Posts filed in: July 2007

Patch- and Catch-Up

comments: 49


Such good Pam-with-flour and buttermilk information yesterday, thank you! I honestly did not know that people drank buttermilk, I really didn't — I thought my friend was the only one in the world. But of course I am also someone who didn't know what teriyaki was until she was 28 (at a rehearsal dinner BBQ for a friend's wedding, I taste teriyaki chicken, completely freak out over it, start begging the BBQer for information, he becomes modest, I insist, he demures, I insist [in front of twenty people, good grief] repeatedly until he finally says, "IT'S FROM A BOTTLE, OKAY?!?") or that a "frontage road" was not "Frontage Road" until . . . very recently. For my whole life, every time I'd see a sign for a frontage road, I'd think, "Gosh, Frontage Road goes everywhere! And how weird is it that there's a Frontage Road in every town?" Ponder ponder ponder. One day I was blabbing on about this in the car with a friend. Finally she said, confusedly, "Er, a frontage road just, like, goes along the front of stuff. . . ." Ohhhhhhhh. More semantic confusion.

So last night I got very stressed because of all the things I haven't done lately, or have done late. One of those things is my contribution to the auction that Eireann is having to help raise money for her mom. Today is the day I finish it, Eireann, I promise.


Thank you also for all the kind, funny comments lately, and a sincere thank you for the sweet things that have come in the mail, and the notes, and the emails I haven't answered. I've thoroughly botched my good intentions to stay on top of it all and have succumbed to putting common decency, let alone good manners, temporarily aside; I will answer soon, I promise.

I have two ideas I want to explore for the fall, assuming I can get my act together enough to have a few new products, though I expect that won't happen until October. One is the Gretel Apron, patchworked and trimmed, and that's the beginnings of one, up there. I also really want to make another quilt for myself that is all gray and salmon pink solid patches, backed with a red floral fabric. I also want to make myself a blouse. And redo all my crochet pattern photography. We'll see. 

Buttermilk Bust-Up

comments: 86


It started beautifully, with two quarts of fresh strawberries. I think I love strawberries both for how they taste and for how they photograph. It's pretty hard to take a bad pic of a colander of strawberries.


I had visions of mounds of sweetened strawberries, piled on pieces of buttermilk pound cake. I just sliced up the berries, flung some sugar on top, stirred them up, and popped in the fridge while I made the cake.


It's an easy recipe. Butter and sugar creamed into a paste, six eggs lobbed in one at a time, then flour and baking soda alternated with buttermilk.


I'm not sure what the properties of buttermilk are that contribute to good cake, but I'm starting to think I might add it to my general grocery list from now on. I have a friend who actually drinks buttermilk, which I can't imagine, but I seem to be making a lot of stuff that calls for it lately.


Oooo, nice! I found the Demerara sugar in the pantry, finally. I love that stuff. A layer of glitter, then in for 70 minutes.


Oh joy! It looks perfect! Begin making plans for own cable-access cooking show! What shall I call it? What'll I wear?!?




Oh no! Call 911, stat! Rescind voicemail to agent! Cancel order from new J. Crew catalog!


Sigh. Sorry Larissa!

Well, it tasted great. Will wait for advent of Taste-o-Vision. Or try it again and flour the pan this time.

Mushrooms and Marsala

comments: 25


Greeted by sprouting garlic, when I finally made it into the kitch. Neither cooking nor grocery shopping lately, apparently. Luckily, I had another head of garlic and a big paper bag of really fresh mushrooms; the workday went on a little longer than I'd thought it would, and I never got to the store. So, a compromise: instead of potatoes, pasta, and some Marsala-mushroom sauce. Thank you for all the suggestions yesterday — now at least I'll have recipes for the next cold, cloudy day. I'll be better prepared for that one.

Mushrooms1I put about 8 oz. of thin spaghetti on the boil. In the Dutch oven, I sauteed about a pound of sliced mushrooms in 2 T. butter/2 T. olive oil until they were soft, and some were very well-browned. I added a clove of chopped garlic and sauteed for another 30 seconds or so. Splashed in 3 T. of Marsala wine and let the alcohol bubble out. Tipped in 1/3 c. cream, and 1/3 c. of the pasta-cooking water and brought that back up to a simmer. Then drained the pasta and tossed it in the sauce for the last minute or two of cooking. Topped it off with some Parmesan, and thought to add a big handful of parsley after the photo was taken. I wish I'd had a big bowl of fresh spinach, too, and maybe some hazelnuts. All woodsy and wonderful.

Pasta2 So, not what I had in mind, and not particularly challenging, but still okay. The weather here is absolutely perfect. I can't believe July is almost over. I need to bring buttermilk poundcake to a BBQ tonight, so I'm excited about that — I'm thinking big piles of strawberries, too. Tomorrow night, homemade pizza and The Young Black Stallion with our niece. Ratatouille on Sunday afternoon, after all.

Eat, watch, eat, watch, eat, watch. Seems like we should squeeze at least a walk around the block and a salad in there somewhere, jeez. Elephant family.

Lonely Kitchen

comments: 54

Pasta1_2 Oh, I miss cooking. I haven't been cooking very much. I usually cook with my niece on Wednesdays, but it's been so hot it's hard to care on the other days. I'm just as apt to run out for salad rolls as anything else (and way too sweaty to make them myself, for sure). But today it's cold and cloudy and feels like fall. I'm trying to think of something to make and drawing a complete blank. It seems like something complicated and . . . potato-y . . . should be on the menu. I wish I'd asked for that mandolin for Christmas, and then I'd make a fancy gratin or something. It actually wouldn't be a bad day to turn on the oven. My next-door neighbor is a pastry chef and she's offered to give me some lessons. I wonder if she's home today. If sweets are in order, cinnamon rolls, real cinnamon rolls, might be a good thing to learn from a pro. Anyway, I feel like making something in the kitchen. Not sure if it will happen, but it sounds nice, cinnamon-sugar or crusty potatoes, bubbling away. It's either that or maybe go see Ratatouille tonight. I'll let you know what develops.

How I Get My Jollies

comments: 50

Quilt1_2 Bias-tape making mania. I have it. I got it late, but I got it bad. That bug bit me bad. I would like to sit, every evening, and stitch some binding onto something. Who needs some binding stitched, bring it here. I can't stop.

I finally put a list of all the projects for my book together the other day, to see how all the techniques were balanced out. I was worried that every single project had hand-stitched binding, and luckily not every single project does. Or unluckily. You'll see. Of course, I am evangelistic and fairly uncompromising about hand-sewing. You should do it and you should love it. If you've never done it before, I'm excited for you. If you know what I'm talking about, then you know what I'm talking about.


Amy first talked me into this and she has a cool way of making a super-long bias strip in her book, but I haven't tried that yet (I use mostly straight strips for straight edges). Amanda and Blair have both recently finished fantastically gorgeous hand-bound beauties. If you need any size bias-tape maker, Mariko has you covered. Instructions come with the maker. There. You cannot avoid it now. Prepare to start binding every raw edge you see.

Our New Sofa

comments: 32


I'm excited, because in a few weeks — maybe any day now, I've kind of lost track — we'll be getting our new sofa. It's called the "Nelson" by Van Gogh. It looks like this, but in sort of a mouse-brown/gray Ultrasuede. I got it at Sofa Table Chair from my friend Susan (her new store out in West Linn is so cool). Right now she has a coupon for 15% off of any custom order sofa!

I had very specific requirements for my sofa, and that very specifically limited the sofa I could have. Firstly, I had to have a "tightback" with no back pillows, since my dog sits on top of those while looking out the window and squashes them flat. Secondly, it had to be dirt-colored non-stainable fabric, because we are a dirty family. I also told her I wanted the "big butt" cushion — mine will have extra padding or something, for big butts that tend to . . . stay put . . . for long periods of time (like mine). I'm going to ask my accountant if I can write off the sofa as my second home office. I really didn't feel sooooo bad about buying a new sofa because, you know, it's for work. I certainly don't spend a dime on, like, work clothes. And our old sofa has basically been reduced to a pile of pillows. It is a squashy, quilt-covered, very-low pile of pillows. My sister said it reminds her of a baby's crib. A giant baby's crib for me. I can't stand it anymore. I can barely get out of it anymore. So, I'm very psyched about the Nelson. I'd better call and see when it's supposed to come — I think it takes six to eight weeks. I can't remember when I ordered it but it was definitely sometime in June.

When we got back from camping, we had houseguests here at the house, Andy's aunt and uncle and their grandson, for the rest of the weekend. Their arrival reminded me of their last visit, several years ago, which had a funny story about our old sofa. In the morning, Uncle George, Aunt Nancy, and I were sitting around the living room, drinking coffee and watching the Today show. It was 2004, an election year, so I remember the candidates were debating. I was sitting on the right side of the sofa, kind of curled up with my elbow on the arm of the sofa, leaning toward the TV. But my elbow had been hurting me lately, so at that very moment I was sort of rubbing it, and straightening it, and massaging it. I often think I'm getting tennis elbow from all the crocheting I do, with my elbow propped up too high on the arm of the sofa.

So I was sitting there rubbing my elbow and feeling a little worried when George, who was watching the candidates talk to Matt Lauer, turned to me and said, "Alicia, if you don't mind my asking, which way do you lean?" And I said, still rubbing my elbow, thinking he'd read my mind, "Well, it's so funny you should ask because I was just thinking, you know, I have been leaning so much to the right [pointing to the arm of the sofa] but my elbow is killing me lately, so I'm wondering if I should move over to the left, and lean that way? I mean, I don't know. Will that help?" I figured he'd have some magic answer, seeing as how he'd just miraculously asked the question I'd been silently asking myself. I looked up and George and Nancy were staring at me uncomprehendingly. It occurred to me that they meant lean politically, not physically. Ohhhhh! I was laughing too hard to answer. The world's going to hell in a hand-basket, but my elbow hurts, so, you know, ow, me and my elbow.

Raise your hand if you saw that one coming, 'cause I sure didn't.

Mmmkay, playing catch-up today, trying to answer emails, phone calls, get my lists together, write, clean the studio, get myself together. I haven't checked out anyone's blog in two months — it's awful. I miss it. That's my R&R time and I'm missing it and y'all terribly. So I'm going to try and get my act back together. I really want to be all caught up this week. I want to make some new pillows for my new sofa!

Car + Yurt - Bag = "Camping"

comments: 71


So, for a long time after I moved west, I'd have this kind of conversation:

Someone: "Blah de blah camping de blah."
Me: "Ooops, I'm sorry, I was spacing out. Did you say you were going camping this weekend?"
Someone: "No. Just car camping."
Me: [Blank stare.]

For the longest time, I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. If you don't know either, car camping is like where you drive your car to your campsite and pull out your tent and your cooler and your lawn chair. It's like Sunshine-Family camping. "Camping" is like with a backpack, energy bars, a mummy bag, skills, a GPS.

Alicia-camping is one step beyond car camping. It's not exactly camping the Amy way, but she is my inspiration for outdoor living. Alicia-camping involves real pillows and a lamp. Last week, I was informed that we were going camping for the night of our anniversary in a yurt. I was excited and a little nervous about this — you know I do love my TiVo, and my ice-making refrigerator, and central air, and also I am a wimp — but I thought it would be okay since I knew the thing had a concrete floor, camp cots, electricity, and water. We packed up the cooler, the camp stove, the dog, the bedding, and my little overnight bag (contact solution and case, face soap, glasses, pajamas, clothes, washcloth, etc. — I was going to be very prepared) and headed out "to the country," and the yurt.




At 9 p.m., the sun was going down and we were getting tired, ready to build a fire and make S'mores. I went into the yurt to change into my cozies and . . . discovered I'd forgotten my overnight bag and had nothing but the clothes on my back and the contacts on my eyeballs (and my natural 20/400 vision). Insert horrified gasp here. Insert me looking around wildly for someone to blame and finding . . . no one but myself. Well, I tried to blame Andy but that didn't seem right. Waaaahhhh! I shouted my frustration through the hole in the ceiling.

So, "yurt camping" without your bag sort of raises the degree of difficulty to "camping" camping don't you think? Not that I feel the need to convince you. I stink at camping. Utterly stink at it. No argument.

I wish I could say I slept well, but I really didn't. I didn't actually sleep at all. The yurt was filled with mosquitoes, and no amount of bug spray deterred them. That really sucked. I was doused in bug spray, and still, they hounded me relentlessly. With my contacts out and no glasses (which were at home in overnight bag), my eyesight was so bad I couldn't see them and was left incessantly smacking at thin air. Andy Paulson, the man who can sleep anywhere and through anything, snored soundly for seven hours. I smacked at my ears with jealousy, trying to stop the buzzing. Around 5 a.m. it started to rain, and then the mosquitoes really started coming in. So we all went outside. It was better out there, even in the rain, and Andy had plans for coffee, sausage, and pancakes on the camp stove.


We huddled around our little fire at dawn, under my huge umbrella, drinking the steaming elixir. I cheered up. It was delish. So were the pancakes and sausage. You can buy a little jug of Bisquik powder, add water, shake it up, and pour 'em out. Brilliant. The birds came out and played on the lawn in the quiet morning. The dog dug a hole under the back of my chair and settled in.


We were the only people there, and that was romantic. In our deserted village of yurts, we sat for hours and watched the island wake up under its big, gray sky. 


New-puppy negotiations might have come to a close. . . . I don't think we're getting a puppy right now [insert collective sob]. We're gonna stick with Miss Beautiful Wonderful over here for now. I don't think it's the right time for a pup, as much as I personally want to play with one, right this very minute, even. Well, there's still time to change minds, but for now — we've put the kibosh on the Lizzie-Lemon idea. I can't tell if Audrey looks worried that we are getting a puppy or that we aren't. Those eyebrows. This dog should be a writer, I tell you.


Thank you for all the kind anniversary wishes. There was something sweet and funny about being out in the bright, sparkling, drizzle, just the two of us, talking talking talking, nowhere to be, nothing to do but hang (and slap at mosquitoes). Hours passed. We played croquet. We talked about the past and the future. That's all I really want out of life, really. I just like hanging out together. The rain kind of came and went. That isn't a metaphor, I'm just saying. With him, it's Sunshine Family, no matter what the weather.

3,652 days.

comments: 153


Our "engagement" picture, taken in a shopping mall in Spokane, Washington, in the spring of 1997. We'd gone there because they didn't have any handmade paper I liked in Missoula and I wanted to make our wedding invitations. Whenever we'd go to Spokane we'd eat at Cucina! Cucina! and stay in a hotel — New York City couldn't have felt more cosmopolitan than that did, then. It was such a splurge for us. We were so excited. We felt so grown up. I remember this day perfectly. I was wearing blue corduroy overalls that were soft and floppy and he was wearing a red plaid shirt that I'd made for him almost five years before, when we'd started dating. 

When we first started dating, I'd think, "I've had a boyfriend for five months." "I've had a boyfriend for one YEAR." I couldn't wait for the days to add up.

Some have been hard. Most have been happy. Each has been brimful with love.

My cup runneth over: a miracle in every single drop.

I don't know.

comments: 113


Thank you for all the help yesterday. Andy came home last night, ran upstairs, and bounced up and down on the bed, chanting, "Can we get one? Can we get one???" I'm still very conflicted about it, and Andy admitted he isn't completely convinced himself. When I asked him what all the jumping on the bed was about he said, "Well, when one person's a'gin [against] it, doesn't one person have to be for it?"

Interesting argument. We'll be married ten years tomorrow and this is the first I've heard of this one.

Of course I'm thinking about us — well, me, really, because I'm the one who is home all day every day and will be on puppy duty — but I'm also thinking about the pets, about the equilibrium of our household. We have three pets now. Violet, our first cat, we got thirteen years ago now, in Missoula. Our second cat, Bridget, is seven, and she showed up as a stray kitten in the driveway. And Audrey — you know Audrey. She's six. She's our first dog, outside of the family pets Andy and I grew up with as kids. I'd inexplicably wanted a corgi ever since I was a little girl. And Audrey has been the perfect, perfect dog for us. She loves everyone, and everything. Things get a little hairy when people come over because she gets so excited, but I've even kind of stopped worrying about that. She is very attuned to us and to the energy in this house. She's sensitive but laid-back, happy but not hyper, friendly but quite independent.

That said, I've watched her with other dogs, and I can't say one way or the other if she's a dog's dog. My sense is that she's a people's dog; when other dogs are around she tends to either chase or be chased by them, but in sort of a worried, "What's-happening-here?" kind of way. As a herder, she likes order, not chaos, so she'll try to herd running things. I don't think she'd be overjoyed to have a puppy, but I think she'd probably get on board. She tolerates small children, but she doesn't seek them out. At all family parties or when we have people over, there is a point where she'll go seek out her quiet corner, and you can see that she is ready for her alone-time.

I know that when we got Bridget, the second cat, it was very hard on Violet, the first one. I mean, Violet was FURIOUS. She would sit on the railing above the landing and swipe at me when I'd try to go up the stairs. She'd growl at me whenever she came near me, which wasn't often. This was my VIOLET, my blossom, my sweet girl who rode on my shoulder everywhere I went, purring contentedly in my ear, for the entire first six months of her life, and had barely left my side since. I was heartbroken. At first everyone said, "Oh, it's tough at first, but they'll work it out!" When I had to start carrying a spray bottle around the house for protection against my own cat, it was horrible. I'd tell my friends, after this continued for a few weeks, and they'd still say, "Don't worry, they'll work it out!" but they'd say it worriedly, their optimism slightly feigned. It took a long time for the cat to tolerate the new kitten, and they are not "friends" even to this day, seven years later.

That said, the Bee is unlike any cat I've ever met. She has more in common with a . . . squirrel . . . I'd say, than those of her own species. A few mornings ago, I was sleeping in. Everyone else was downstairs, and suddenly I felt the Bee alight on the bed. Five or six times she walked up and down the length of my (top-sheet-only covered) body, and when I say "walked" it was more like . . . a drunken goblin doing a firewalk, all fast and wobbly. Back and forth, back and forth. Wide-awake, I held my breath and didn't move a muscle. This unexpected attention from the Bee is rare, precious, and more-than-a-little nervewracking. After prancing up and down my trunk like a strung-out miniature racehorse, she stopped to knead my (top-sheet-only covered) ribcage with her tiny, needle-like claws. Finally I said, as anyone would:


It was more than she could handle. She jumped six feet straight into the air, flew across the room, out the door, down the hallway, and halfway down the stairs before her feet touched the ground. So, I mean, what is that. It really is no wonder that Violet, the grande dame, the stately, even-tempered dowager queen, is thoroughly unimpressed and in every way displeased with this skitzy, troublemaking, unbalanced princess. The Bee chases her from her food bowl, jumps on her from behind the side wall, bats at her temples with her sharp paws. No provocation needed; if you're breathing, you're her target. For the patrician Violet, this behavior is beyond the pale. The look on her face is consistently like, "Someone do something. Do something."

Now I know that dogs aren't cats, that cat society is more complicated and . . . edgy. But I have many, many times taken Violet in my lap and whispered quiet apologies to her, my first girl, for bringing the little terrorist into her happy home. I believe, in all honesty, that Bridget's arrival and subsequent installation in our family aged Violet tremendously. She has never really been the same, and I bear some guilt about that. I do love the Bee, and I understand her, in a way; she was a street urchin after all, untouched by human hands for the first seven weeks of life, and deserves some leeway, and certainly needed us and our home. But if anyone's alpha around here, it's the Bee.

What if Miss Lizzie Lemon, as cute as she is, turns out to be Audrey's Bridget?

So I don't know. Still thinking.

Uh oh.

comments: 122


Every day for a week Andy has called me from work to tell me about the puppies his friend Yukiko's friend's corgi was having/just had. This morning, the first photo.

Now, you know about corgi puppies, right? Cutest puppies EVER? You can't pick one up without taking it home? You can't. You think you will go there just to "look" at them, but the next thing you know, you're a corgi mom. It's a total myth that it "can't happen" the first time. You just reach toward the puppy and you're PG (so to speak).

Oh dear. They really really really are so cute. And I always have wanted two, and to name one Lizzie. Andy will want to name her Miss Lemon. If we ever have a boy dog, he wants to name it Hercule Poirot, but my mother can't pronounce that. Because Andy makes you pronounce it with a Belgian accent. My heart is already full-to-bursting with my Audrey! I don't know what to do.

A puppy?

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