Posts filed in: June 2007

comments: 50


Dear Martha,

     I'm sorry I haven't talked to you in over two weeks. Last night I looked at the pictures from our 1989 trip to the Grand Canyon that you sent and cracked up again. Why am I wearing an Egghead Software t-shirt and a red bandanna around my neck??? An Egghead Software t-shirt? I remember that when my dad bought me those horrendous seventeen-pound Army boots instead of the little lightweight Nike ones like you had you were so nice about it. You said, "Well, yeah, but mine will be shredded by the end of the trip!" And of course they weren't, and your feet stayed nice and sound while mine turned into raw hamburger, but I've always remembered you saying that, trying to make me feel better. I've thought of that so many times, that way with small kindnesses you've always had. Anyway, thanks again for those pictures, and the nail file. I had my wedding and engagement rings re-plated and cleaned yesterday so I gave myself a little manicure last night and can't stop looking at my hands. They actually look fancy and grown-up for once. Usually they look like I just finished my 12-hour shift at the fish cannery, but today they look very moisturized and neatly groomed.


     I've been doing nothing but working lately, and, well, ack. I'm so behind. I've been finding it really difficult to write at home. And writing patterns is not the most fun kind of writing in the world, I will say that. For a slap-dasher like myself, technical writing feels like someone is poking me with straight pins. Poking me in the calf. I turn my computer on, get my coffee, sit up straight and try to write, and then start feeling very claustrophobic. I get out of my chair and unload the dishwasher. I get back in my chair and try to write. I get out of my chair and mess around with the dog. I get back in my chair and try to write, eyes wandering from the screen to the hammock. How did I get through school? Did I ever study? Do you remember me ever studying? Do I have a history of doing so, a history from which I might be able to access muscle memory at this time? It's pathetic how undisciplined I really am. So I've taken to spending most of my "work" time sussing out the best possible "office" for myself — a coffee shop that has 1) lots of PLUGS so that I'm likely to get one no matter what time I show up, 2) lots of space so that I don't feel conspicuous about taking up a table for six hours with only two well-rationed cappuccinos, 3) good music (the bagel shop I like kept playing the oldies station and I couldn't take it anymore), 4) free wi-fi, 5) decent snacks, and 6) interesting people to watch. It's harder to find a electrical outlet in this town than you might think. It turns out that when I find my "spot" I am able to sit and write for hours, which is shocking to me. I didn't think I could sit and do one thing for longer than forty-five minutes, tops. But it turns out, in the right environment, I can. Of course finding the right environment can take several hours worth of driving, parking, walking in, walking out, etc., etc., because oftentimes that perfect plug is not available at the exact moment that Her Highness requests it — someone else is often using my plug, since it is still a free country (for now). But I never stop believing that I will find the perfect spot, one that has my logistical requirements and still lets me feel like I am out and about, and part of the world. Portland has felt so small to me lately.


     One of my friends invited me to come to France in 2009. It reminded me of how you were at my house the night before I flew on a plane for the first time, to Europe, no less, and you talked to me for a half-hour about every single thing that was going to happen, from the minute I got to O'Hare to the time the plane landed in Copenhagen. You had flown so many times you weren't scared at all. I've been thinking about going to France a lot, and wondering if this is something I'll be able to do. Last Sunday, Andy and I took the day off and went to St. Honore Boulangerie (you have to say "boulangerie," instead of "bakery," you're paying to say boulangerie). They have no plugs here, and seating is precious. That's how it should be here, though. Everything is just too good, and everyone wants it, so the place is packed and humming. Everyone thinks this is a good place, and it is, because if you get a seat on the weekend you almost feel embarrassed, like you couldn't possibly deserve it. In your seat, you become instantly urbane and untroubled, somehow: You have a seat. And a cappuccino. And a strawberry mille-feuilles. It all cost, you know, $9.75  but isn't it wonderful? It is. We sat outside, under the canopy, as it rained. I could've stayed all day. I love cafe society. Later we went to see Paris, Je T'aime. Little seemingly disparate stories all wrapped up, for me at least, by the last one with Margo Martindale, as the American woman who visits Paris by herself. 14e arrondissement. Andy kept talking to me, about how good it was, especially that last one, and what it meant, and I could not speak, a huge sobbing yawp stuck in my throat, knowing that if I opened my mouth nothing but a primitive noise would come out. I was very moved by that last one. I didn't see it coming, somehow. But it was incredibly beautiful, and weirdly unexpected. You don't expect such beauty can come with a fanny pack, somehow, but you're wrong, and that's humbling, and cathartic. We clapped at the end and a few people shyly joined us in that. In some ways I haven't really stopped thinking about it, especially as I lurch around my own city, looking for a place to land, to love. My sister is moving so we've been thinking and talking about "place" a lot. Having written this just now I'm left with the feeling of just not wanting to think about it anymore, and just live. Who cares. It's all good. Another catharsis.


     I hope you and Mae are doing well and that the plants you planted when you weren't feeling good are thriving. If you have a recipe for Thai coconut-chicken soup will you send it to me? Kiss Mae for me and send me some pictures of the apartment. I want to see it. Andy says to say hi and sends love, and joins me in my plea for you to visit, as always, no pressure, just sincere longing to see to you again, and to meet Mae. Though I do expect to at least train it out there, somewhere, sometime soon. Ish.

Love you,

Strawberry Tart for Mlle. Miller

comments: 99


I got a new deep-dish tart pan, and made a tart for my friend on Saturday.







Ruby gems on a cloud of cream.

*Here is a recipe, though I just pre-baked a Pillsbury ready-made pie crust, then spread it with a bit of melted red-current jelly. Plop in some pastry cream and then top with fresh strawberries (slice off the tops) and glaze with a bit more jelly. Easy! Yummy!

Here (Ish)

comments: 34


I'll be here, but just peeking my little nose out occasionally over the next week or so as I get some work, some rest, and even a little bitta plain-old nothing done. Thank you for all the little sweetnesses lately. I am just so excited this summer. There are so many cool things coming up, I'm twitching. See you soon! xo, a

Pizza and a Pretzel

comments: 60


So, I feel really stupid for talking about my book so hot on the heels of Amy's book release. I had woken in a private panic that morning, thinking about how behind I was and so I just blurted. I knew I was needing to take a blog break and was anxious to explain why so no one would worry when I disappeared. But I just completely spaced about the timing of it at all and so feel like a total ass. At least Amy already knows what a total ass I am, but still, Amy, I'm really sorry, as you know — I am just so completely oblivious sometimes and I am very embarrassed.

Andy tried to make things better with a big huge pizza. You've seen this before, our spinach stuffie from from the book Pizza: More that 60 Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pizza. For some reason, the dough was not rising properly, so Andy pulled and stretched it until it fit in the pan. You gotta love a man who says, "This is just like Fimo clay!!!" And if you know Fimo clay, you know it is not how you want your dough to be.

Pizza2_2 If you're not familiar with stuffed pizza, basically it truly is like a pie, with the cheese and whatever else inside and the sauce and parmesan on top. It's sort of like its own creature, and doesn't really have much in common with "regular" pizza. I like both equally as much. This pizza weighs about twelve pounds, I think. There are special stuffed-pizza pans you can get, but we just use a cheesecake pan.


There was such a weird amount of dough after he rolled it to within an inch of its life that he decided to make a pretzel, as we'd watched Sandra Lee do on Semi-Homemade at lunch time. Even then, it was hard to get the dough rolled into a strip wide enough so that he could fill it with little pieces of . . . Kraft American "cheese." Or cheez. To wit:

Pretzel1 Hmmm. He rolled it up lengthwise and then twisted it into shape.

Pretzel2 I thought the middle part needed to be twisted together, so I think he did that after I took this picture. Then you drop the pretzel into boiling water and wait until it pops up to the surface of the water after a few minutes. Then you take it out and put it on a cookie sheet and sprinkle it with salt, or I guess whatever else you would want to put on it, like garlic, or parmesan cheese, or whatever.

Pretzel4 I think it baked for fifteen minutes or so. When it came out, it was crusty, and overworked, but still — tasted like a pretzel! I was amazed, I must say.

Pretzel6 After dinner I went out to trim some of the bushes in the front yard. A guy was walking by the next-door neighbor's and I saw him cut off a huge rose (like the size of a men's slow-pitch softball?) from my neighbor's rose bush. He must have had a pocket knife or something because the rose canes are about a half-inch around. Anyway, it was huge, and I saw him, and then he saw that I saw him do it, and just as our eyes met from across the yard we heard, from inside the house, Andy singing:

I'm called little Buttercup,
dear little But-ter-cup,
though I could never tell
whyyyyyyy . . .
(Apparently, singing "to the dog.")

The rose thief looked from the door back to me, like, "Well, you're busted, too." So funny.

At the Office

comments: 63


Aw, JEEZ everybody, thank you. I do love being fussed over; thank you for being excited for me. I told Jane a while ago that it's sort of felt like that scene from Sleeping Beauty where the fairy godmothers are cake-baking and dress-making in secret, but pastel clouds of sparkles and glitter-flakes are spurting out the chimney? It's felt like that around here, a little bit. I am doing the photography for the book, too, and I do expect an explosion of sparks and lava when my head blows off around when I start on that part, so watch for that, that'll be good.

I'm on the porch here a lot because my car's been in the shop for a week, again, and I am grounded. I thought Volvos were supposed to live forever but mine has needed major resuscitation three times in the past four months, this time the ABS and TRACS systems, whatever those are, something to do with a little thing like braking. Ack, $1,200 later. So I spiffy-ed up the porch a bit and have been sitting out here, watching the neighborhood pass by.


I was thinking about my next-door-neighbors' porch swing (not to get all childhood-y again, but here we go, it is the porch after all). We lived next door to the Mays for thirty years, and they lived there before we did, and they live there still. The nicest people on the planet. They had a big old porch and a porch swing and I used to sneak over there when they weren't home and sit on the swing and read. If I saw them coming home, I think I'd jump down and run off (weirdo). One time Mrs. May saw me and told me I could stay on the swing if I wanted to and then I think I was there pretty much every single day. Like, constantly. I think there was one day they actually wanted to use their own porch that summer and poor Mrs. May had to come out and say, "Um, Alicia, you have to go home now for a little bit because Mr. May's mother [who was about 90ish] is coming over and we're going to have some people over out here on the porch." I think I read all the V.C. Andrews books out there. I doubt my parents would've been very pleased with those so it was best to read them at the neighbors'.

It's nice to sit out front in the morning, with the sprinkler going gently. That's my favorite: enjoying those few hours of peace and quiet, before everything starts buzzing. It's my new office.

Yep, me too!

comments: 267


Guess what! I'm writing a book! Yep, me too!

My book is a collection of original projects called Stitched Souvenirs: 30 Simple, Special Things to Sew and will be published by Potter Craft in fall of 2008. From quilts, mobiles, and softies to pillows, photo albums, and placemats, all of the projects have a personalized component, and incorporate embroidery, applique, stenciling, and photo-transfer techniques. I think the things I design have always been evocative of special events, people, and life-experiences, and this collection is truly reflective of those inspirations. It represents everything I love about making personal, beautiful things by hand.

Aw, I'm so excited. It's still sinking in! I feel kind of shy just talking about it, for reasons I can't even put my finger on. I've been working on it for quite a while, but my submission deadline is flying toward me, faster than I could've imagined: Everything is due at the end of August. So I am busy! But I'll tell you, it feels so great to be working on something that feels so right.

Thank you for encouraging me, everyone who's ever been interested in what I do or suggested that I make a book. My heart feels big and awkward this summer. I'm so grateful for all of this. Thank you. Really truly.

Su, Chris, JoEllen, Jeff

Donut2I've smiled seventy or eighty separate times this afternoon, just thinking about you all, and the fun we had, and everything. All of it. We were missing you the minute you walked out the door. But I knew that would happen, before you even arrived.


Group hug, and much love, and sincerest thanks,

The dress . . .

comments: 60


. . . and the engagement story is here.

Those shoulder things were actually organza and they wrapped around the back and tied in the big bow, like an apron. The shoulder things were not practical, but they were cute. I think there are other pictures of the back somewhere. The bridesmaids all wore different shades of pink, simple boatneck bodices, gathered skirts, and sashes tied in wide bows in front We all carried snapdragons and zinnias from the Oak Park farmer's market. So that was sort of Montana-ish, at least. And we saved about a zillion dollars. Which I wish I'd used to hire a wedding planner. That's the one thing I'd do over.

I'd like to do that whole day again, with everyone there, again. That was what was important to me and why I wanted the wedding — I wanted everyone there, altogether, back home. I'd like to do it all again. I wouldn't even care what I was wearing, that much. Ish. I mean, if I could have everyone there, I'd wear a burlap bag. I'd put some darts in it, but I'd wear it, if everyone could be there.

Peaches and Buttermilk

comments: 73


The July issue of Martha Stewart Living is so beautiful. I love it. I'm getting back into it again, especially lately. When I was a young lassie, living in Montana in my first apartment without a roommate, it was a huge inspiration for me — actually, it was a lot more than an inspiration. It was my motivation. I was so different from a lot of the girls I knew in Montana. They were back-country hiking girls who weren't terrified of bears or bats, girls who lived in cabins with highly intelligent dogs and no electricity, girls who snowboarded down mountains in the morning and studied Russian literature in the afternoon. I stood in bewildered awe of their abilities, and knew that I, with my prissy ways and many needs, I would never make it in Montana. I felt so self-conscious when I was making my enormous white wedding dress; nobody pointed and laughed at it, exactly (well, okay, one did), but within my circle of friends I'll just say that this was not a popular thing to wear to one's nuptials, if indeed one was inclined to have nuptials. If one was, it was bare feet and wildflower meadows, not six yards of silk organza trimmed with 1/4" handstitched ribbon (yeah, that took . . . a while). At least in our crowd. But anyway, it was 1994ish, and MSL had just started a few years before, and I clung to every issue. I felt that it existed just for me. I still love the magazine more than any of the other publications or endeavors that MSLO has undertaken since, and though my interest in it waxes and wanes, it is the only magazine I save every issue of.


It's fun to have a craft blog because if you're inclined to like taking pictures and making things you can sometimes be motivated to try new things when you know you get to then set stuff up to look cute and take its picture. I mean, it seems like a weird thing to do, and I can't say why it is so much fun, but I think it is. I seem to enjoy doing it in the same way that I enjoyed reading about it. I just like it. It's relaxing. I like noticing the regular parts of life, especially domestic life. I like fussing over them a bit. I usually think of making my own pasta as a special-occasion thing, not Tuesday-night dinner-for-one, but maybe you're right — I should be un-lazy and try it. Given the fact that I'm often too lazy to even chop up a tomato, it's hard to imagine kneading, but maybe I need the electric pasta machine to change my mind (I only have the cranker). Anyway, don't think we don't eat a lot of very unspecial frozen pizzas around here, too, but there is something I find very enjoyable about cooking via blog.

Yesterday my niece and I made the Peach and Buttermilk Sherbet (though we call it "sherbert") from the July issue of MSL. I love doing anything with her, but I really love cooking. We've made enough things together throughout the years that we sort of have our little system down. She doesn't think it's odd that you would stop and take a photo while you're juicing a lemon, or whisking some corn syrup. It's the next generation of blogophiles.


The sherbert was fun to make, though it has a few steps and takes quite a while (and some forethought — pop the freezer bowl for the ice-cream maker in the freezer the night before). You cook the peaches for a while, let them cool, stir some corn syrup and lemon juice into them, chop them up in the food processor, strain them, mix in the buttermilk and the regular milk, refrigerate that, then ice-creamify it all in your ice-cream maker.


My ice-cream maker is a special attachment and freezer bowl that hooks up to the Kitchen Aid mixer. I got the ice-cream maker for Christmas, and this was the first time I'd used it. It worked well, though it never "stopped" the way I was waiting for it to; the other ice-cream makers I've used sort of grind to a halt when the ice cream gets too thick. The sherbert never got thick enough to "stop" it, so I let it keep going. Which was a mistake, because the freezer bowl started thawing, and the stuff actually started getting thinner (because it, too, was "melting.") So, I'd just take it out a little earlier next time. You pop it all in the freezer after you remove it from the bowl anyway, but it's good if you can get it out at the height of its frozenness, since melty ice cream (or sherbert or whatever it is) re-frozen gets sort of icy and crystallized, and I don't like that.


Peach and buttermilk sherbert tastes like . . . peaches . . . and buttermilk. It's not overly sweet. It's also not like ice cream. My niece decided she didn't like it at all. Then she amended that to say that the amount she liked it was somewhere "between nothing and a germ," germ being the smallest thing I think she could think of. So, not a passionate endorsement, but I thought it was good. I'd say I liked it somewhere between new pajamas and a yellow balloon.

Summery Yummery

comments: 41

Dinner1 Here it is, my favorite summer dinner for one. Fresh pasta (I wish I didn't love it so — if only because it is so expensive), 1/4 can of tomatoes diced with garlic (if you don't want to mess with chopping up the fresh ones), ricotta cheese, and fresh basil ripped from the garden. I like this.

Thank you for all the super-nice comments on the quilt! I couldn't get it in the mail yesterday because the car broke down AGAIN (number of hours spent waiting for AAA tow-truck in 2007 so far: 4.2) and my errand-running plans were foiled once more, but hopefully I can get my stuff ready to go and leave the packages for the mailman (who doesn't like it when I don't call them in the day before, but I'm usually not that on-the-ball). But ANYway. Cat fight on the fence below our bedroom window last night at 2:53 a.m. left all of our nerves jangling, and I never really got back to sleep. Reportedly, the Bee was winning, but it's never a good sound, those cats howling like that. You'd swear they were right on your pillow, the way the sound is amplified in the side-yard. She came hot-footing it in, downy fur puffed out, tail high, eyes bright, like, "Whew! Fun fun! Who's next?! Bring it!" Ack. Might need an afternoon nap on the hammock sometime later. Love you, sunshine. Please stay for a bit.

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