Posts filed in: February 2010


comments: 139


I came home from the dentist yesterday morning and found Andy, after a hard week at work, in the rocking chair upstairs reading every word of your comments. Tree out the window blooming. Dog on the floor next to him. iPod attached to the stereo. Souvenir hankie from Timberline Lodge out and in heavy use. Eyes glistening as he looked up.

Thank you, just one more thank you again. Thank you for this magical week.
Back on Monday.
Love always,
Paulson & Co.

* * * Thank You * * *

comments: 187

We are utterly overwhelmed by your well-wishes: "Thank you" fails, and seems like something you should say when someone hands you a cup of coffee, not sends you a thousand little flowers from all around the world. I saw a meadow covered in blossoms that were your comments, and started weaving a daisy chain of your kind, kind words, which left us, quite honestly, in a state of humbled wonderment, and sincere gratitude. I had a good cry over it all (so much kindness, so much . . . confidence), and then, quite amazed by, you know, life in general, I sat by the window and giggled: What a wonderful, wonderful world.

The Clearing

comments: 1475


I've been very shy about actually saying it out loud, but now that we've officially completed the paperwork, and done the home-study, and met all of the other requirements, I think I can tell you: Andy and I are hoping to adopt a baby girl. To say we are excited doesn't really even begin to describe our feelings; for once I am pretty much speechless. We have wanted to be parents for . . . ever. Our road to parenthood has been filled with puzzling twists, unmarked trails, and lost breadcrumbs. But it has led us here, to this bright clearing that, in its own strange, special way, feels like somewhere we were always meant to come.

Somewhere else, someone is traveling her own winding path toward us, I know. We wish her safe journey, and wait (on our little patch of meadow) to see her through the trees.

Pink Spring

comments: 95

I'm in my studio today, working on book proofs and looking at these camellias (the cultivar is 'Ave Maria') on my table. These are our yard's first blooms of the year. A sweet beginning, don't you think?

We got our apple tree over the weekend and Andy planted it on Saturday. We wound up with Cox's Orange Pippin. It will have reddish apples and pink flowers. I am very excited to have an apple tree! I think they are so beautiful in every season. Our hammock will go under the apple tree eventually. Hmm. Time to start planning a booklist. "Books to read on the hammock under the apple tree on Sunday afternoon." I'm thinking classics here. . . . Right?

Alicia's Oatmeal Bread

comments: 63


I've been playing with recipes ever since you so nicely shared yours with me a couple of weeks ago. I made four or five of the recipes, and then came up with one that combines a little something from each of them and the rising/baking method I learned (and modified a bit) from the awesome awesome awesome awesome River Cottage Family Cookbook and use for my own loaves. I have been making a loaf of this every couple of days for our sandwiches and toast. In fact [munch munch] I'm eating a piece of toast with a weensy bit of spun honey right now as we speak and . . . hold on [puts toast down] . . . mmm [brushes off hands] . . . yum. Good. I love it. Okay. Here's mine.


Alicia's Version of Oatmeal Bread

1 1/4 c. warm water (110 degrees F)
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 packet  or 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 c. all-purpose or bread flour
1 c. whole-wheat  flour
3/4 c. rolled oats
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons soft butter or olive oil

In a large (2 cup) measuring cup, add brown sugar to warm water. Stir to dissolve. Add yeast and stir, then set the timer for 5 minutes so the yeast can proof. While that's happening, stir the all-purpose flour, wheat flour, oats, salt, and butter or oil together in a large bowl (or the bowl of a KitchenAid mixer with the bread hook attached). When the yeast has proofed, add the yeasty-sugary water to the flour mixture a bit at a time and work it all together until you have a shaggy lump of dough. Knead, either by hand on a floured board or by KitchenAid, for 10 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball, put it back in the bowl, cover it with a damp dishtowel, and leave it to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours. It should double in size. Punch it down, then knead it a few times on a floured board, then shape it into a long sausage shape and stick it in a 9" x 5" well-oiled loaf pan. Cover it with the dishtowel again and let it rise for 1/2 hour. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place the pan in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 400 degrees F. Set the timer for another 15 minutes (if it's getting too dark put a piece of tinfoil loosely over it). Take the bread out and turn it out of its pan and tap it on its bottom. If it sounds hollow, it's done! Let it cool on a wire rack and then make a turkey sandwich with it and watch Judge Judy. That's what I do, anyway. I'm totally into all things courtroom now.

Decompression from an Intense Couple of Days

comments: 44


I bake bread


while others wait for spring.

comments: 57

Thank you very sincerely for all of your comments on yesterday's post — I am so grateful for your generosity here, honestly. It really touches me. Thank you. I am on jury duty this week — and no knitting needles allowed in the courthouse!!! Oh the irony — hours and hours to sit and wait, and not one stitch of knitting allowed. So wrong!!!


Back soon!


comments: 233


I didn't come to knitting naturally. When I was little, my Grandma Ieronemo crocheted and didn't knit, my other grandma partied at the country club, my mom occasionally crocheted and didn't knit, none of my other relatives or neighbors or friends' moms knit (that I knew of, at least). In college, my roommate Ann's mom knit her a sweater. It was her special sweater. A brown wool turtleneck. I asked to borrow it all the time. My boobs were about four times as big as Ann's. She let me borrow the sweater frequently and must have wanted to punch me in the face every day for stretching it out. I didn't get it.

Ann tried to teach me to knit one New Year's Eve. I was living in Missoula with Andy but I was home visiting my parents for the holidays. Andy had had to stay in Missoula to work. Ann was still living in Chicago then and came over to spend the day with me. I remember that day we had been driving around way out in the western suburbs (in Chicago the suburbs stretch out for hours), looking for something at some specialty store somewhere that we never found. I can't imagine what it was. She had a maroon Toyota Corolla. It was getting late and I was supposed to babysit that night. She was going to come to babysitting with me. Somehow we suddenly got a bee in our bonnets for me to learn how to knit, but we had no supplies. We switched our quest and starting looking for yarn. The stores were starting to close — it was around dinnertime on New Year's Eve — and we were pretty far from home. This was long before the iTouch. We went careening into a Wal-Mart (one of two times I've been in a Wal-Mart) and found some hideous acrylic yarn and big plastic needles. We raced back to River Forest, and the O'Hallorans' house. We played with the kids, then watched Saturday Night Live and my friend Andy Greer was an extra on that episode (it was either him or his twin brother, Mike — I can't remember). It was pretty awesome to see someone I knew on TV. After the O'Hallorans came home, we left and slowly drove back across River Forest to my street, looking at the Christmas lights and the houses. It had started to snow. The houses in River Forest are the prettiest houses you'll ever see in your life, especially in the snow. It was so beautiful there. You aren't allowed to park on the street past a certain time of night, so the streets are all wide and empty. That night was so ink-dark and quiet, everything sparkling and muffled in the snow.

Back at my house, my parents were still having a party. It was about 1:30 in the morning. My sisters weren't home yet. It is so classic that I would be sitting in my room with Ann, learning to knit with a party going on downstairs. We were so close back then. I remember that she told me that when she was a little girl and first learned to knit, she wouldn't stop doing it for anything. No matter what else she did during a day, she only wanted to be knitting, and would stay up long past her bedtime, knitting under the covers. I thought that was such a sweet image, little Ann with little fingers flying. She tried to teach me. I couldn't learn. We eventually fell asleep, and forgot about it the next day.

I went back to Missoula, finished grad school, and got a job in the marketing-and-publications department of a managed-care company. I hated this job with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns. I had two bosses and they despised each other, and made my life truly miserable. The company was remodeling the corporate office and they moved our department (of four) to a crappy satellite building across town, far from all my work friends. The building smelled so bad. The two marketing people were on the road all the time. I sat in my office alone every day with my one boss, who never spoke. To anyone. Andy and I were engaged then. I walked to JoAnn Fabrics on my lunch hour one day and got a pattern for the simple, pretty wedding dress I was going to make for myself. I showed it to my boss. She was nonplussed. I said, "You don't like it?" She said, "I just don't like dresses very much." I wanted to punch her in the face. I went back to my office and listened to wedding music on a compilation CD of wedding music. You were supposed to pick songs for different parts of the ceremony. I had no idea what I was doing, and I was far from home. I signed up for a knitting class. I sort of learned how to knit and purl; I could do it if the teacher was watching, but I got messed up when she walked away. I took the bus to and from work and would try to knit on the bus, and get so confused I wanted to cry. I couldn't do it. Everyone said it was so simple and I was bewildered and lost. The other people in the class had half of their sweaters finished, but I'd had to start over, and I was still on the ribbing. One time I was at the coffee shop and I saw one of my knitting classmates, happily knitting on her circular needles. I knew that she, like me, had never knit before the class, and there she was — laughing with a friend — and already halfway up the body without a care in the world. I couldn't believe she was laughing. When I knit, my brow winched up as if it had just been put through the pleater, and was ready for its smocking. My diastolic blood pressure neared triple digits. I found it completely mind-boggling that anyone actually found knitting "relaxing."

I got married and moved to Portland. I remember looking in the Yellow Pages to try and find a yarn store. Andy and I drove to it (we had no idea where we were going [which seems so hilarious now, since it was about a mile away] ) and it was no longer there. I found another one in the Yellow Pages on the opposite side of town near my new office (this job I adored). I walked there on my lunch hour one day — and it was no longer there. This was in 1997. It must have been just before the knitting boom. In 1999, the year after my accident, the Yarn Garden opened in Portland, just a few blocks from our apartment. I couldn't believe it — right in our very own neighborhood. I went on the first or second day they opened. I asked if I could have a private lesson, and Heather became my teacher. I think she was in her seventies, and I always thought it was so cool that someone who was seventy years old would be named Heather. Heather taught me to knit. She had learned from her stepmother when she was a little girl. Knitting was no big deal to her. It was like talking. She said I could pick any pattern I wanted, and any yarn I wanted, and she would teach me. We sat in the sunny room at the wooden table on my days off. And she taught me. I made a little sweater for my new niece, Arden. I think it was mint green with little candy-tuft colored sprinkles. I remember that my dad saw the sweater — I think I gave it to Arden for her first birthday — and he was actually impressed. He said, "Each one of these loops is an individual stitch?" I said yes. He said, "But you did each one of these loops one by one?" And I said yes. And he said, "Wow." I think it was the only thing I ever did in my entire life that my dad was actually impressed by. He gave very few compliments, but I got one for that sweater, and I still remember thinking, "Huh. I think that was a compliment."


In a strange way, I love knitting more than any of the other crafts I do. Its stitches have been harder won, and are somehow more precious to me. The fact that my dad might have thought it was cool is precious to me. I never do it for "work," the way I do sewing or crochet or embroidery designs; knitting is only for me, and only ever will be. I still don't really understand how it works, from a mechanical perspective. I mean, I sort of do, but if I make a mistake? Oh no. If a stitch falls off the needles or the count gets off somewhere? I cannot rip it out, because I'll never get it back on the needles. Ever. I just fudge right through. Mistakes don't bother me unless they've somehow entirely messed up the pattern, and then I must frog (rip out) the whole thing and ball up the yarn and try something else. I don't know how to "fix" anything. If I get the right gauge it seems like pure luck, and I rejoice with gusto. If I'm getting too many stitches per inch, I start twitching, and then I have to sit and think forever about what that means. Go up a needle size? Go down? Go down. No, wait — go up. Yeah, up. Wait. No. Yes. Right. Is that right? (and this "conversation" with myself takes five minutes, not five seconds, as my brain locks up and tries to budge itself again).

None of that bothers me. Now (because I'm so old and wise) I love it. I love picking the project and the yarn (this can take all day), watching the yarn get wound before I begin. I love that clicking of the wooden needles, and how the rhythm feels fluid and smooth, how the fabric comes off all drapey and beautiful, how it starts to become something  from nothing, how that's still a mystery to me, one I don't think I'll ever really solve. I even love how long it takes, how many thousands of stitches you have to do. How many chances you have, over and over, to get it right.

Total Randomness

comments: 53


My office is a disaster. The past few months have taken their toll, both on my energy levels and my room. It's so dark in there right now there's no light for a picture. I know that I should spend the day cleaning and reorganizing it. I just never feel like doing it. I keep thinking one day I'll wake up and "feel" like doing it. But I don't. I love this fabric, though. I got it at Superbuzzy. Not sure what I will do with it. For now it's enough just to look at it. But if I cleaned up my studio I might uncover inspiration. That might be motivating. Or not.

I had the weirdest dream last night. I was hired to dog-sit someone's greyhound. The dog's owner owned a big magazine with pink lighting. The office was in Brooklyn, New York, a place I've never been. Somehow I knew it was "Brooklyn." I was overwhelmed by a desire to live there, which is something that always happens to me when I travel. It felt like a movie set —or rather, like I was in a diorama of Brooklyn. Everything was quaint and old-fashioned, with old-fashioned painted signs on all the buildings, and little bonfires down little alleys. Every street I looked down was more story-bookish than the last. I had to sleep over in the office — that was where everyone lived. I woke up late and was wearing my nightgown to work and was very embarrassed. I saw a girl that my sisters and I grew up with. Her name was Anne and her sister's name was Sarah — they were both there but they acted like they didn't know me. My new boss didn't seem to notice that I was wearing a calico nightgown. We were all sitting outside on a brick wall at night. I wasn't sure where the greyhound was but no one seemed too worried about it.

Man that was weird. I haven't had a dream that vivid in a long, long time. Not that I think you care, but I just felt compelled to write it down for some reason.

Blocking Tutorial

comments: 79

Okay, this is so easy it's almost not fair to call it a tutorial. I was up way past my usual bedtime of 8:45 p.m. last night (Portlanders what did you think of the Wilco show last night? [Wilco, why are you so awesome?] I was very happy. First time I've seen them inside. :-) so I am sorry I am late getting to everything today.

But now. Blocking the Sunshine Day Afghan. Blocking is a process of gently stretching your finished knitted or crocheted items and then treating them with water or steam so that the fibers relax and the piece becomes all nice and soft and smooth and untroubled (instead of the taut, anxious little curled up thing it seems to want to be after it comes off your needles or hook). Blocking is like Ativan for yarn. What follows is not the only way to block, but it is the way I block everything I make. I can't really speak to other methods, but please feel free to leave any suggestions or corrections or helpfulness in the comments because I always like to learn about these things, and I will update this post with anything relevant and helpful that comes in.

I recently got a blocking board. I had wanted one for quite a while and just hadn't gotten around to making the effort, but for something like a blanket that is on such an obvious grid, this board was invaluable. Please note: I didn't do a lot of research because, as you know, my goal with major purchases isn't to get the smartest or the best or the best value or anything mature and reasonable like that — that's so not my style. My goal is generally to get the whole purchasing experience over with as quickly as possible. But I ran into this (large size) blocking board from Custom Knits Manufacturing and it worked very well, and I am happy with it. So please take that for what it's worth.


To begin blocking, lay the board out on a table —  you are going to be spraying water here, so make sure it is a work table or a waterproof surface (or even a bed, which can take getting damp and will dry just fine). This is the beat up work table that we use for stuff like this, and it is great to have (and will save your back, as opposed to the bed). Place your blanket on the board at the "zero" corner. My gauge for these grannies was 3.5" (9cm) per square, with a 1" (2.5cm) border.


I used fine, sharp 1 1/4" (3cm) nickel-plated (so they won't rust) T-pins, which you can get at any fabric store. (Get 200 of them; I used more than 100 for this.) I pushed the squares around a bit so that I could place a pin on the seam between every two squares while keeping each square to gauge.


Keep pinning all the way down the length of one side, placing pins every 3.5".


The nice thing about the blocking board is that you can turn the board 90 degrees, then begin pinning down the next length.


Go all the way around. I was tugging on this a bit on the third and fourth side; just be sure you are moving the blanket toward the edges from the middle, and not just pulling on the edges and stretching them out of shape.


You can see how it wants to spring back in toward the center. But that's okay. Once it gets its water bath, it will chillax and be happy.


Here comes the water bath. Spray spray spray until it is all nice and saturated. Don't worry, you won't felt the yarn — you'd need heat and agitation for that. Just add water by spraying in an even layer until you can see that your work is dampened through (you can see that it looks all fuzzy here).


Then go back in and finish pinning down the edges, every inch or so, until you have nice smooth lines without obvious puckers toward the center. Then give it another little spray for good measure, clean off the table, and leave it to sit until it's completely dry (overnight, at least —  this one took two days).


Oooo, and it's so, so fun to unpin it. Just you wait.

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.