Posts filed in: November 2006

New Stationery

comments: 34

Stationery1It's so nice to have a silk-screening husband! If you have one, he will make you your own stationery. The problem is picking the design. It's practically impossible to decide. I went through about a dozen clip-art books. But you have to pick one. This one's from a book called Graphic Ornaments. I think we'll be very happy together. Now, for the right paper. . . . Decisions, decisions!

Thank you for all the bloggy love yesterday — how kind you all are. Thank you. xoxoxo

Me on Blogging, and My Childhood, AGAIN

comments: 120

Thankyoupcs2This blog is becoming rather meta-blog, I know. But I read a really poignant post yesterday called "To Blog or Not to Blog" by Autum. She was talking about blogging in a way that I thought was so sincere and interesting, and important to consider, especially at the beginning of this season of joy and fun and, let's be honest, busy-ness and potential stress. Blogging can be lots of things. Most bloggers will say that they enjoy the sense of community; the inspiration; the ability to share and be shared with; the nice, neat feelings of being organized somewhere, at least; the profoundly moving experience of being listened to. But almost everyone that I've ever talked to about blogging feels, at some point, something else, something . . . not as wonderful.

I obviously don't know what those un-wonderful things are for everyone — I think they probably vary more for each individual than the positive aspects do. I know that for me, blogging itself — the actual writing of posts and taking photos — comes pretty easily. But I went to school for years to learn how to write and, you know, I actually worked for a photo-essay-book publisher for several years. So . . . that's helpful. The blog is the first time I've ever written about myself, in first-person; I hadn't known how much I'd needed to do or would enjoy doing that. Many times I write things that I never set out to say, and I do wake up every day wondering what the hell might come out of my mouth. The medium seems to fit the natural . . . environment of my brain. But I must admit that the most important thing about blogging for me is just doing it. I love the real-life friendships I've made, I love the supportive community that I'm lucky enough to find myself in, and I love feeling connected to so many people from other countries, regions, and cultures I never knew anything about.

But mostly I really like the sense of organization and expression that my own blogging has given me. I am someone who has always been easily overwhelmed; and expressing oneself in our family was really not encouraged. It actually wasn't even allowed. The smallest of dissentions was typically met with my father becoming hysterical and threatening (seriously) to have a heart attack, the guilt from which (he avidly threatened) would haunt us forever. Many, many times I thought that exact thing would happen, and it definitely did serve to keep us in line. The only conversation I clearly remember having with him about an opinion I had that didn't end in me crying alone in my room happened around 1977, when we both stood in the living room and agreed:

Me: "I love bell-bottoms!"
He: "Yeah, they're pretty cool."
Me: [Smile smile smile smile.]

That's exactly how it went. I still remember it. For years of my childhood I would also say dialogue that was not my own; it was how I tested out my theory that there was something wrong with the way my family communicated. I read often and everywhere, and I knew a lot about fictional families. I studied them. I memorized their habits. Then I'd walk into the kitchen, take off my boots, and say, "Snow, which was fun in December, is just boring, dirty, and downright cold in February." I liked that line. It was from A Summer to Die, by Lois Lowry, one of my favorite then-and-now young-adult novels. But whereas in the novel it was clear that when Meg said things like this, her father pleasantly agreed (and probably even thought "My! How clever, her!"), people in my house would look at me as if I'd just farted, say "Shut up," and then go back to what they were doing. I tried this experiment many times, with dozens of different lines, and I never got the same kind of reaction the characters did. In fact, if some twelve-year-old started spewing stuff like this to me now I would know exactly what she was up to, and I like to think we'd be sitting down and having a nice talk about her life. (Actually, if someone else in my family had walked in and said something like that I probably would've told them to shut up, too.) (And actually, there was one time when I insisted that my family gather 'round to do a dramatic reading of Eugene Ionesco's The Bald Soprano and that did not go over well, but if you know that play you might know that they really can't be blamed for that one!)

But my dialogic experimentation was helpful in a lot of ways, because I thought that mostly the books were right and mostly the way we did it was wrong, and so from a very early age I started trusting books to show me other ways of being, and I feel lucky that I was able to do that. So while being a regular blogger has helped me stay organized within my life in a way I never have been before, it's also fostered a voice and a place where it's no big deal to lurch about, saying this or that, whatever it is, testing things, figuring out what I think, what lots of other people think. And that is something that has been invaluable to me, something I'd not experienced much before.

Minilanterns On the other hand, I think that for many Reserved (one of the best descriptions of introverts I've read) persons like me (and, I expect, many other crafters) the challenges that come with having any audience at all can be difficult to manage sometimes. All of us want, I think, to be able to respond to everyone's comments and questions, to check-in on our friends, to give help and advice when its needed. But the reality is that there is only so much time in a day — especially at this time of year — and only so many . . . relationships . . . one can do well. The nagging feeling that certain things, people, and opportunities have fallen through the cracks can be frustrating but . . . inevitable? I made a promise to myself early on in blogging that I would give what I could, when I could, because the important thing was to find a way to keep doing it — happily, without it feeling like a burden or another bundle of expectations to be dealt with. As women, I think we are well-trained to do whatever we have to do to meet anyone and everyone's expectations, and blogging can create even more of those. But to me, there are lots of kinds of blogs, and I don't mean genres like "craft" or "political"; I mean: some are sporadic posters, some are personal, some share tutorials, some gather work from others, some show only one's own stuff, some are brilliant at sourcing products, some have ads, some invite conversation and debate, some just put it out there and leave it be, no comments necessary. There's room for them all. I hope we can allow ourselves the freedom to let our own, and each other's, be just whatever they are.

As the postcards say, thank you. As always. For listening, and contributing, how-ever you do.

* S * N * O * W *

comments: 47

Snowday1Can you see it? Seeeee it? It's there, it really is. Santa must have gotten my letter already! That was so fast!

Snowday2It's not much, but it's enough. I love seeing snow on the rooftops and little puffs of woodsmoke trailing gently from all the chimneys. This won't last — it's still early morning and bound to get warmer — but oh oh oh is it fun to wake up to. Oh! for an SUV and a ride up to the mountain! Snowbound at Timberline Lodge. My dream.

In anticipation of our own slight dusting, last night I made these little Pinecone Nests. This is Miss Winterberrie.Pineconenest1

She sits on a little nest of vintage buttons. They must be kept warm, you know.

Pineconenest3_1And this is Miss Twilit Snow.

They're sort of a mini, wintry version of the Cagelets (which I am working on for the site update Monday). More of these will be up on the site, too. My mini-break holiday weekend is *O*V*E*R* and it's back to work around here. Lots and lots to finish and photograph. New postcards, too. I'll show you those tomorrow. As mentioned, I'm hoping for Cagelets, Sweater Redux bags, Friendly Birds, possibly sock friends and new stockings, but it just depends. I'll try for it all.

Wow. It's freezing in the house! How exciting. C'mon flakey little flakes! I need you!

Winter Colors

comments: 20

Rosegarden My niece and I headed up to the hills yesterday morning to see the rose garden in winter, and check out the Five Friends from Japan exhibit at the children's museum, and then out to lunch downtown. The rose garden in winter is one of my favorite places. This green. Almost fluorescent. Everything glistening with rain and cold. We were the only ones there. Quiet quiet. Beautiful.

ChildrensmuseumWe had dramatic weather this weekend: sunshine, rain, wind, clouds, snow in almost every direction at higher elevations around the city, still some to come above 500 feet. Alas, our house sits at about 173. I love seeing the sun set through bare trees, but it's rather uncommon here. Usually the sky is a rather stuffed-up pale gray, low, filled with drizzle. It's helpful to enjoy indoor activities.

Childrensmuseum3 I like winter colors that are clear and bright. Similar to the colors I like in summer, but glazed with a sort of frosty haze. Pinks, blues, creams, caramels, silver, a little red. Yellow, for a candle-y glow. I do like that dark green, almost gray, too. Maybe I'll get a teensy little live tree for the living room. The living room is super-dark greeny-gray and it looks pretty with pinks and whites. These are little clay sculptures made by kids at the children's museum. Too cute.

MercantilewindowWe stopped for lunch and then to get some origami paper at Art Media. This window was across the street. It reminded me of my tree.

Balloons3Origami paper balloons are a good couch project after you get home and warm up. We've made them in our family for years. You just pop them on lights and they're fine — turn them off at night. I might put these on the little pine tree I get. Maybe we should rent one of these?

Balloons6Or I'll just chuck the lighted balloon strands up onto the window. I always like fairy lights in big piles or just strewn about. It sure is easier. I like easy.

*For Mary, and anyone else who was wondering if I've completely lost my mind (which is truly always something to wonder with me) — no, those aren't real presents under the tree in the last post. We don't have any real presents until a few days before Christmas. (We are normal people, I swear — it's just that if we don't do the decor when Andy is home for a couple of days in a row, we get too busy and it gets shafted.) I wrapped most of those boxes before we had the fake tree (which is antique, so I don't know where else you can get one) in order to keep the pets from getting in there and drinking the tree water. So now I just pile them up under the fakey, or use them as props for product shots and stuff. But they are very disturbing to all children who see them, I must admit. . . .

Tree-Trimming Day

comments: 77

Treetrimming2_1 I recommend starting with hot chocolate. Always start with hot chocolate.

Treetrimming1Ours comes from little kits we made as Christmas presents two years ago. I can tell you that the stuff holds up well. This tasted as good as could be. Not too sweet. Of course, you must add your own whip and sprinkles, yeah?

Treetrimming4A fire is nice, while you put the tree together. Or, rather, while you wait for someone else to put the tree together. Last year it started to fall over, fully loaded. Yeeeikes. But this year it's been repaired. Phew.

Treetrimming10Then the other stuff comes up from the basement. Wreathes. Made these, years ago now.

Treetrimming11And ornaments. Made the little felty frocks and skirts a few years ago too. Gosh, time flies. Someone from one of the old Ella Posie holiday bazaars made the little glittered dresses and mitts , but I can't remember her name. Cute though. And thank you to everyone who has been so kind, trying to help me find the Lucias I was wanting — I don't think I was able to get back to everyone individually yet. Unfortunately, they were almost $100 when I calculated the exchange from krona to dollars! Wow. So, I'm going to try and make my own version out of stuff from the regular store. But I really appreciate the info — thank you so much.

Treetrimming6Here's the snowman my mom made in 1970. I thought I had some others but I think they got divvied up between us girls. I showed my mom the magazine the other day and she couldn't believe it. She said these were a lot of work. Super-cute though. I love him. Enamel paint is so cool.

Treetrimming15 Treetrimming13


Here are some of my other favorite ornaments. I have a lot vintage balls on my tree. I just like all different colors and I really like round shapes. We do a sort of candy-colored Christmas. Lots of red and pink, and of course silver.

Treetrimming19I also love having a fake tree. We got it about five years ago, and though it was kind of expensive, it is, in the long run, a lot cheaper than buying real ones every year. We also got it because we felt so sad seeing the dried up brown little tree out on the curb after Christmas. This one just gets back in its box until next year. I think she's pretty happy with us. She really likes getting dressed up. I do miss that live-pine smell, though. Must get a little clutch of branches somewhere.

I keep most of my decorating for Christmas to one room. Otherwise I get too overwhelmed and I don't like that. I use white fairy lights in several rooms as actual light sources year-round, anyway, so they're always a little bit festive. We also put most of our Christmas lights on remote-control thingies. You can get them at Kmart, or probably Target or something. It's really great — no bending over and fumbling with the plugs with tree branches poking you in the cheek. You actually stand across the room and point the thing, and click. Other lights we have on floor-pedal plug-ins that sit on the floor, so you just step on them. It's great.

Treetrimming18Another wreathe. From the party last year. That was a really fun night. I keep thinking I should have the girls over to the house to make some this year. When should we do that, girls? I still have a bunch of the styrofoam forms. It's a totally fun thing to do.

Treetrimming12Anyway, on to the mantle. The Sweatery Stockings get hung. Might have to make us some stripey ones. Those were my favorites.

Treetrimming7And the village goes up. It's my favorite, favorite thing. I absolutely love seeing them around the blogs — I know Blair's is up, and Claire's working on one, and Danny's is made of cards, anybody else? Here was mine last year. I have to put those snowflakes up still. Forgot about those. They all fell out of the ceiling last year, so I need to think about how to get them up. I think I had some batting snow drifts, too. To make all the hills and dales I stacked up a bunch of white foam blocks I had around, and then laid a bunch of lights underneath a double-layer of white linen (also had that around — wouldn't buy linen for something like this, but it has a nice texture).

Treetrimming8Most of these houses are vintage, including the church, found at an antique expo. But I think I might make another village this year myself. I love those little graham cracker houses in the new Martha. Man, those are adorable. I don't know what I'm going to do for my special project this year. Maybe that patchwork wool quilt I was talking about a few months ago. I don't know. Something.

Treetrimming9_1Ahhhh. What a great weekend. We always do our decorations right after Thanksgiving. I love love love love love love love it when Andy is home for four days in a row. It is so very difficult for him to get the actual holiday-days off; I am incredibly grateful that we got to spend this whole special weekend together. His presence makes everything bright to me, just . . . everything. This is Audrey waiting for him to come back into the room. That's just how I feel. He's at work today. Come back. Come home. It's nice here now.

Marie Claire: Mais non. Marie Antoinette: Oui, oui!

comments: 39

Portlandafternoon1I love the holiday season in the city. Everyone is out, going places. Though these folks don't look particularly happy about it, do they? Do you know that little triangle by the door on the upper level of the streetcar that says "Caution: Do Not Stand Here"? I found out why you're not supposed to stand there. You will get squished when the train turns a corner. I took this picture just before I almost got squished.

Portlandafternoon2A Saturday Friday (felt like Saturday, didn't it?), in November, in Portland, without rain: C'est fantastique. We were looking for the December issue of Marie Claire Idees. I couldn't understand why I haven't gotten my copy in the mail yet (subscription). I thought maybe I'd messed something up. But they still had the fall issue at Rich's Cigar Shop and Powell's, so I guess we just haven't gotten the new one in Portland yet. I'm jonesing for that thing, big time. 'Tis the season, as mentioned.


Portlandafternoon4A Benson Bubbler. Though we quenched with chai and Mexican hot chocolate. Portlandafternoon6

Here's the big tree, ready to be lit. And here's the Easter Bunny. Of course. I think it's things like this that inspire the popular phrase "Keep Portland Weird." This guy would not get out of my picture. He had a sign around his neck that said "FREE HUGS." I didn't hug him, but I was giggling pretty hard, and so was the guy sitting on the bench behind us watching the whole thing. I love those moments with strangers, when you've just had the exact same experience and your eyes meet, and you've shared it. We both winked at each other, without actually winking, I think. The Easter Bunny stared at us all, with his big unblinking peepers, silently requesting a hug. I should've hugged him. But I was a little scared.

Portlandafternoon7 And there was a movie to catch.

MarieWe totally loved it. I'm going to see it again. Kathleen?

Portlandafternoon8I'm quite willing to follow Sofia Coppola anywhere, frankly. I'll look at anything she wants to make. Don't bring a camera into a movie theater though. They'll take it away from you, as they did mine. Whoops. Then they tried to give me somebody else's after the movie. The rats! Don't take my camera. What would I do without it?

Portlandafternoon9Opening day. A sweet success.

The Morning After the Smorgasbord Before

comments: 39

Thanksgiving6Dinner was extra-large and so fun to make. Andy and I cook really well together and we are so happy when we are in the kitchen, preparing things. We had much too much, probably. There was:

Mushroom stuffing
Sausage stuffing
Butternut squash lasagna
Baked beans
Spinach gratin
Nigella potatoes
Seven-layer salad
Broccoli casserole
Spiced cider
Pumpkin pie
Apple cheesecake

Thanksgiving7I love the way the house feels in the afternoon before a holiday. It's quiet, clean, expectant. Smells great. Good music.

Thanksgiving4I thought the red stuff was pretty. And I brought the cuckoo clock down. It was my Grandma Ieronemo's and my parents gave it to me when they moved here. I've had it hanging in our bedroom for a long time, but seeing all the cuckoos on the blogs lately reminded me that I've been meaning to move it to the dining room, where it has room to work. It's a big hit with a certain four-year-old for whom time becomes simply a series of opportunities to see the cuckoo pop out. It needs a few little repairs but it still keeps time. I remember my grandma pulling the pinecones up every morning, first thing; I don't know how old it is, at least forty years. It's amazing that it made it all the way to Oregon from Illinois. See how the maple-leaf tick-tocker is blurry? Love that.

Thanksgivingdessert2Audrey and I got a D. Minus. It did not go well! A freaking-out dog on a leash on a hardwood floor is . . . not a pretty sight. It's okay, though. We'll keep trying. The freak-out only lasted for about five minutes, though, and then a good time was proceeded to be had by all. (And that is one tough floor, I tell ya.)

Thanksgiving8Andy woke up this morning and told me his dream, which was also about waking up and telling me his dream about waking up and telling me his dream. The only way he knew he wasn't still dreaming was that the bed's headboard was different. It was like a meta-meta-dream. I'm so excited about today. After we get everything cleaned up, we're going to go downtown for window shopping, books, a movie, hot chocolate, and the city's Christmas-tree lighting tonight. I hope you're doing something fun like that, too. Though lying on the sofa with a cat and a fairisle sock on one's double-pointeds sounds pretty dang good, too. Where's that cat? She's over on Andy. Where's the other one. I need her. And a turkey sandwich, stat.


Oatmeal Dinner

comments: 45

Oatmeal3In anticipation of the food-fest Thursday, I simmered some oatmeal for dinner last night. This kind, steel cut Irish, is the only kind for me. We've been so busy lately — Andy is crazy-busy at work, not getting home until 9 p.m. (and he leaves around 6 a.m., so that's a long day) and I've been here, working only, not cooking, not shopping for groceries, not even going out or having anyone over. So, dinner for one at the end of a long day, two days before a feast: oatmeal. Yummy.

Oatmeal1Do you know how to make it? It's not that hard and so much better than instant (to me, anyway). They're barely even the same grain, in my opinion. Steel-cut oats look like Grape Nuts, like coarse sand. Rolled oats are pressed flat and look like flakes. When I make steel-cut oats, I put 3 cups of water in the kettle and put it on to boil. Then I put a tablespoon of butter in a non-stick saucepan (the cooked oatmeal will turn into paste, so cleaning the pan is easier if it's non-stick, but you can use any saucepan and just soak it right away). Melt the butter and then add 1 cup of oats. Stir them around over medium heat for about two minutes; you will start to smell their delicious, nutty flavor.

Oatmeal2When the water boils (and it should be around the same time the oats are finished toasting), carefully pour the water into the saucepan with the oats. It will bubble like crazy, so just give it a stir and turn it down if it's a little out of control. It will settle; give it a stir. Turn the heat so that things are simmering, and leave it all uncovered to bubble gently for about 25 minutes. When the water is absorbed, give it all a stir again and plop it in your bowl.

Oatmeal5Perhaps use a deeper bowl than this one. I was talking on the phone while doing this so things got a little overflowy. I top my oatmeal with the classics — brown sugar, milk, and raisins. I don't stir — I layer, then hunt and peck. Besides being good for you (perhaps with a bit less sugar, ahem), Irish oatmeal tastes awesome.

Tomorrow my family comes for Thanksgiving. I'm very excited to get in the kitchen and get cooking; I feel like it's been weeks since I made anything fancy. It will also be the first major doorbell-ringing test for the new-and-improved Audrey-and-Alicia duo. Thanks for all the advice yesterday. I felt really bad that maybe I was being too tough on my dog, and was just punishing her instead of praising her. I actually think she's relieved to have some boundaries set, but I did want to make sure I was praising the good behavior.

So yesterday when the mailman came, I walked over to her and put her leash on. We walked over to the middle of the room and she sat down. We stood there quietly as the mailman clambered up the stairs and banged on the metal mailbox (which typically sends the dog into a hysterical frenzy, sort of like a squirrel loose in the house; she has jumped right through the screen door to get to him). But this time, nothing. A little whine, a quiver, a shift. I stood patiently. He left. She stayed quiet. I stood amazed, absolutely amazed. I lavished praise and thanks. She seemed very proud of herself. We went to the kitchen to get a treat and — we were out of treats! Agh! It was so funny. But she did so well. What I do feel bad about is not having done this years ago. I don't think she enjoys freaking out like that at all, but we really never effectively prevented her from doing it, or gave her an alternative. And she definitely needed the leash — it's almost like a potential splash of cold water on someone who is hysterical. I'm glad that someone said not to open the door until she was completely calm, and to teach her to sit politely to greet guests. I think we are supposed to have a special place for her to go to, so I need to work on that. That is my big goal. I have been watching the Dog Whisperer show a lot since this summer, when I first saw it, and that has taught me a lot. I hope that we can do well tomorrow when my family comes over, but I am planning on it taking a while before "calmness" rather than "calamity" is the new paradigm. I'm really excited about it, though. I actually haven't stopped talking about it for two days. It feels so good to know, to see, that relationships can change, grow, improve, become completely different. This is something that has been bothering me a lot more than I realized, so, among so many other things, I'm incredibly grateful for this experience. It's so inspiring.

Happy, healthy Thanksgiving, everyone. Thank you for being a part of my life. xoxoxxo

One of a Kind (and Not So Much)

comments: 49

PuppiesbasketDid you hear it? The deafening, bone-quivering sigh of thanks that emanated from my core when I finished cloning the twentieth puppy last night? You didn't? That's surprising. Audrey thought we might be having another earthquake, but no, it was just me, exhaling.

So all puppies will be weaned today, and all orders from last week will be on the way to their new homes today. Thank you to everyone who has written to say you are happy with your postcards (and some of you are already getting your other things, too). Thank you — I love getting those emails. I'm also always so grateful to those of you who order, and especially those of you who are returning customers. It's funny — I can't always tell who everyone is from the Paypal orders, because I know most folks from their blog names, or often people use their husband's Paypal account to place orders. so I wind up writing things like, "Thanks, Bob! Enjoy this handbag! xo, Alicia" on my notes. So, thank you, Bob, and everyone else — thank you!

Speaking of puppies, Audrey and I have a new routine when the doorbell rings. Melissa and Sam were over last week, and Audrey was so naughty and obnoxious that I, personally, just wanted to leave the property. And it was my house, and my dog. I can only imagine how they felt. I told Melissa that I'll never forget the sight of Sam (who, by the way, if you don't know him, is one of the absolute coolest kids I know), sitting on Melissa's lap with huge blue tears in his eyes, mesmerized by a video of Audrey having a walk, while the real-life Audrey barked and jumped on him annoyingly. It was like he couldn't believe that the reality of Audrey was so . . . different, I'll just say different . . . from the vid of Auds. He clearly preferred the vid. I did, too.

So this week we've instituted the collar-and-leash method when the doorbell rings. Doorbell rings. Dog goes crazy. Collar and leash go on. Dog goes crazy. Person on porch waits patiently. Leash gets snapped. Dog's like, "WHAT? I can't even believe you just did that, lady?" I keep reminding myself to be strong, that it's for all of our own goods. Dog begins to control herself. Another little snap. Dog calms almost completely. Person comes in. Dog gets hyper. Another snap. Visitor ignores dog. Dog calms down. I praise dog. Leash comes off. Visitor pets dog. Dog slightly quivery/whiney but trying very hard. A word of warning, dog calms happily. IT'S ALL GOOD. Why has it taken me five years to put a leash on the dog in the house? I absolutely cannot believe how quickly this is working. Am I doing it right? I am going to be consistent and firm. I love my dog so much, but I want her to learn how to fit into this family and our community. I have always wanted this, I just wasn't sure what to do to make it happen. Screaming didn't work, ignoring doesn't work, chasing doesn't work, staring disappointedly doesn't work. So many of her natural tendencies are wonderful we got off kind of easy with the training part. So, thank you to all of the recommendations on the dogs and trick-or-treaters post, especially Paula. I know I can do this. And I know she can do it. I know that she desperately does want to be a good girl, if only I can figure out what the hell it is I'm asking her to do. So, Sam, come back soon (not too soon, but soon-ish) — I think things are going to be different around here. I'm very excited.


Christmas Crafts

comments: 29

Xmasprojects2I know we're supposed to be thinking about Thanksgiving and all, and I am trying. But I'll really start thinking about it on Wednesday, when I go shopping along with every other person in the United States for groceries. I don't mind that. Every year since I've lived in Portland I've made a special trip to Zupan's the day before Thanksgiving and sauntered willingly through the whole list — it's part of the holiday for me, that grocery-getting trip. This year Andy and I will do it together, my favorite way.

Xmasprojects5_1 Last night I was going through some of my vintage Christmas things to bring to the antique booth and I stopped to look through a magazine just to make sure I didn't want to keep it. Well, turns out, I do want to keep it. Amazingly, it is the same one that my mom had in 1970 and from which she made this little Santa out of paper-towel tubing, painted with enamel. There is also an angel and a snowman and a bird. I have a couple of them packed away with my ornaments. I can't wait to get them out now, this weekend. That little funnel angel — wow. Perhaps my Lucias will have gelatin-mold capelets?

Xmasprojects3The magazine is called McCall's Christmas: Make-It Ideas Volume XIII, and contains 301 knitted, crocheted, sewn, baked, and other crafty things to make. It's really cute. There is something about Christmas crafts that are so sweet and appealing. I think it's because the season brings out crafty-ness in everyone, even those folks who don't pick up a needle or paintbrush or gluestick all year. There is a craft for all of us at Christmastime, and our favorite old items tend to hold much more emotion and nostalgia than technique. It is enough that they exist, that someone took the time to do it, once. Some of my favorite afternoons as a kid were spent making things for Christmas: bread-dough ornaments, pom-pom snowmen, marshmallow trees (you dip a toothpick in food coloring, decorate large marshmallows, and then poke them into a styrofoam tree with toothpicks — the things last for years). When they come out again, dozens of years later, I dare you not to let loose at least one memory-soaked sob.

Xmasprojects6My mom was incredibly crafty and still is — she is a full-time professional crafter, too, and has been so for over twenty years. My dad was a graphic designer and a professional musician, so we were steeped in art supplies and '70s-rock by default. When we were kids, my mom went through probably every craft phase that came along, and she would do it in a major way: macrame, candy making, bread-dough baskets, needlepoint, crewel, fimo clay, always sewing. With almost every one of those phases came some sort of order-taking; for years she sold amazing cakes around River Forest just by word of mouth. My father always, for as long as I can remember, had a classified ad for one of his inventions running in a magazine somewhere; my favorite was the light attached to the CB antenna that lit whenever you were talking. We all had handles: He was Gorilla, my mom Gypsy Moth. I was Dopey. I wanted to be Golden Sparrow, which was my name in Indian Princesses.

Xmasprojects4So being talented with the craft supplies, or even entrepreneurial about it is not remarkable in our family. It's just what we do. At Christmastime, we did a lot. My mom did a lot. My mom was only 24 when I was born, but it seems that she always had time for crafting. We weren't encouraged to make things, we weren't discouraged. My parents always let us do whatever we wanted, whether it was sports or ballet or horseback-riding (though they didn't love that one) or drawing or sewing, we had classes and supplies if we wanted them. I get the feeling that if we didn't want them, that would've probably been okay too. My parents were always pursuing their own creative activities; they'd stop and look over at us occasionally if we asked. I'm very grateful now that I had that freedom. Sometimes I wonder what would've happened if I'd been encouraged. I probably would've quit. That is my special way — the minute anyone showed the slightest interest in me, I would twitch, then move on, not wanting, apparently, the expectations that come with interest. I was pretty good at lots of different things, but you'd better not tell me that, or I'd quit, lest you'd expect me to get better.

Xmasprojects7_1Christmas crafts are still my favorite. Last year when I made this wreath, I did it with the intention that it would be kept. Who really knows what will get kept, or lost. There is so much to say about the doing, especially at Christmas, when the atmosphere is as much a part of the thing as the thing itself. And my little dream of knitting a sock on a chair-and-a-half: I think I was going for not just the experience but was actually planning for the memory of the experience, for when I wear that sock years from now, and remember the chair, and the music, this year. You know what I mean. It's a self-consciousness I don't normally bring to crafting, thank goodness. But every once in a while, especially at Christmas, I can't help but think.

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.