Posts filed in: May 2011

The Big Four Oh.

comments: 67

Steam being let off into the woods from the steam train at the Oregon Zoo

Oh, snap! Andy had a big birthday on Sunday, and we had a truly magical weekend. Our niece Brooke and nephew Max and Andy's mom came all the way from Chicago to spend a couple of (too short) days with us, and we seriously painted the town. We rode the street car, went to Little Big Burger, read books at Powell's, sat by the river, watched an omnimax movie at OMSI, had dinner at the brewpub, went to the dog park, played games at Wunderland, made pizza, finished a puzzle, stopped (of course) at the Waffle Window, toured the zoo, and hitched a ride through the woods on the zoo train. Best birthday ever. Ever ever.

Zzzzzzzzz. Aunt Alicia needed a nap after that, must confess.

Today it is too quiet and too clean (and, er, too cold — it's barely made it out of the 50s in too many days to count). Everyone is back at home, and Andy's back at work. The house has been put back in order, the air mattress deflated and tucked away. Towels and sheets are in the washing machine, the dog is back on the sofa, smooshed up against me as I write, and the presents are stacked and organized. The French Open is on. And there is cake left in the fridge. Mini-post-celebration — cake for breakfast. I like it.

comments: 28


Thank you for all of the Portland suggestions! There are some great ones in there. I am so looking forward to going through those and checking some new things out and putting a list together in the next couple of weeks. That will be really fun — thank you to those of you who took the time to contribute. Many classics in that list, and lots of places I've never been. Can't wait to have some time to check them out!

It's been such a busy week here as we work on the sampler kits. Everything looks fantastic and I am so pleased with how it's all coming together. We are still planning to ship mid-June, though most of the crewel yarn is still in England, where it is manufactured (crewel wool is not exactly popular right now, so there aren't too many companies left who even make it). Appletons has had to dye more wool to meet our demand, so we are just waiting for that to be finished and shipped from England to Texas and then to Portland, and in the meantime doing all of the cutting/ironing/screening/folding of fabric and all of the pattern printing and paperwork. Hopefully the timing of our finishing these things and the arrival of the wool will dovetail, and then we will start the assembly and shipping in mid-June. If the wool doesn't arrive on time, we'll have to wait for it [taps fingers]. But I'll keep you posted. I know Andy is writing a silk-screening post for you, too. If you're not familiar with the process, it's really pretty cool.

Any Suggestions?

comments: 148


Every year around this time I get a lot of email from people who are coming to visit Portland and want to know what to do (and where to go, where to stay, what to see, and what to eat) when they are here.

I can tell you that you for sure should go to Little Big Burger and get some truffle-oil fries. That I know.

I have lots of opinions. But I haven't put a list together in many years. Portlanders, if you have suggestions, I would love to have your help to create a nice list of places to go and things to do and stuff to eat in P-town. Specifically, and in no particular order, where would you go to find the best:

Craft store?
Fabric store?
Yarn store?
Burger and fries?
Coffee shop with a plug for your computer?
Coffee shop with people watching?
Egg rolls? (I honestly don't think we have those here. Agh. Prove me wrong, please.)
Bike ride through the country?
Picnic spot?
Swimming hole?
Outdoor restaurant dining?
Day hike?
Wildflower meadow?
Canoe ride?
Cute boutique?
Outdoor fountain?
U-pick organic farm?
Indian food?
Cool new little neighborhood restaurant?
Donuts (the new cupcakes)?
Farmer's market?
Romantic evening?
Thai food?
Chicken salad sandwich?
Food carts?
Tent camping?
Lake cabin?
Movie theater?
Ice cream sundae?

So, that's a lot, but I think it pretty much covers the range of things that people have asked about (and a few that I've asked other people about, I'll admit [egg rolls? Just reminding you] ). Please feel free to answer as many or as few as you have opinions about (and if there are any categories I've forgotten, just suggest those, too). I'll go through and curate a list and link to it on the sidebar, and then everyone can use it. Thank you very much!!!

The Beautiful Sun

comments: 67


Oh, yesterday! Yesterday did not go well!!! Or rather, the silk-screening portion of yesterday did not go well. It went bad!!! It's a long story, but there was some bad paint. There was a wobbly table. There were some swears. There was frustration and mystery. There were conferences, another trip to the art-supply store, eventual solutions, and, later, a reluctant recognition of when to just call it quits for the day, a bike ride to the food carts, and some major hammock-relaxing. Ahhhhhhhh. There was happiness again!


Much better.


[Worry worry worry.] She's not convinced.


It's okay, little corgi!!! We'll get it, I promise!


Today is already going much better. The problems seem to have been solved and I hear Andy-Paulson whistling in the air. Always a very good sign! PHEW DAT.


I'm pleased that the back yard is all put together now, I must say.  I planted all of the fence planters the other day (a combination of climbing vines and . . . celery and lettuces [!] [?] ) so we will see what happens there. Today should be our third day in a row of gorgeous, warm, sunny, beautiful weather, and I swear you can actually see the plants basking. Along with every other living being in this city. Ahhhhhhhhh. Yes yes yes.


Pretteh kitteh.


On our hammock we have a featherbed underneath a super-heavy queen-size down comforter that turned out to be too hot to actually sleep under. But it all makes the cushiest little nest for a hammock, which we use pretty much every single day of the summer. We have a big storage box around the side of the house, and every night if it looks like it might rain we take everything off of the hammock (and the pillows off of the Ad. chairs) and put them in the rain-proof box. It's kind of a pain, because the stuff is heavy to schlep across the yard and it takes a couple of trips, but we've been doing it this way for years and I think it's worth it.


That's our garage wall. That's climbing hydrangea on it. They might be two or three years old now. Eventually it will cover the wall. There are three plants; the one all the way to the left, in the darkest corner, is the smallest. We take the fountain in in the wintertime. By coincidence, it's the same exact color as the garage.


I wish I could remember where we got it but I forget. That was two or three years ago, too. Somewhere on-line. It's made out of resin or something, I think. Fake stone. Wasn't sure what to do with a big blank wall like this so we decided to create kind of a cloister garden feel. Can't wait until the hydrangea blankets it all.


So, the new door will go where the window with those red shutters is. And the deck will go where the old veggie garden is (and be about as big).


I like that little sun halo that is created by the setting sun. The sun, the sun, the beautiful, beautiful sun.

Pretty Wood

comments: 30


Replacing kitchen countertops with wood is now on my wish list. According to Ikea's web site, the Numerar countertop (in birch) is out of stock indefinitely at our local store, though last month when I was hot-to-trot about this issue the lady at Ikea said she thought it would be available in June. Who knows. Until then, a nice new cutting board for me. Ever since Stephanie explained how to make spoon oil, I have tried to be good about oiling my wood stuff.



I'm not great at it, but I try to remember to do it. I think the last time I oiled everything was in December. Boy does time ever fly.

Andy's setting up a silkscreening sweatshop in the back yard today because it's supposed to be sunny and 74 degrees. I, too, will be working. Working on reversing my vitamin D deficiency.

Double-Corgi Mini Tornado

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So the mamas say no, you stay outside, silly corgis.

Sleep In

comments: 46


My side of the bed is a mess of books. I try to pick them up every few days but it just doesn't work. Overpopulation. Most of the time one slides under the bed and I forget that I was even reading it. Lots of books, everywhere. Lately I've been falling asleep the minute I hit the pillow.

I washed the sheets with that vinegar recipe, and I think they came out fine. In my opinion, they still smelled a bit vinegary, but Andy says I have a super-sniffer (like Gus), and he didn't smell anything. Not sure this is a practical way of washing sheets for us, but I will keep the tip about drying them on perma-press. They felt very soft and were very wrinkled (which I like). Thank you again for all of the tips about sheets you had the last time we talked about it. Next time I am in the market for new ones, I am going to try the ones from Vermont Country Store. Or these resin-free ones. I actually had heard about these somewhere else, too, and they sound very nice.

Today I saw a lady on Division and SE 39th walking down the street with a round wicker basket over her arm, and sitting there in the basket was a big brown and white spotted bunny rabbit, twitching its nose and looking around at everyone. It was so cute. I've never seen anyone walking down the street with a bunny before. They seemed very comfortable, like they did it all the time. I hope I see them again.

A Very Good Fish Sandwich

comments: 41


I loved reading lilac reminiscences yesterday. I especially loved all of the ones that mentioned Chicago suburbs. I didn't know there were so many Chicago suburbanites (once a Chicago suburbanite, always a Chicago suburbanite, no?) out there among you. I love that. And yes, I aim to conjure a midwestern lakeside with my cedar pierdeck. Specifically Assembly Park in Lake Delavan, Wisconsin, where we vacationed when I was little. I need a shuffleboard court and a screen porch. And a corner store and a dance hall and a pontoon boat. And a Hostess cherry pie.


This is a very, very, very good baked fish sandwich recipe. You should make it.


When I have spent lemon wedges, I toss them in the empty (cold) coffee pot with some ice cubes and some kosher salt. Let it sit for a few minutes then swirl everything around for a bit before washing. This is what we did at the restaurant I worked at after college. It helps delete the coffee crud.

Don't forget to make the fish sandwich.


comments: 101


Every time I'm in our kitchen these past few weeks, I think about how, at some point later this summer (there's an eight-week lead time, and we just signed the contract on Monday), people will come and remove an old double-hung window and replace it with a door into the back yard. Then, instead of going down a long dark hallway and dodging coats, a couple of stairs, a too-low ceiling, the laundry hamper, and another inner door (to the mud room), we will be able to walk right from our kitchen into the back yard. Well, right from our kitchen onto a little cedar deck (that has to be built after the door is installed) and into the back yard. The cedar deck will just be a flat, eight-foot-square patio about two feet above grade, with a stair running the entire length of it on two sides. The third side, which borders the driveway, will have a couple of planters. (The fourth side borders the house.) I want the deck to feel like a dock — weathered gray (eventually, though I found this, about how to "weather" it faster) and open. We'll need a second back porch light, so I'm searching for one that feels sorta beachy. And in the planters (probably more simple cedar boxes) I'm thinking all sedge grasses for shade. There will probably be room for a little chair or two. Then I'll take my peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich out there and imagine water. A fishing pole. Dragonflies.


Right now, our lilac bush is blooming for the first time ever. It has finally gotten tall enough for its top to be in the sunshine (as if we had any of that stuff), so, blossoms. Lilacs — what is it about lilacs. They are time machines. They take you back to somewhere. Mine go straight to River Forest, circa 1977. Yours?

Trellises for the Back Fence

comments: 46


Thank you for all the funny things you said about the man sampler! We were cracking up all day long at the comments. I feel nervous now about how I insisted that beginners just need more motivation than skillz. You might need a little bit more than that. We'll talk about it.

It's May 11 and the sampler kits are completely sold out now — thank you again so very, very much for your orders. As I've mentioned, we are aiming to ship everything sometime in mid-June, and I will keep you posted here on the blog as to our progress. The downloadable PDF of the pattern and instructions only will be available in the next few weeks — I'll try to get that together as soon as I possibly can and will definitely let you know when it's ready.


Right now there's a sense of calm before the storm around here. All of our supplies for the kits are on order; we wait, ears flicking forward, for the sound of the UPS truck stopping in front of the house to drop off fabric, or needles, or crewel wool, or hoops, or anything. No such luck yet. It's still cold and rainy, but decided to use the time to work on the yard a little bit, and see if we couldn't get it in shape for spring a bit early. It's so cold it still feels early.


I was looking at some old pictures of our house and yards the other day. They were taken right when we bought this house, in 2000. There was almost nothing about the yard then that we have kept. If I had known what a "fixer" was back then, I would've definitely called it a fixer. For one thing, most of the property was covered in horrideous bark dust — the big orangey kind. There was no weed barrier beneath it: We bought in February; by July the weeds were more than knee-high and couldn't even be mowed (because of all the big chunks of bark dust). The yard was also just filled with diseased rhododendrons and other unhealthy plants. It all looked very newly planted, too, or at least like things had been recently moved around quite a bit for its sale. It has, without exaggeration, taken us ten years to get rid of all of that stuff and get both the front and back yards to be nice and average and healthy.


Let's just say we had (and have) a lot lot more motivation than skillz.


Eventually we got rid of all of the barkdust in the back yard, and planted grass. That grew for one year and then by the next year looked atrocious because there is a lot of shade in our backyard. So out it came, except for one little patch of it, which we frequently put a blanket down on to lay in the sun and read. It's the only spot of consistent sun in the yard. Everywhere else, Andy put down gravel. (There are before and after photos and a bit of explanation here.) And this turned out to be a great decision. We really, really love it.


Now most of the plantings in the back yard are containers. Except for a wall of climbing hydrangeas against the garage and a row of shrub hydrangeas against the back fence, I think almost everything else in the back yard (except the trees) is in a container. This works for me.


Some of the containers have perrenials, most of them have annuals. Several have herbs like sage and thyme or plants like lavendar and lemon verbena (I think that's what it's called). I have no plan. At the beginning of the season I just get a bunch of stuff and Andy sticks it all in the pots. I like things to look a bit wild and free lately. A hippie garden. Basil and warm-weather stuff will be planted later. But this week has been a start.


A bank dropped off baby tomato plants on everyone's porch the other day as a marketing tool (?), so we planted the tomato in a pot, even though it seems a little early. But hopefully she'll be okay.


About four years ago, the neighbors to the back were moving and decided to replace the fence we shared. We planted a row of shrub hydrangeas along it that were supposed to get to between four and six feet, ultimately. They've been very slow to get going; there is not a lot of sun back there and they are just growing right out of the gravel-covered soil. They seem happy, and flower profusely, but they're just kind of dinky. A few days ago I had an idea to assemble some bottomless cedar planters — little raised beds — and grow some annual vines up the back of the fence, behind the dinky hydrangeas.



So Andy built me some pretty little cedar planters, and we got some trellises and put them up.


Each planter cost less than $10 to build, and we will let them weather naturally so they will turn gray. We found two really old, lichen-covered trellises at the Rebuilding Center for $2 each. Then we found two other handmade screens at Garden Fever for $50 each. These screens are so beautiful. They are made out of budding branches — I don't know what kind of tree the branches are from. Whoever made them attached lichen and moss to the lattice and the whole thing looks like some sort of fairy gate. Just really pretty.


I'm going to start some pinkish black-eyed-Susan vine called 'Blushing Susie' (my mom and Andy's mom are both Sues, and my little sissy's name is Susie :-) from seed (!) and some hyacinth bean. Might not be enough sun for them, but I'll try. Probably try to grown some lettuces or something, too.


Since the fence does not belong to us, I wanted to make sure that our trellises were fairly minimal. But I might run a few vertical wires on the sides of the trellises if the vines look like they need to spread out a bit.


We'll see. I think they look so pretty right now, just plain, too. I was going to say something else but I forgot what it was.

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.