Posts filed in: January 2008

Practical Magic

comments: 68


In the mail yesterday I got this amazing book, Practical Recipes for the Housewife, from one of my dearest college friends, Jeanne-marie. A few weeks ago, she'd found this old book of her grandmother's in a box of cookbooks in the basement. This book was published by the Chicago Evening American with the help of 13,000 housewives who contributed recipes. No copyright date. After doing a little bit of internet research, she discovered this amazing web site and sent me the link to download the pdf of the whole book. For free. W.O.W.

This site is so cool, kind of overwhelmingly cool. If you click on the children's library, wow again. All I could think was WHO WAS THE POOR SOUL WHO HAD TO SCAN ALL OF THIS? I feel so sorry for that intern. Except that possibly the books are just so incredibly cool that they didn't mind. All the better for us. There is so much there I couldn't even scratch the surface. Really quite incredible that it's just . . . available, waiting. I'm tongue-tied with wonder.

Eeeeenyhow, I finally picked up my mail from the P.O. yesterday and in it was the real book from JM! Thank you JM! I love stuff like this. Menus for Sunday Dinner and Cold Weather Breakfasts ("Hot Baked Apples with Cream, Omelet [Spanish], Corn Meal Muffins, and Coffee," with Xs next to many menus, indicating that our housewife had tried them, I expect), tips on how to clean piano keys and pasteurize milk, recipes for banana ice cream and Marigold Cake. Andy brought me some heart-shaped silicone cupcake bakers from the grocery store the other night and I'm thinking this batter for them:


I love old cookbooks. This book is so fragile, and has little cut-outs, notes, recipes literally written on the backs of envelopes all fluttering from between the pages, fragile as moth-wings crumbling between my fingers. I wish Jane were here so I could show it to her because anyone who is writing a book called Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer would probably love to see a real-life recipe for Nesselrode Pudding, don't you think? Oh well, the pdf will have to do! I love you, sweet Jane, but I can't part with this valentine.

Thanks again, Jeanne-marie. Now can you come visit me and I'll bake something for you? Puhleeeeeeeeese, pretty?


comments: 112


I was invited to go to a school pancake breakfast (and by the way, did you know that today starts Pancake Week? And I didn't make that up? Yay Pancake Week! Thanks Tara!) with some of my neighborhood elementary-school friends, but it got cancelled this morning because of the weather. It's not bad here, on our street at least, but I'm watching the Today show where they're showing pictures from the Midwest and it is frozen out there. Yipes. If you can swing it, I highly recommend a warm bowl of Malt-O-Meal. Sprinkled with a little bit of cinnamon sugar, the warm bowl is really a time-machine back to childhood snow days, I think.

By the way, speaking of bowls, when we were in Seattle a few weeks ago having breakfast with Blair we stopped in at a new-to-me Polish pottery shop at Pike Place Market (they don't seem to have a web site) and, B, I haven't stopped thinking about it since. Now I want new dishes. Or a few new dishes. My dishes, these solid, white standbys, have been with us for years — I got them all for a quarter per piece from a guy I knew who used to own a restaurant and was getting rid of it all. They're good, but seriously: Look at these. Gah. Maybe just a few? A few little Malt-o-Meal bowls? A sugar and creamer set? I can't decide what pattern I like. I like the little calico cream-and-blues. Well they're all pretty much calico cream-and-blues. I think I like the Morning Delight. I don't know, it's all just beautiful.

The embroidered dishtowel above is an old Martha from Kmart, which seemed appropriate because I've been designing a set of embroidered days-of-the-week dishtowels myself. I'm going to make them available in some format or another, either as a simple download pattern (do you hate transferring patterns?), or possibly a set of iron-ons (prefer to iron them on?) with a whole kit — I don't know, I haven't decided yet. My idea is to update the towels with, instead of teapots, images of heart-shaped pancake molds and pastry bags — the things I really use in my kitchen. I'll keep you posted on this, as I'm very excited about it! We go through dishtowels like Kleenex around here. I made lots of them as gifts before I had a blog so I don't have any photos, but I've never made any for myself. Anyway, blah blah. Just excited.

Lastly, I just wanted to say thank you for something. I just want to say thank you for welcoming Miss Clover Meadow as you have done these past four months. I don't talk about it very very much, because sometimes I have trouble saying things that are very important to me, but . . . thank you for being so kind to and enthusiastic about her. She is in every way as beautiful and wonderful as her auntie and, strangely, she also lets me cuddle her constantly (which is very much not like her dear, independent auntie) and . . . just thank you for so warmly and so sincerely welcoming our little four-leaf Clover. It means a lot to us.

Rare Sunbreak in the Stacks, and a Baby Clover

comments: 72


The weather in the Northwest is blustery and cold. Snow routes and ice scrapers are part of the morning. Andy took the bus today after almost getting stuck and then having to push someone up the hill yesterday morning, getting covered head to toe in slush, and all in his snazzy clothes, too! Portland is hilly, so one part of town can be perfectly fine, and just a couple miles away it's a much different story.

I didn't notice the snow and ice on the lawn, really, because I was in the studio all day and it's always pretty summery in there, it's true. This whole studio needs a good reorganizing. This is the only corner that looks neat and tidy. I definitely don't wash all my fabric before using it, by the way. It totally depends on what I'm making; if I'm not going to wash the finished thing, I don't prewash my fabric. I do put it in a giant laundry basket if I'm taking it out to the television to refold it all while watching ice skating competitions. And I actually came to the conclusion that I don't have too much fabric, I have too much fabric I don't take care of properly, as in I throw it back toward the shelves from across the room and then later, when I'm closer to the shelf, stuff it all frantically in there like a wild-eyed hamster hard at work, which, though physics is not my thing, doesn't seem like the most efficient use of space. (That's physics, right? I don't even know.) Anywy, it's something that doesn't come naturally, whatever it is. I have to take it all out and refold it regularly, lest it all come cascading off the shelf. A calico waterfall.

I've got a to-do list for spring that's filled with birds and flowers: new Friendly Birds, new Clothespin Doll Kits (these will be Flower Girls), new Cagelets. New postcards, new crochet patterns. Possibly new Bookbags (you can see some of the vintage fabrics there). Lots of things. My fingers are twitching. I'm almost there, but not quite. Not yet. Just thinking out loud here. I can't help it. I confess that I have been absolutely bested by my in-box and my P.O. box the past couple of weeks. I have a lot of catching up to do — the timing on everything has been kind of feast or famine around here. Slow and easy for a while, then everything happening at once. That's always the way, yeah? But thank you again to everyone who continues to write with such nice comments and emails about the article I wrote for the February/March issue of Hallmark magazine. It was a difficult story for me to write, and I'm completely overwhelmed by your kindness, I really am. Thank you.

I think I'll make some Malt-o-Meal for breakfast, to counteract the blustery weather. Don't you love that stuff, especially when it's lumpy? A little bit lumpy.

My mom sent me this photo yesterday, taken by her the first time she met Clover the first week we got her. Aaaggghhh! Oh honeygirl. I can't stop looking at this. Clover Meadowsweet two days in a row, but this is a great one. I didn't think you'd mind.

Cloverbaby Oh, I gotta go kiss her now, right on that droopy, fuzzy-wuzzy wittle wip.

Clover Basket

comments: 83


I refolded all the fabric in my stash over the weekend. As I was taking this picture, I noticed a little something over there.


Someone was looking at me.


Nothing like an old shoe to put your chin on, I guess, especially if it's attached to someone you adore's foot.


O how I love this little thing. Kiss kiss kiss.

Did Friday happen? I missed it.

comments: 33

I can't believe it's the weekend already. Yesterday completely disappeared. I woke up about an hour later than usual and it was like the whole day was lost, what is that. Last weekend Andy Paulson and I spent every waking moment in various coffee shops around Portland going over every line of the book proofs together (and let me just say for the record the man can now add Technical Editor to his illustrious list of titles because he. is. awesomeness itself. Thank you thank you thank you!). (And also forgot to say that I was giggling at how many people mentioned Chicago [that's editor-slang for the book, not the city] on the table, which if the flip-book of last week were accurate would also have a picture of me picking that thing up 46,000 times, trying to remember anything about how to edit page proofs properly.) I came home to find an opportunity to get Amy's papercutting patterns in pdf format and yeah, I couldn't press that download button fast enough. The perfect antidote to the millions of fractions and their metric conversions lurching about in my poor little pea-brain? Sitting and cutting pretty hearts and flowers out of colored paper. I can't tell you how easy or how much fun I had doing this because that would take words and my brain is frappéed like a milkshake (finished the proofs on time for once and returned them Thursday night, yay) but just look:

Papercuts1Are these not cool and pretty, just like Amy? Get them here and prepare to enjoy yourself completely. I know. It's addictive.

Amy and I had dinner together without knowing we'd each been nominated for a Bloggie award along with sweet Megan (Not Martha) and Apartment Therapy and Post Secret in the art/craft category, so how cool is that! We were cracking up the next morning to see. Thanks you guys, jeez! I am honored that anyone even reads this thing, let alone nominates it for anything, so thank you for that. (And that's right Karol if I find one square of Charmin on my lawn this weekend consider that I have wicked good aim with the Silly String, just sayin!) I haven't had time to look at all the entries but there are some amazing blogs I have never even heard of before over there, but then again I live in my own little malted-milkshake vortex so no surprise there. That's gonna change. This one? HOW. COOL. That one's gonna keep me busy for hours, I can't wait.

This weekend will be a photography weekend, shooting a few retakes for the book and a couple of new process shots and I don't know what else — gotta look at the list. I did manage to upload some pictures to Flickr the other day and I have to say I do kind of like just looking through all the photos without the text of the blog. Andy made me the photo album of Clover pictures printed from the blog for my birthday, and I'm thinking next month I may do a big "print 'em out and frame 'em" with the photos that are just on my computer. It's been years now since I've actually printed and framed a digital photo. That's gonna change.

After this weekend, I am going to be free, seriously free, for the first time in a looooong time. I can't wait. Can't wait!

C. W.!!!!!!!

Where She Gets Her Chair Back. Ish.

comments: 85



If you really want to get a feel for it, you could print out these two pictures and the one from yesterday, make 50 copies of each, bind them together into a flip book, and then go through it about fourteen more times. * I get up, she gets on, I tip her out (this one doesn't like to be picked up), I get on; repeat from * 699 times more — 700 sts.

Where I Steal the Cat's Chair, and She Eyes It Longingly

comments: 71


Can you find the Bee? She can't wait to get me out of the studio. I so rarely actually sit when I'm in here; she is bewildered to discover that apparently I think this is my chair. I am working really nicely, and not getting out at all these days, which seems great, really. It's so cold and windy, though sunny. We expatriate Chicagoans are apparently quite wimpy about cold and wind anymore, what's up with that. That's embarrassing. Maybe I'm just unmotivated to leave the nice warm house. I almost went across town the other day. I said, "Hun, where's that Powell's that's by the Pizza Schmizza that's by the Bank of America where we saw the rainbow that one day?" And he said, "On Cedar Hills Blvd." Me: "Where's that?" Him: "I don't know." Me: "Oh well, I'll just stay home." WOW. That's crazy-lazy.

I've gotten really lazy about Flickr, too. I'm so happy when all my pictures are organized over there but I don't enjoy uploading them, though they couldn't make it any easier. I think you can upload it over there first, then blog it over here, but I never do that. I don't know why. No, I do. Begins with an "L." Isn't it weird how there are some fairly simple things you just don't like to do? Brooke in the comments said she doesn't like making pancakes or rice. I can totally see that (the rice part; I love making pancakes). I don't really like making rice either. I hate scanning things. I'll do almost anything to avoid having to scan something. And while I'm on the subject, let me just say for the record how having a cat sitting on me or even touching me while CLEANING ITSELF would have to top this list of things that I try to avoid. Uploading pictures, rice-making, cat-cleaning, scanning, wind, noodles that are even the slightest bit overcooked (bad), and . . . oh yeah, the smell of candles that have just been blown out (eeeeewwwww yuck).

Ez tagged me to tell Seven Random Things. Pretty sure she didn't mean Seven Random Things that Annoy Me, but what can you do. At least I didn't do Seven Random Ways I Am Annoying, though that would've probably been easier, actually. I can think of a lot of those. I'm also too lazy to actually tag seven people, so please consider yourself "it" and play at will.

Early-Morning Blueberry Bake

comments: 54


I had a few blueberries leftover from the pancakes, and since I got up at 2:00 a.m. this morning (uggggggh — book proofing by day, and then "proofing" in "dreams" at night, decided to just forget it and get out of bed at 4-ish and . . . bake a cake at 7 . . . I know . . . and here it is) thought I'd try the Berry and Buttermilk Cake from Apples for Jam. Last night I was just lying up in bed going through the whole thing page by page for about the fourth time picking out about fourteen things I want to try, stat.

In case I haven't mentioned in the past five minutes how much I love this book, allow me to say so again. Love. It. As I was searching around for a link to it for you this morning, I found that Amanda made this same cake last fall with some variations — I wish I'd seen her recipe before I made mine because she added maple syrup and that is a great idea. Like blueberry pancake-cake. Wouldn't it be cool to do like a Julie & Julia thing with Apples for Jam? Just go through it color by color, dish by dish. Wish I had time for that. I don't think I do. Though I have made four or five of the things already — all awesome. Seriously good. The Spaghetti with Ground Beef was amazing. Cinnamon, paprika, and mint in the sauce. I find it difficult to blog about dinner in the winter. It's too dark to take a picture of anything. If you want to know what time the sun rises/sets go here. I will say "not early enough/too early" respectively, though apparently we did gain 2 minutes and 11 seconds over yesterday. . . . Sigh.

By the way, speaking of berries, I found the comments about the Swedish pancakes from the actual Swedish people very interesting! No lingonberries with pancakes, they say! Well, that makes sense to me, of course, because I don't actually like lingonberries, but I have never once ordered these pancakes at a restaurant and had them served without lingonberries or lingonberry jam, even at Al Johnson's or Ann Sather's. So I can only conclude that maybe this is an American version of a Swedish thing? Kind of like how my Italian family looks at spaghetti and meatballs smothered in red sauce and says, "That's not Italian." Like that? Just curious.

'Kay. Naptime.

I wish.


I'd take this out five minutes earlier next time. The toothpick was a bit too clean for me.

Blueberry Hearts

comments: 59

Heartpancakes2 Morning, you are good to me. Pancakes, you are good. I made these, virtually speaking, for my mother-in-law in Chicago who loves blueberry pancakes with lemon juice and sugar. I only wish we could all be sitting at the same table eating them, of course, but blogging them seems like the next best thing. Sue, pancakes for you from far across the miles, with love.

When Andy and I were in Seattle a few weeks ago, Pam and Wendy and I went to the Daiso for several happy hours on Sunday afternoon. For under $30 we each got out of there with happy baskets filled with treats. We sat in the atrium of the Westlake Center and did a little show 'n' tell. All so different. My stuff was all cupcake papers and pink notebooks, Pam's was all cool stuff I didn't even see in there, and Wendy's was eminently practical. I did tempt her with my heart-shaped pancake mold, though.


I should tell her, however, that there is nothing less practical on earth to make than heart-shaped pancakes. If you only have one mold. Note to self: Next time get these.

If your mold is not nonstick, like this one, oil or butter it around the inside very well — these really want to stick. That little lever moves up and down — this photo was taken while I was doing my experiment to see if you could "flip" it while it was still in the mold. But the best thing to do is to cook the pancake on medium-low heat for quite a while until the edges get dry, then push it out with a little espresso spoon, and flip it. Then wash the mold and re-oil to use again. Better yet, see note to self in previous paragraph.

Blueberry Pancakes

1 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 T. sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 c. milk
2 T. butter, melted
some blueberries

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl with a pourable spout. Add egg, milk, and melted butter (I melt the butter in the griddle pan I'm going to use, then pour it in the batter). Whisk gently to combine and don't overmix. Add blueberries as desired. Top with lemon juice and sugar.

Thank you to everyone who has written me about the Hallmark magazine article. We sincerely appreciate all of your kind words about it. I have yet to actually look at it (I know, I am a loser). I get very shy and self-conscious about these things. I like to pretend they're not happening, generally. But I was honored to be asked to tell our story to Hallmark, and I do honestly hope that by telling it someone is inspired to pick up hook, yarn, needle, or thread. They are extraordinary medicine, and that is something that I discover over and over again. I feel like I discover it again every single day. Despite the many trappings of work and words and web sites and orders and articles and emails and book proofs and everything else that crafting has brought into my life, the stitches themselves are always at the heart of it all. The stitches are what I love. I'm so very, very grateful for them.

And grateful for Nurse Paulson, of course. That man heals hearts in too many ways to count. xoxo

Polly Beret

comments: 77


If you have your own mannequin head (you don't?), you are frequently inspired to think about hats, for obvious reasons. Whenever I see someone wearing a beret, it always makes me wonder where they're going. Field trip to the Art Institute? Pennywhistle lessons? Ice-cream social? Beret-wearers have a certain insouciance that I admire.

I've been wanting to make a simple crocheted beret for a while and this one that I made over the weekend is pretty much exactly what I was going for. Needless to say, that's a miracle. The yarn is Suri Merino in this woodsy, heathery green. They say it's a worsted weight but it seemed a little lighter than that to me? Probably just me. Anyway, it's beautiful yarn. Nevertheless, I'm remaking it in DK as I fuss with the pattern (and thank you to the people who have already written and offered to test this — I'll finish the pattern today or this weekend and pass it along to you) because I am just loving the cashmere-blend DKs out there right now and can't stop using them. Thank you, manufacturers, for making more of these for us! Good on ya.

Coooold out again! Snow, I will still take you, if you'd oblige, especially for the weekend. It's not supposed to snow, according to the forecast, but if you see a girl wearing this beret pretending to catch snowflakes on her mittens while walking the dog, that's just me.

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