Posts filed in: December 2011

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When I was little, I used to like New Year's Eve. My dad was a musician and usually worked that night, and my mom would go to wherever he was playing. We three girls would spend the night at our grandma and grandpa's, and that was my happy place: The house was overly warm and almost new. Everything was tidy and beige. In the spare bedroom where we slept, the bed was dressed in heavy cotton sheets and thick wool blankets. There was wall-to-wall carpet, and we would become wild on the floor in a way we never did at home on our hardwoods; we did headstands and somersaults and backbends and walkovers and my grandma would just have a fit. I don't know if she was more worried that we would hurt ourselves or that our underpants were showing. We were so oblivious to either concern. Our grandparents were very old, the oldest people we knew. We were their only grandchildren. I remember one time in seventh or eighth grade, when it was the height of fashion in my crowd to wear rolled-up men's boxer shorts to volleyball practice, I raided my grandpa's dresser and came out into the living room wearing a pair of his. I asked him if I could have them. My grandpa spoke perfect English with a heavy Italian accent, but in that moment he was sure he did not understand my question. Confusion ensued. You want to wear my underpants, to school? Me, French-braided, smiling: Yes! To school? Um, Yes!?!? Could he not see how cool these were? My father gave me $10 and told me to go to Marshalls.

At my grandparents' we would lay on the floor in front of the television and watch all the New Year's Eve shows, and at midnight we would muster a sort of imitated enthusiasm, not old enough yet to truly understand what a miracle another year really is. At bedtime, my grandma would walk around the house, turning everything off. She finally would pull the chains on her cuckoo clock, lifting the heavy pine-cone weights, and then stop the pendulum so the clock would not cuckoo through the night; she'd set the hands for seven so that the next morning it was always ready to start again with just a push. It was so quiet at my grandma's house at night. Our parents were night owls; almost never did I go to bed in a quiet house at home. But at my grandma's you could hear every possible noise: the bed creaking when you moved. The heat turning on and off. The freight train approaching and then going past. Every little house-click and house-thump. Almost twenty years ago I had a panic attack on an airplane in mid-air. Tears streamed down my face. I closed my eyes and was back in my grandma's spare bedroom, in the warm dark with the night-light left on in the hallway, my grandparents sleeping in their twin beds on the other side of the wall. Safe.

I've conjured that place several times this past year, trying to find purchase in my life and in what has, at certain times, felt like being in free-fall. I think that's how most of life is, in a lot of ways. You step forward, and step forward, and then you touch back — everything still here? Still here. Okay. Forward again (then). Life pulls you forward, even when you feel tired. I never was an adventurous person, in my own opinion; I always had big plans but only for little, mostly prosaic things. I always was and still am happiest in slow, mostly quiet places, with long, mostly quiet days. Winter suits me. When I look back on 2011, I am, I have to admit, still sort of bewildered and shaken, not sure what happened or even what to do next. I'm trying to be at peace with that gauzy, half-blurred feeling, and on certain days think it is easy to just — let it go away from me, a long piece of crinkled muslin tossed up and carried off into the wind. On other days I seem to wear it, spiraled and close, like a scarf. Maybe I'll just lose it somewhere, and not even notice. Leave it on a bench or a bus. I won't mind.

I'm not much of a planner, and never manage to remember to make any grand resolutions for a new year. My regular resolutions always seem so obvious. But I like how New Year's Eve prods you say them, even the obvious ones, out loud, along with everybody else. I want to appreciate the health, happiness, and home-life, and the people and pets, that I am so lucky to have. I want to be more generous and helpful, because I haven't felt like I've had much to offer anybody lately. I want to be a better friend and listen more when people are talking. I want my shoulders to relax because they're riding too high. I want to be outside more. I want to cook more and eat healthier. I want to have patience. I want to trust my intuition again, and have more faith in myself. I want to not always feel so left behind. I want to be more free, and even brave. I want to give more love than I do. Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace. That is my wish for 2012.

Curried Lentil

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I realize that the barf-looking-soup factor here is high, but if you let that stop you from making it you'll be sad. This was possibly the best soup I've ever had in my life. Andy asked me if I would make it again today. I used good curry powder and homemade chicken stock. Seasoned well with fancy salt and fresh pepper. Delight. I'm really starting to like this winter, I think. Normally if it doesn't snow all I do is pout.

I have a new bestie. My new BeeFF. She's skampering along after me everywhere I go lately. So sweet.


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We have two impossibly gigantic, Rackhamesque oak trees across the street from our house. Now denuded of leaves, their branches almost look like huge black feathers waving in the wind, especially this wind; it's been storming for two days. A week or so ago I had a dream that a tree fell from across the street into our yard (naturally, it was a different tree — that is, based on the place from where it fell it should have been one of the oaks, but because it was a dreamtree it wasn't anything like the oaks). I'm certain the dreamtree was much smaller than the real trees. It just missed the corner of the house. I believe that if one of the oaks falls, it will land on our roof.

Our luminous niece/goddaughter came to spend the night. We fed her pizza and waffles 'cause we're cool like that, or rather, she fed them to us. She made homemade pizza for dinner from scratch, proofed the yeast and made the dough and rolled it out and topped it off. I sat on a chair in the kitchen and talked her through it and it was so much fun. We watched Shirley Temple in Heidi and I knit and we talked about Lapponian reindeer-herding dogs (since she asked me what my second-favorite breed of dog is), and looked at pictures of them. I was worried the power might go out last night because of the wind, so I brought her a candle to keep near the bed just in case she needed to get up. It's hard to believe she is thirteen years old already.

I'm making curried lentil soup tonight, and we bought good semolina bread from one of my favorite bakeries. I'm working on a new cross-stitch sampler that I am redonkulously excited about. I realize that would sound like an oxymoron coming from the vast majority of people on earth.

A Christmas Weekend

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Tuesday. It's very early in the morning, still dark out, two days after Christmas. I'm upstairs in bed, nightgowned and tucked under flannel sheets, duvet, and quilt, drinking coffee out of a thermos so I don't have to go down to the kitchen for more. Andy's already left for work. The dog's sleeping on my feet, breathing out in little puffs, dreaming forest dreams. The Bee's here, too, prancing nervously back and forth across my legs (and then falling off my legs; that's how she does it). She's gotten weirdly social this winter, I'm not sure why. I think the Lady Violet is downstairs on the new quilt. I left it all rumpled up on the sofa last night (too lazy was I to do anything but bumble out from under one quilt downstairs up to another one upstairs), which I think she probably loved. Usually I fold the new one smoothly over the back of the sofa, which she doesn't love. I'm trying to hold on to the gentle quiet of this Christmas weekend just a little bit longer.

Merry and Bright

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We wish you a truly happy Christmas, filled with love, hope, warmth, good food, gentle times, and quiet joys. Thank you for being a such a sweet part of our days, and our lives. We love you guys.

                                                            Love always,
                                                                        Alicia, Andy, Clover Meadow, Violet, and Bridget Paulson

Nicest Days

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The week before Christmas. In some ways I think these are the nicest days. I try to get almost everything done early so I can actually putter slowly through. I still have a bit of candy to make for neighbors but that might be it. I made votive candles yesterday, and two pillars. Used almost all recycled wax from other spent or messed up candles, which was cool. My family is coming for Christmas Eve dinner, then we're going to the neighbors' along with several other neighbors (man, I love my neighborhood) for Christmas dinner. Last night I made this, pasta risotto-style with dried porcini. Andy has been off for five whole days in a row! And has Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off! If you live with a medical professional, you know how unbelievably rare that is. I'm pinching myself. Sweet season of light and love. Very grateful.

Warm and Cozy

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We got a new table and haven't stopped talking about it. It's a big old oak rectangle. I was wondering if it had been in a school — when we got it home and turned it over we found ancient chewing gum on its underside, so probably. I think it's the table of a lifetime — I've been waiting for the right one forever, and found this one unexpectedly and for a steal. That never happens to me. I finished the cards and worked on a present for my friend and polished the silverware. We talked about how special and beautiful Forest Service cabins are. I read the new issue of Kinfolk. I made this butternut squash risotto. It was the first risotto I've ever made (i.e.: I am lazy), and it was foolproof, and delicious. Very nice last-weekend-before-Christmas. Hope yours has been lovely and peaceful, too.


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On my way out to run errands this morning I stopped in the park and went for a little walk. I felt a bit nervous being alone in the winterwoods; all I had in my pocket was a Swiss Army knife and a skein of embroidery floss and a ponytail holder, so I didn't stay very long.


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For my neighbors and friends, chocolate sugar cookies. I added one teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and an extra 1/2 teaspoon of salt to this recipe. Baked for only 6 minutes (instead of 10-12, but I have a convection oven, so things go faster). Really good.

Yesterday conversation:

Me: "I'm going to get your Christmas present tomorrow!"
Him: "Oh!!! Are you going to the guitar store?!?"
Me: "Er . . . no . . . "
Him [sad]: "Oh . . . "

Thank you for all the nice words about the quilt these past weeks. I really enjoyed making it, and it's been perfect for snuggling under while watching my new favorite show, Coast Guard Alaska. I was getting grief about  watching Ice Road Truckers so I switched to something more refined.

Quiet Moments

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I do love my new little prairie-girl quilt. I take it everywhere I go (when an animal isn't already on it, and then when I get all settled they get right back on it/me). It is lined with wool, which is poufy and warm and snuggly wonderful. I always wash and dry my quilts before I use them because I don't like them flat and formal; I like them wrinkled and crinkled and soft. I've also decided to go back to tying on all my future quilts. This is how I used to do them before I knew there was any other way to do them. I've done them all sorts of ways since, and this is my favorite. Makes it feel most like an eiderdown.


Oh, and don't I feel foolish for making fun of Quiet Moments! Yes. Quiet moments are quite nice. :-)

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.