidewalk, and nobody, including us, bothers to clean the stuff up. There are gargantuan roses and vegetable gardens planted in front yards and sagging moss-covered roofs and peeling paint and entire sun-blasted streets where the tree trunks are only four or five inches around. And there are streets with big old oaks that make me feel like I'm back home.

Dogwalk10These are the first pictures I've ever taken around my neighborhood, for some reason, though this is our familiar dogwalk route. That brick house up there is my favorite. It actually doesn't fit in the neighborhood at all, I don't think — it's much too fancy and well-kept for our crowd. I drive past it every couple of days to see if they've put a "for sale" sign out front. I've told Andy that the minute they do I'll sell everything I have in order to get it. It's a joke, of course; we could never afford that beauty. But I do like to go by and say hello to her when I can. I think she's just lovely.

Dogwalk12_1 God, I miss walking. It's a different experience now, with the crap foot. It's like the walking itself, the steps are the real thing, because they hurt and you feel them. Before, the walking was nothing, automatic in that way; I never thought about the action itself. It was the invisible vehicle that allowed me close access to the houses, and gave me time to think. And now the houses are sort of there, but they're secondary to me counting steps in my mind — how much farther can I go before I need to turn back. You must stop when you've reached the halfway mark, because the way back makes up the second half of the steps you get to take. But, whatever. That's life. You can't stop walking, even if it's not the same. But oh! the luxury of the un-noticed, un-felt step!

Dogwalk3_1 I think about the people displaced by Hurricane Katrina, all those suffering war and dire trouble, soldiers in bunkers, children in unhappy homes, refugees without places to rest, and I feel such panic on their behalf. Sometimes when I'm out and I've walked too far, and am worried about whether my foot will make it back home, I think of them: that feeling of being caught out in elements, at the mercy of the home-ful, dependent, out of place, trying to get back, looking in every glowing window and knowing it is not your own, the flickering room on the other side as far away, as untenable, as the sun, all forms of warmth and comfort.

Dogwalk15_1 When I was eleven I loved a book called My Side of the Mountain, about a boy who runs away and lives in a hollowed out tree with a pet falcon. I read it over and over again. That same winter my dad and I found a little hand-built house in our urban forest preserve, hidden by snow in a grove. Someone was living there, just like the Boxcar Children, though this was a very professional, survivalist arrangement. He said the person was probably in the snowy trees, hiding only feet away, watching us, though we never saw anyone. I've never forgotten it. Often I would walk down my street in the winter, at quiet twilight, with all those black branches against that white, white sky, and I'd think about the street when it had been just forest, when Indians lived there and padded the deer trails with their hushed, moccasin-ed footfalls, tracking. Somewhere in my trunk of things downstairs in the basement is a notebook with my notes about how I'll do it, how I'll build my own little mudhouse, use a tin can for a chimney, should the need ever arise.

Bitty Black-and-White in a Brown Study

comments: 40

CorgiI was going to tell you about something else today, but then I came downstairs this morning and saw this beautiful face, looking so forlorn. "Audrey?" said I. "Why so pensive, my love?"

Do you remember what the phrase "brown study" means? I learned it in high school, and I'm pretty sure it and the prologue to the Canterbury Tales (Whan that Aprill, with its shoures soote, etc. — did anyone else have to memorize this?) are the only two things I remember from the whole four years. A brown study is "a state of deep thought."

I threw myself beside her and smothered her with big fat kisses. In her corgi way she told me that even though I was home all the time now, we hadn't done one single fun thing all week. That's gonna change, today. We'll go on a W-A-L-K (spelling it, so she doesn't hear me and get too excited) later.

I have SO MUCH MORE TIME since the store has closed I can't even believe it. Man, I am psyched. Nevertheless, this week has passed in a flash. I forgot about the work-at-home vortex that sucks away hours while one is still in pajama pants, the random wandering through the house that happens as you try to figure out what needs to happen, the ease with which one can get stuck on the computer for hours without looking up. Aaaagh. I know that I truly need to impose some structure on my time — I can see all the things I need to do stacked up like blocks in my mind — but I've actually forgotten how to schedule myself  when there isn't a package of external demands to restrict me like there were when I was regularly at the boutique. Did I ever know how to do this? I can't even remember. Note to self: Figure it out, quick. You have a lot to do, missy. Stretch . . . hold it . . . okay. Walk it out.

C'mon, Auds!

Two Kinds of Pie

comments: 59

Potpie1I looked around my little house yesterday and noticed that things felt fairly frowzy and neglected. There were little piles of junk everywhere, a mountain of  Tupperware containers of unidentifiable leftovers in the fridge (along with a small swamp of sleaze in the bottom of the veggie crisper where a bag of baby spinach liquefied and exploded, blug), a million plastic boxes of vintage things waiting for a booth at the antique market to be ready for me, overflowing laundry baskets of things dirty to be washed and things clean to be put away. Oh, and one very lazy housewife, stitching on the sofa and cluttering things further.

Potpie3I propelled myself into a small flurry of tidying then headed out to the grocery store to get some stuff for two types of pie: one new, Ina's Vegetable Pot Pies; one an old favorite we've made for years, Sour Cream Apple Pie. I figured I could not go wrong with these as a way of restoring order and comfort, somehow. I knew the apple was a sure thing, and the veggie just seemed pretty promising.


I'd seen Ina make these veggie pots the night before. I watch Barefoot Contessa every night on the bedroom television while Andy closes up the house. She often mentions cooking his favorites for Jeffrey as a way of making sure he wanted to come home every weekend (he works several hours away during the week). Andy came upstairs halfway through the program and I turned and said, "Hun, do you like me more when I cook nice things for you?" and he said quickly, "Yes."

Applepie1We both sort of stopped and stared at each other for a second, thinking about how disturbing that exchange was, and I turned back to the program while he went to brush his teeth. Huh. I couldn't decide who was worse, me for asking or him for answering so. Maybe Ina, though apparently retrograde in her intentions, was just being blatantly unmysterious about her cooking motivations. She has been married for, like, 400 years or something.

Applepie2_2 Andy Paulson often seems to not really care whether he's eating a bowl of microwave popcorn or bowl of handmade pasta. That is to say, he often seems totally happy with either, really, but that's his style — his repertoire of ways to communicate dissatisfaction is nowhere near as accomplished as mine, as he is nearly always content, or seemingly so. Nevertheless, why take chances? Hence, after a couple of weeks of slightly frenetic off-campus activity and some serious domestic neglect, I set about to clean the place up, and bake up some bubbling goodness. It helped that it was still cool and sweet, weatherwise. Sunlight dappled the counter and I had a new apron from my friend. (Linda. I miss you. I thought of you all afternoon.)

Applepie3There are many decisions that the previous owner of our house made that lead me to believe he did not actually live here. He definitely didn't cook here, or make pie crust: The counter is tiled, with grout. It's the worst idea. It's impractical to work on and the grout always looks grungy, because it is grungy. I do not make pie crust for many other reasons than the tiled counter, but the tiled counter doesn't help. I buy those Pillsbury crusts. I love those things. Just keep them very cold and they work just great.

Applepie4In fact, everything worked like a charm. If you do nothing as a result of reading this blog, I urge you to try the Sour Cream Apple Pie. It's even better the next morning, cold, with coffee. Make it for someone you love. Ask them if they love you more afterward and just see if they don't say yes.

Stripey Sweaters, Redux

comments: 53

Sweaterreduxbag4The laundry basket full of thrifted, hot-washed, fluffy felted sweaters. I collect them all year in anticipation of colder weather and autumn Sundays' Christmas crafts. I often wonder if this year I'll be "over" felt, and then they start showing previews for the fall television line-up and I'm like, "No, I love felt."

Sweaterreduxbag5Right. That's what I say. How those two things are connected for me is hard to say, but they are — I woke up this morning chuckling at the memory of this post, too. It's no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I love TV. I love TV. If I wasn't already married to Andy, Blair, Ina's shrimp salad, and Lisa, I would marry it. And TiVo. I know it's very, very wrong and everything, but if I didn't have TV I think I'd go completely mad and I can't see how an even more-bonkers version of myself would be helpful to the world, so I watch. And in fall and winter, I mess about with felt.

Sweaterreduxbag7It happened again this weekend — the delicious anticipation of some new shows and, concurrently, my awareness of the potential in a basket of wool, especially rescued wool and linings made from my fabric stash and leftover patches for the quilt (which, ahem, still needs to have its back put on and, oh why oh why oh WHY did I not do this when I was in the full-on Yellow/Gray Quilt Zone??? agh). Anyway, these bags, of which I'm trying to do a limited edition of fifteen, will be up on the Posie site in several weeks with some other new things for fall. I've got a lot to do, along with my other new web site — I hope I get it all done, eek. Pacing, here.

My little product line is changing, and it feels good, I think. I'm focusing less on quantity, less on desperately trying to figure out how to make enough of the same thing before I get burnt out; and more on quality, more on infusing each item with its own specialness, whatever that is, whatever it takes, however long. That's more important to me now, as I consider the world and how I want to live in it, how I see others wanting to live in it, with deliberateness and considered attention. I want the things I make to be what they need to be, not what the "market" needs them to be. It's funny how things have come full-circle in that way — when I first started designing, I worked that way, the "whatever it takes" way; then I clambered onto a small wave of wholesale/retail/sales reps/meeting those demands, and all that stuff changed things, as it will. It changed me, too, and I wasn't happy.

Now I'm sort of back where I started, but of course I had to get my feet wet in wavy waters a bit before coming back to the start made sense again, I guess. I see it that way now, but you always do, in retrospect, no? Not while it's happening, necessarily. While it's happening it feels more like playing dodgeball in fourth grade (switching-sporty-metaphors alert) — I'll throw this one, I'll dodge this one, yikes, bonk, ouch, oh crap! I always sucked at that game, routinely got bonked in the face with those mottled, red balls; my glasses would go flying, I'd sit on the sideline with the other uncoordinated schmoes, chin in hand, chanting, "I hate gym! I hate Mrs. Beaudoin [substitute gym teacher]!" to myself. I'm better at croquet.

These bags take longer to make than anything I've ever sold; I worked on them for two intense days and only finished four. But hand-stitching the lining in without leaving a trace on the outside — that's what I wanted for these. It's what I wanted to have time for. I hung all the ones I'd finished up around my room last night and couldn't stop looking at them, and then I dreamed about them, too. I haven't done that in a long time.

The Aforementioned Too-Familiar Sweater, Reimagined

comments: 31

Mysterystitching_1Ooo, my favorite — hand stitching, the blind hem stitch actually. All day yesterday. It was so good to be making something by hand again, for hours and hours, uninterrupted, feeling the flow. I have a bunch of "these" almost finished, but I'll show you what they are tomorrow. I hope it stays cold and cloudy!!!

Note re: hand stitching after reading a couple of comments: Must 1) curl up on couch with it, and have 2) something good on TV, 3) a nice glass of wine or favorite beverage at hand, and 4) a very sharp needle, along with 5) no nagging feelings of needing to do something/be somewhere else. Actually, #5 should probably be #1. Just tell those feelings to park it elsewhere, baby. Or you'll poke them with your needle.

Poke, poke, go away. Am-scray.

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.