Posts filed in: December 2007

Where I Plan to Stay Home Until 2008

comments: 157


Oh, the quiet wind-down of the year. There is frost on the roofs of the houses across the street this morning. New Year's Eve. The last day of 2007.

It's been wonderful having the past couple of weeks off. Absolutely wonderful. Christmas was quiet and lovely. We spent Christmas Eve at my sister's beautiful new house. The highlight of the evening was Arden, our nine-year-old niece, passing out the crochet presents she'd been secretly working on for weeks. I know I've said it before, but this girl truly is a crocheting wunderkind. As we opened our presents (pictured here are the hat and scarf she made for Frances the polar bear, and all without a pattern) pure amazement was expressed as we looked at each thing she'd made entirely on her own, with no help from anyone — a hat, a round pillow, a bracelet, a scarf, a stuffed bear for her brother, and juggling balls — and a collective cheer went up for our girl. It was my favorite moment of Christmas.

Thank you for all your kind Christmas comments and well-wishes and the beautiful cards and presents. Egads, so kind of you — thank you. It all gave me such a sweet, warm glow to carry through the holiday. I've spent the past week quietly crocheting, soaking up the wind-down of the year, reflecting and planning things for the next one. Nevertheless, a worry was plaguing me. My bad foot had not been feeling right since November. I tried to push it to the back of my mind, since there were so many other things going on, but for a couple of weeks a small bump had been looming on my ankle. I tried to stay off my foot, hoping it would disappear. By last week it could not be denied. It was popping up in a place that was held together by lots of plates and screws, where my bones were put back together at the time of my accident in 1998. Last week I went to see my regular doctor, who referred me to the orthopedist; because of the holiday I wouldn 't be able to get in until this coming Wednesday. But by early Sunday morning, the bump looked big and angry, and had developed a tiny, weeping hole, so, once again, we headed up the hill to the ER.

Eight a.m. Sunday morning at the ER felt oddly comforting and familiar. To say I was "nervous" doesn't begin to describe it. I think the clinical term is "very, very, very-very-very nervous." My blood pressure and pulse were insane. While the docs drew blood, asked questions, took x-rays, and looked concerned, I quaked with anxiety until someone gave me an Ativan. Under warm blankets, I took deep breaths and watched "Christmas in Yellowstone" and held Andy's hand, all of which helped to calm me. Slightly. Hours passed. People in scrubs and coats came and went. Sometime in the afternoon, the very kind orthopedic surgeon appeared to talk to us and said, as they usually do to me, "Well, there's something very unusual on your x-ray."
     "It seems a drill bit is trying to get out of your ankle."
     "[I'm giving up swearing for new year's so I won't repeat here the long string of very creative expletives that whizzed through my brain upon receiving this news.]"

I won't go into the details either, but basically at the time of my original surgeries, a drill bit had broken off and stuck into bone. When that happens, they leave it there, if it looks like it won't cause any problems. And it didn't, for almost ten years, though who knows how long it's been trying to work its way out. By the time the surgeon removed it yesterday, the tip of it was actually coming through the skin.When I got home, I told my friend Elizabeth this story. She screamed appropriately (thank you, E) and then said, "So your ankle was like 'Pa-tooey!' and . . . spit it out." Prrrrretty much, yeah.

Everything's good now. I am fine and feeling more relieved than I can say. Turns out having a drill bit in your ankle is actually not as bad as some of the other problems I was imagining! Of all the things I was imagining, I will admit that I hadn't considered that there might be a tool coming out of my body. Luckily, it came out without any trouble and now just has to heal up. Nevertheless, it is my fervent wish to stay out of trouble for the rest of 2007. To that end, I plan to stay on the sofa all day, cuddling Frances (above) and Clover (video and photos coming soon, just haven't had time), eating shrimp cocktail and homemade eggrolls (thank you Andy), and watching movies, the New Year's Eve ones you guys recommended last year.

Be well, everybody, and a very, very Happy New Year to you all!


Merry, Merry and Bright

comments: 146

Scarflette The stockings are hung. The gingerbreads are snowflaked. The scarflettes are blocked. The Christmas cards are almost in the mail (I actually handwrote them this year, no photos, no computer, and it was, unexpectedly, one of my favorite parts of the past few weeks). All is calm, all bright. I feel peaceful and expectant, hopeful.

I wish all of you the merriest Christmas and happiest of holidays. Thank you for the kindnesses, the patience, the wisdom, the encouragements, the giggles and the tears, every little kiss you've blown our way this past year. You have taught me so much, and that has been a true gift. If I could, I would make you a special present, something cashmere and crocheted, with my very best wishes and my most sincere appreciation woven into every bobble and scallop.

May your season be filled with love, comfort, joy, a little magic, and true peace.


My Christmas Wish


It's been amazing to have this week off, I must say. Amazingly slow and easy. For the first time in ever so long I have been living at a Regular Pace instead of lurching back and forth on the Tilt-a-Whirl of my life, c. 2007. I went grocery shopping. I baked. I cooked. I played. I saw friends and family. I hung out with neighbors. I talked on the phone. I watched movies. I played with Clover. I crocheted for fun. I made things for Christmas. I read real books. W. O. W. It was, all of it, all good. I feel regular things seeping back into my life. I have missed them more than I can say. I have even missed myself, somehow. If that makes sense.

2007, you challenged me. 1998 and 1999 were not so easy, either, but 2007 you were different in subtler, more complicated, less visible ways; many times I fumbled, panicking and stressed. I was on the phone with an old friend I hadn't talked to in a while, telling her the story of the year, and at the end I just burst into tears, surprising and embarrassing us both. But then not, really. The tears felt like part of the story. My shoulders slowly lowered as I talked. I'd been carrying them up around my ears all year, sinews tensed and protective. There is so much I want to change about myself.

Santa, bring peace to my heart. Help me be an instrument of peace in all I do. That is my Christmas wish.

Winter Kitchen and the Ginger Stars

comments: 73


I love it when the light comes into the kitchen in the afternoon. It's a dark room in the morning and for most of the day, but in the winter for just a short while on sunny-ish afternoons, it filters in at a low angle through obstacles — bare branches, eyelet curtains, onion baskets. Some people are so affected by light, and some people don't seem to notice it too much. Andy and I are in the former category. We are constantly fussing with the lights, tweaking dimmer switches, curtains, and lightbulbs throughout the day and the season until it feels right. I think that part of the reason I miss snow so much is that the daylight, when reflected off snow and into the house, is so much brighter and whiter than the daylight reflected off . . . mud. Our house faces north, and we need every bit of brightness we can get.

What any of it has to do with gingerbread I don't know, except that I find myself just wanting to be in the kitchen all the time lately. Who doesn't, during the holidays. It's warm in there, and the light is nice, and there is cinnamon, and hot drinks, and happy work to be done (unless chocolate is involved, and then there is howling). I just couldn't bear to ruin anymore chocolate in anymore bad brownies, so I decided to go with homemade gingerbread for my baked gifts. Next to homemade egg nog (so much different than the store-bought stuff) and Mexican hot chocolate, gingerbread is right up there with my favorite holiday treats.


Homemade gingerbread requires, you know, ginger, which is fun to chop up into little glittery nuggets. Nevertheless, as we were standing in the aisle at Winco on Sunday afternoon about to buy four bottles of molasses, a ginormous jug of vegetable oil (eeewww), and a big huge bag of flour, I saw a stack of about a thousand Betty Crocker gingerbread mixes for $1.48 each — just add eggs and water. I stood for long moments, flat-footed in front of the display, thinking, thinking. I pointed at them and looked at Andy hopefully — yes? NO said he, and dragged me away. He insisted that "we'd" have more fun if we did it from scratch. Strangely, he disappeared into the basement the minute we got home. . . . But he did come back up when it was time to clean the kitchen and take care of the whole batter-splattered thing, so that was fun. He was right!


Perhaps homemade gingerbread is no-fail, because mine amazingly came out just fine. It was a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE. I used this recipe I found by just doing a search; it seemed to have gotten good reviews. I'd have to agree with them — mine came out dense and moist and really nice. Phewy. Well, some of them sunk a bit in the middle, but I think it's because I was baking four at a time. And it was only some. And it's crunch time here, baby, so nothing can stop me now.


I used star-shaped paper baking molds from the Decorette Shop here in Portland. These come in lots of shapes and worked beautifully for me. I found some on-line here. They're a little pricey but I think they're so beautiful. The design on top is just powdered sugar sifted through a square doily (and I have no idea where I got the doilies; I've had them forever — sorry!).


Mmmmmm. Spicy stars. Can you smell them?

Pretty in Pink

comments: 53

Cottagecandies3_3 Saturday night we had our Christmas sleepover with our niece. We stayed home and made "gingerbread" (graham-cracker) cottages together. These were originally in the December 2006 issue of Martha Stewart Living (and look at this cute one, out of sugar!). I think they are the perfect size — you're done decorating just as you are ready to be done, which is important. We were considering doing something fancy downtown, or riding the Santa train, but it turned out that she wanted to stay home and decorate, like we did last year and the year before. I love a girl that loves tradition!

And for all those times I've stood in my kitchen looking at the dozen or so little vintage cups I tend to gather and thought, "Why do I have these?" — now I know. They're perfect for corralling tiny 'Nilla wafers and mini marshmallows.


I do so love projects that start with the same basic materials but evolve into wildly different and creative ends. You gotta love the flowery cactus-like shrub here.


Here's Uncle Andy's cottage and boat house (his is a beach cottage in Manzanita), tiled in burnt peanuts, Chex shingles, and an Anchor Steam bottle cap. He had a window box on the side that I neglected to photograph but he wanted me to tell you about it, and it was very cute. His has a cactus shrub, too.


I got way into the pretzels, and went traditional Tudor, with the Douglas fir in the yard.


I just love this picture. I think it's on the top of the list of my favorite photos. It was hard for her to sit still the length of time the shutter wanted to stay open in this dim light. Which, in its own way, says as much about her now as anything in focus could have. So sweet. A great night.

Where I Make Things Easy for Others

comments: 55


Every year, it feels like that last week before Christmas really sneaks up on ya. I'm in pretty good shape — mailing long-distance presents today, baking more gingerbread cakes (the alternative to Peppermint Bust-Up Brownies) tomorrow, for the first time in years trying to get the Christmas cards out before Christmas (or at all — it's been a while). Nevertheless, there are little odds and ends to take care of, and that little thing called the Husband Present. What do you get for the man who wants nothing? Jeesh. He's now flush with sweaters — I thought I was going to luck-out this year and get away with buying him all clothes, like normal people, but he needed them all stat, so, I don't know — pulling the shirts presents out of the laundry and handing them back to him on Christmas morning ("Here, honey, Merry Christmas, and — oh man, what did you get on the collar there, anyway? Mustard? Nevermind, I'll get it out. Love you!!!") doesn't seem right, somehow. . . . What to get, what to get, hmmm. . . .

Girls are SO EASY. I personally think I must be the easiest person on earth to shop for. When I met my friend Allyson's mom after knowing Allyson for years but never meeting her mom, her mom's like, "Oh, you're Alicia! We see so many things to get for you whenever we're out shopping!" Er, yep, that's me! And this from a person who's never even met me. My materialism is known far and wide. You're welcome, family and friends! Just sayin.

Anyway, on Friday I had a wonderful, quiet day crocheting a prezzie for a special someone, making this, the Poinsettia Bunting, designed by my friend Jennifer Fletcher of Fable Handmade. I absolutely love her romantic designs. I feel like I'm crocheting accessories for a fairytale Christmas. And how pretty is this! A scarflette. Perfect. This week, I need three more, by Christmas Eve. Go fingers, go! I think the girls will love all of this. I would. See what I mean? Easy.


I did wind up making a few of the bags I was talking about earlier (need to get a photo of those), but they required a lot of time standing at the table in the studio. And I was so weary of spending every waking moment in the studio after I'd finished the Lucias that all I wanted to do was put my feet up on the sofa, which is not in the studio. So, crocheted gifts from the sofa instead. A gift for us both. Crocheting gifts for you is a gift I give to myself from you, so don't even worry about me!


See how easy I am?

Snow Story

comments: 40


The pictures of snow in the Midwest and on the East Coast on the news this morning are amazing. They're saying a blizzard is coming to New England on Saturday night.

If I have a quiet moment this weekend, I'm going to reread James Joyce's "The Dead," the most evanescent of stories in his collection of portraits of turn-of-the-century Irish life, Dubliners. I don't really want to say anything about it, in case you haven't read it yet. I couldn't possibly do it justice, anyway.

I would recommend reading it under blankets, by candlelight, though. And if it's snowing where you are, even better. You'll see what I mean.

*Thank you, Christine, for the link to the story on-line.

Happy Santa Lucia Day!

comments: 33


Oh, aren't they sweet? All the girls in their white dresses, celebrating the light? I'm so charmed by them all!

These are just some of the photos that have been submitted to the Santa Lucia Clothespin Doll group on Flickr. Please go over and look at the amazing job that everyone is doing on the dolls! From petticoats to painted stands, every single one is unique and adorable!

Thank you again for ordering these and for sharing them with me and all of us. I have loved getting your emails about what it was like to make them with your families, and spend some quiet, sweet, simple afternoons being a kid again with a paintbrush in one hand and a hot chocolate in the other, music playing, and a puppers sleeping under the table. (You wouldn't believe how many people have written and told me about their dogs sleeping under the tables while they worked on these! How cute is that!) I am so very pleased that you are enjoying the kits. It's really the best Christmas present I could've gotten this year. Thank you. It really means a lot to me to see all of these, so thank you for sharing them.

If you've made some dolls, please take some photos and join the group! You can click the button in the sidebar at upper right to see the slideshow or join the group, and I'll try to send out invitations to everyone who ordered a kit, too. You need not have gotten a kit to join, though — even if you just made some on your own, you are very welcome to join!

Happy Santa Lucia Day! I wish you light and love!

*1. St Lucia dolls, 2. close up finished doll, 3. IMG_1715, 4. IMG_1701, 5. IMG_1683, 6. IMG_6111, 7. Santa Lucia Dolls, 8. Santa Lucia Dolls Under The Tree, 9. Lucia Dolls 2, 10. Santa Lucia Dolls, 11. Feeding the poor.............., 12. Saint Lucia Dolls, 13. St. Lucia Dolls, 14. St. Lucia Dolls, 15. St. Lucia Dolls, 16. Dec_07 025-1, 17. Santa Lucia Dolls, 18. Lovely Lucias, 19. Santa Lucia Dolls, 20. Santa Lucia Dolls, 21. St. Lucia Dolls, 22. St. Lucia Dolls, 23. December 13, 24. Santa Lucia, closeup, 25. IMG_1720

Peppermint Breakdown

comments: 116


And whatever happened to the peppermint brownies, you say? Well. So. Two things happened. 1) I baked another pan of brownies in a new 8" x 8" silicone pan but they burnt on the outside and were totally soggy on the inside and wouldn't come out of the pan and then 2) I went shopping and had a peppermint brownie from the Nordstrom coffee bar that was perhaps the best brownie I have ever had or ever will have. I just know it. It was fudgy, with two layers of frosting (one pink and one brown) and, the best part, it was strangely salty. It was actually quite salty. Even Andy said, "Yum! This is salty!" at the exact moment that I was thinking, "Yum! This is salty!" which is just one more of a million reasons to love that sweater-sportin' clinical-unit-managing nurse o' mine.

So I seriously have no idea what my problem is when baking brownies, but the whole thing reminded me of reading The Brothers Karamazov and, upon finishing it, thinking, "Why, oh why would anyone ever try to write another book? This one has everything, everything!" Instead of launching me into an existential crisis, this was actually hugely relieving. After wasting eight ounces of chocolate, two pounds of butter, four eggs, and a bag of confectioner's sugar, I decided to scrap the homemade brownie idea and buy brownies at Nordy's when I have the craving. What is happening to me? I thought I was all about the process, the experience, the whole handmade happy, and now I'm all, "Pfft. Why bother? I'll just buy it! I'll just buy this garland, I'll just buy this brownie, what else can I buy." Little Miss Moneybags over here. Not. Well, I just like to think that, during the holidays, we must pick our battles carefully is all. If you'd heard the disappointed howl that emanated from my Christmas-core when I, cutely apronned and very excited, took the second batch from the oven and saw the charred yet gooey mess I'd created, you would say to yourself, "Goodness, this crazy girl needs a hot bath, a good book, a glass of wine, and a store-bought brownie stat." You would say that, I know you would. That's why I love you.

Several people wrote and mentioned this recipe from this month's Sunset magazine. I'm afraid to try it, but let me know if you do.

I can make hot chocolate, so that's something. I can even make Mexican hot chocolate, my favorite kind, seeing as how all you have to do is heat up some milk , drop in the choc., and stir. And squirt some whipped cream out of a can. Yes, that worked out very, very well, I must say. That was just fine.

Snow Village

comments: 122


On Sunday, I put up my precious and most-beloved village, and saw snowflakes. For a few minutes, snow was there, and I watched at the window thinking it was an illusion. As nonchalantly as it started, it stopped. In that moment, I missed Illinois more than I can say.


I had a memory of standing in Ann's apartment in Hyde Park near the University of Chicago watching the snow pile up, later walking in our wool coats and leather boots to the Medici for a bowl of ravioli, and later watching Roman Holiday on her tiny TV as the snow continued to fall past the streetlights.


Until I moved to Oregon ten years ago, snow was a major part of my life. It's a major part of most Midwesterners' lives, really. There's a sort of camaraderie snow engenders that rain doesn't inspire. Snow seemed to unite us. I walked to Keystone Park with my pom-pom topped skates over my shoulder most Sundays. I'd meet Monica at the end of my street. At school she acknowledged me if necessary, but back in our neighborhood we had a secret, simpler life we rarely discussed beyond its borders. Underneath our jeans we'd wear long underwear, two pairs of socks. At the park, they'd plow the snow into stout, frozen berms and then flood the big field, adding layer after layer of ice. We'd change into our skates in the old warming house then skate for hours and hours, practicing figures, chasing and fleeing, learning to spin, thinking up complicated routines and judging each other harshly for our efforts. We were not good, and neither of us had ever had a lesson, but we skated in that park every winter for years. Behind the huge, gnarled oak trees of our old, pretty town the sun set low and glowing. It was so, so cold. I'd walk home as it was getting dark, and the house would be dark and very warm, my mom making sauce, my dad smoking and watching Channel 11. I'd stand at the sink, frozen-cheeked and wild-eyed, and run my hands under warm water until I could feel my fingers again. Then I'd stand there, still and warming, until someone told me to shut the water off already, and move along.

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