Posts filed in: April 2013

Power Sewing Session

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We're all fighting colds here. :( Waaaaah! Oh well. I got some power sewing done over the weekend! It was a blast. I haven't sewn much at all lately. The lovely Amanda linked to this baby bib tutorial and I made some in a hurry. I'm not sure how many to make. I did eight. They're really fun and fast. I also made Amelia three more pairs of big bubble pants. I love these so much. I think she could use a pair every day, honestly. It's a good project for 1/2 yard of fabric. I made the legs a bit fuller, as well. My girl's got some chunky thighs! Is there anything cuter?

She's sleeping right now. Greta's coming over in a bit. We're making progress on the next batch of Maggie kits. I'm still thinking mid-May, and I hope that's not too ambitious? We'll see. I'm almost done with my patterns. Greta's still cutting dress fabric. Martha's still winding yarn. Tiny buttons are here, though one color is backordered (naturally). Yarn, too, was backordered (blah). Oh well.

I made this chicken with peanut sauce over the weekend and oh my stars, it was so good. I felt quite proud. Almost as proud as I felt the other day when I was making a Boboli pizza and squirting pizza sauce out of the little plastic baggie thing that comes with the crust and thought, "Wow, look at me! Making a pizza that wasn't even frozen first!!!" Puff puff. I was so pleased. Then I remembered that I used to make actual pizza dough, from things like yeast and flour. And sauce from actual tomatoes! That's funny! I burst out laughing. While I ate my Boboli I pledged to make a greater effort to cook more. I really miss it, actually. I'm making baby food for Mimi, but I am possibly the most pathetic regular meal planner in the world. When I am busy or tired, cooking — fancy, yummy, fun-type cooking, not just survival cooking — is the first thing to go in my day, always. And when I'm busy or tired, I seriously could not even care less what I eat. This chicken was so good, though. I am inspired. I want to do better at cooking for Andy and me. I feel like I say this all the time!

Do you know how to make a little rose hair clip? I'll take some photos next time I make one and show you how. I've bought a few (you can get a poufy one like Amelia's here, and similar rose ones here and here and here and here — there are a lot on Etsy that are adorable) and have been making a lot. I like making them because you can do them in so many different colors (and they get lost all over the house, so we need them in every room). They're really fun and really easy.

An Excerpt

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 I couldn't sleep last night. Irony! Because I'm super tired! Damn you, Irony. Who invented you, anyway.

Anyway, around 3 a.m. I finished the book I've been reading for a couple of weeks: Bilgewater by Jane Gardam (suggested by Lily [thank you Lily!]). (I also got to read in the bathtub on Sunday afternoon, which was seeeeeriously awesome — thank you for that, honey.) Sort of a coming-of-age novel, published in 1976, it was slow and weird but readable and random, and wonderful for that — kind of like a Shakespeare comedy, I thought, actually? — and just perfect for what I felt like reading right now. Marigold Daisy Green lives with her father, the housemaster of a boys' school in Yorkshire. Here's how Thursdays are there:

    Thursdays were always the evenings when these conversations with Paula took place and had done so "from long since" as our Mrs. Things say, because Thursdays were the evenings when father received visitors.
    He had done this since before the way, even before he was married, and the visitors had always been the same: one or two, never more than three Old Masters. Uncle Pen and Puffy Coleman were inevitables and the third was often an amalgam of cobwebs and dust called Old Price. Every term-time Thursday at about seven-thirty these people came roaming around like elderly, homing snails. They unwind garments in the hall when it is not cold, drop walking sticks — Uncle HB has a shooting stick — into the hall-stand and trail dismally into the study. Paula [the house matron, and Marigold's frequent companion] takes them ccoffee and glasses and father slowly unlocks the shelf-cupboard in the bottom of his desk and brings out a bottle of wine which he never opens until well after they have all arrived and would probably never open at all if he were not kept very firmly at it by Uncle HB who often brings a personal hip-flask, too, though I don't think father has ever noticed. . . . If Old Price drank more than two sips he'd go up in a little wisp of smoke. . . .
    Sometimes, when I was little I was allowed to sit with them for a bit — well, not so much allowed. I just did. They did not seem to notice and I learned much. When I was four or five I would sit for ages under the desk playing with a heap of old shoes . . .
    As I grew older I became too large to fit under the desk and . . . I abandoned the Thursday receptions for Paula's sick bay readings and learned there much more interesting, universal, and philosophic things.
    I have read novels now full of intelligent conversations. In novels there is often a set-piece thrown in called The University or College Conversation. This can take place between students or long afterwards, in the evenings of the students' days. there are a great many pauses in it and as the pipesmoke rises and the firelight flickers on the rows of mellow old volumes, wisdom and gentle nostalgia hang in the air. The nature of God, the reality of solid objects, the non-existence of Time are touched upon, tossed gently to and fro. Not so with father's lot. Up with Paula, the floor above — and Paula has had no education at all — we talk on and on about:
particularly ethics, e.g. when Posy Robinson comes in all tearful for his mama and we have only two eggs and two rashers and two spoons of cocoa, our four feet on the fender and a lovely play coming on the wireless after the news.
    But downstairs! Here is a sample of the chat on one of the Learned Thursdays:
    "Cold night."
    "Rather better."
    "Pretty cold. Got your coal yet?"
    "No. Got your oil?"
    "Time this House had oil. No more expensive."
    "Not at all. No shovelling, what's more."
    "Your house has a Man."
    "Man! Idle oik. If we got oil we could get rid of him."
    "Get rid of Gunning? Get rid of Gunning?"
    "'Bout time. Been here since the zeppelins."
    Uneasy pause while it is considered whether Old Price has been here since the zeppelins.
    "I once saw the zeppelins," says Puffy Coleman kindly. "I was just a boy. There was a burst of flame out over the sea — off Scarborough — and then we saw a lot of little flames dropping into the water. . . . That was a terrible war.'
    "What was terrible?"
    "That war."
    "Which war?"
    "Well — the Last War. The — zeppelin war."
    "I can remember," says a very feeble voice in hte corner if it is a warm evening — he comes on chosen evenings. Old Price, like Masefield's blackbird — "I can remember the zeps. All the boys ran out along the cliff tops cheering. In their pyjamas."
    "Ah, " says Puffy Coleman, lowering his teeth.
    "Ah, says Uncle Pen HB. then, "It wasn't that war."
    "Yes it was. What d'you think it was? The Napoleonic War?"
    "Scarborough was bombarded in the Napoleonic War," whispers Old Price.
    "Now then Price, you weren't in the Napoleonic War," says Pen.
    "No. No. I only said — uff, uff, uff — "
    Father gazes at the uplifted wine. The Primavera watches through her wicked eyes.
    "D'you think Price was in the Napoleonic War, William?"
    "What's that?"
    "Uff, uff, uff — "
    "Ha, ha, ha, ha," says father, bewildered, looking round sweetly, kindly at one and all, not at all sure, for he is a good bit younger than the others, what might or might not be so.
    They reflect.
    Oh it's wild stuff.

Ha! I thought that last line was funny. I like how she writes. Mimi and I went right down to Powell's and bought all of her other books that they had. Then I finished this one and I really liked it (luckily, since I did that backwards a bit). Hopefully I'll like the others, too. And now I have to go because it took me about five hours to type this thing (but it was actually kind of fun to type — I like typing) and I'm starving!!!

*These are not our chickens, and this is a local community garden, not mine. Just photos from our walks.

**And yes, it does sort of remind me of I Capture the Castle. And also The Country Life by Rachel Cusk.

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My best friend lives in Boston. We've been friends for over twenty-five years. We text or talk almost every day. We happened to be texting on Tuesday, just at the moment that local news was breaking on her end. Martha, three-thousand miles away. I had been out walking around the neighborhood with Amelia. We walk very slowly, up and down the sleepy, quiet blocks, ambling to and fro. I pick blossoms from trees, a sprig of rosemary, a froth of blooming lilac that somehow fell into the grass for her to sniff. This is an English daisy. This is a daff-o-dil. This is violet, like your kitty you never met, like your great-grandma's favorite flower, and oh how she would have loved you! The sun dips and bobs in and out of white clouds. The April wind is still chilly. Amelia stares placidly out at the world as it rolls by. These are the houses and gardens and bakeries and shops and driveways and trees and sidewalks that will become — that are already starting to become — her little corner of the world. Our streets. Will be there a memory, locked away, of the scent of apple blossoms there? Of how we linger every time in front of the big sepia-colored wooden house I've always liked while I study their tulips? Of the smell of the spicy tea that I drink as we walk? Of the canopy of ancient dogwood trees, arching above her in pink arcade just as we approach our own driveway, and turn? Will she know her trees the way I knew my own, the way I feel I would still know them, the way I did know them even two summers ago when I visited Forest Avenue, alone, for a whole afternoon. I walked, tearful for my own reasons, up then down the other side of my street; two oaks towered over my house, planted much too close to the front stairs, still there, familiar as nothing else I've known. The king and queen of my former kingdom. Protective lion, lioness.

My neighbor brings me hot chocolate and a coffee-cake slice every couple of mornings or so, while Amelia naps. Every time, it feels like the most perfect, decadent, luxurious gift. I think about this small kindness, the millions of generous, civilized kindnesses that make up most of all of our days, and then the rare but terrible rendings that rip the weave of them so viciously, and with such terrible permanence. The spectre ebbs and fades but is always present. As a child, I grew up with a father who, upon entering any public venue, scanned the place for exits, identified each one, and briefed us on the disaster plan should this performance of Timbuktu or the Ice Capades be fireballed. I will just say that it was a very hard way to grow up. But it comes from this: You would do anything, anything to try to protect your child.

My heart and thoughts and prayers are with the people of Boston this week. With those lost, and those injured, and those helping, and those witnessing. I wish that Martha and I lived closer, were neighbors, wish that together we were walking our little girls under the blossoming branches, teaching them (Martha used to be a landscape architect) the names of flowers. Teaching them to be kind and gentle people. Teaching them to be brave, generous, building, healing people. People who make things, and don't destroy them. People who reject cynicism, and instead create, and repair, and provide medicine. People who practice peace, acceptance, optimism, faith, joy, and, always. Always: Love.

Sweetest Flowers

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Honestly. The sweetest ever.

***The facial oils and perfumes that I love are from my dear Amy Karol. I made the knitted bunners a couple of years ago from a pattern by Barbara Prime.

Spring Mish-Mash

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Oh, it's been a busy week here. I don't know where the time goes. Amelia is a busy lady these days! Not too interested in napping today. I personally would like nothing better than for someone to zip me into a polar-fleece sleepsack, turn out the lights, and beg me to sleep for two hours in the middle of the day. But. The weather has been cold and cloudy and I am secretly glad — I so much want to finish my indoor chores before the nice weather comes for good. Once it comes, we'll be busy in a different way. An outside, woods-and-water, flower-field way. Out of the house. That's my plan.

I made broken up lasagna noodles with chicken and mushroom ragu from this recipe last night and it was very good. I added a big blob of whole-milk ricotta cheese to mine and I really recommend that. Andy is not down with ricotta. For me, I would say it's in my top-five favorite foods. Along with tapioca pudding, avocados, asparagus, and . . . maybe . . . fish tacos. Or sour-cream apple pie. It has to be whole-milk ricotta, though. The part-skim stuff tastes, to me, like a completely different kind of cheese.

I'm working on the bunny shirt and pants pattern, and the knitting patterns. The yarn is Brown Sheep Nature Spun sport weight, and it's what I am using to design all of the bunny knits (and, eventually, bunny crochets). I've ordered yarn balls so that we can carry this yarn in my web shop. If you got in on the first round of kits, this is the yarn that was in the kit (and it will be in the second round). It's my new favorite yarn. I looked at a lot of different yarns before deciding what to use. I like this one because it's 100% wool, comes in a really nice palette (though I have to say they could use a few more pinks/peaches, in my opinion), has a slight halo, but knits up to have a very matte sort of look to it, which is exactly what I wanted. Rustic. I don't like shiny yarns. After blocking, it's actually really soft but still holds its shape very well. I think we'll have about fifteen colors in the shop. My plan is to make everything available — kits, patterns, yarn, new size #18 needles (which I use for threading the elastic around the neck of the peasant dress) — all at the same time. Not sure yet exactly when that will be but I will keep you posted. Our dress fabric still hasn't come in yet. Greta's pulling floss right now and is about halfway done, and Martha's winding yarn. If these kits don't sell, I'll be making Amelia and myself entire wardrobes made entirely of five Liberty prints and sport-weight-wool. Which I think I could get on board with, but still. Don't leave me.

Isn't that little animal ABCs poster so adorable? Andy's mom got it for me for my birthday from this Etsy shop. Her friend also Brenda made that darling pink hooded sweater that Amelia is wearing. It finally fits her perfectly and . . . oh my dear me . . . how adorable are babies in hoodies????? (***The pattern is here [though she modified it to include the garter button band] and the yarn is Plymouth Encore. Thank you Brenda!!!)

Which also reminds me: The Maggie knits are a dress, a raglan, sweater, and the garter hoodie. Bunny in a hoodie. Now I'm typing with one hand or I would link to the photos I've posted in the past months of the prototypes. As it is I feel fairly accomplished today just spelling prototypes out (now twice, and added parentheses! and spelled parentheses!) with one finger. Some days that feels like miracle enough!

***Have you ever seen a dog look at anyone with more deliberate skepticism than this, by the way? She's like, "Yah, yer nuts." I know. (She's teaching it to the baby.)

***Forgot to say, I'll also have those tiny buttons that are on the little shirt in the shop. I think we're getting ten different colors of those, too.

Little Blossom

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I really can't say enough about spring in Oregon. It's a fairyland. The first time I ever came to Oregon, I came in the spring. Almost twenty years ago now. I took the train from Whitefish, Montana, to Eugene to visit my sister and brother-in-law, who was in grad school (for sculpture) at the time. It was the first week in April. Montana was, simply, brown. As the train rolled further and further west, through Idaho, eastern Washington, the Columbia Gorge, things got greener and greener. In Eugene, things were gorgeous. The University of Oregon campus is absolutely gorgeous. We bought pansies at the grocery store and I put a row of them on the window sill next to where I slept for a few days. I thought, "My, spring sure is coming on quickly this year! I'm thrilled! I'm overjoyed! I love spring! What a great year! " Etc., etc. I had the best time. I took one of the pansies with me when I left at the end of the week. The train rolled north a bit, and then east. Out the window . . . things . . . things were getting . . . oh no. Things were getting . . . less greenish. Oh nooooooooooo. What is happening.

Back in Montana, it was absolutely FREEEEEEEZING. And still, utterly, brown.

I get it. Spring comes early — blissfully, gorgeously, wonderfully, beautifully early — in Portland, Oregon. Poor pansy. I only lasted three years in Montana. I will always love Montana. But spring is my favorite season. And it lasts for months in this part of Oregon. The winters pretty much stink (in my opinion. They'll never be how I want winter to be. Which is SNOWY). But spring — sometimes it seems like it lasts all the way through June! I hate hot weather with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns. Have you ever taken this quiz? (Should have warned you that you have to create an account at the end to get the results so you might not want to take it. And it's only for U.S. locations, though an international quiz would be really cool, if anyone knows of one?) Apparently, I would like to be living in Anchorage, Alaska!

Most of these photos were taken at a lovely garden in Portland called Elk Rock Garden of the Bishop's Close.

Spring Gifts

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Cherry blossoms. We were walking up to get groceries and admiring a huge flowering tree when this guy came walking out with a pair of pruners and cut us these big branches. Then we found a stuffed hedgehog on the sidewalk. It was a good day. Only-spring gifts: A froth of petals. Goldeny sunshine. The smell of mud. A warm cloudy afternoon. I love pushing the stroller. Walking to get frozen yogurt. Walking to get books. Wandering in the spring evening. Watching the sun set before bedtime. Petals fluttering. Pink petals falling on a sleeping baby. Her lip pushed out. Her sleeping-sighs. Her eyelashes long. Her rose-cheek warm. My loves.

*We don't have chickens. Those are just some from the neighborhood. :) And our egg dyeing method is here.

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