Posts filed in: May 2015


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Summer has come kerplunking in this week — today it's supposed to be 80-something degrees, and, suddenly, it's here. Bees are buzzing, flowers are blooming, grass is growing, sidewalks are being chalked, iced lattes are being ordered. It's still light out toward 9:00 p.m. The grill has been lit, the plants need water, the plums are already starting to fall on my sidewalk. Last weekend the weather was chilly and overcast. Suddenly, now, it's summer.

I have absolutely no plan for the summer. Nothing. There's nothing in place. Not that there ever is. But we really have no plan. I'm not great at volleying at the net. I feel that I should come up with something, even if it's just some general organizing idea? I don't know. Watering the yard with a toddler can take all afternoon, for instance, so I suppose there's really not that much need for a plan. . . .

Thank you to everyone who commented about my library post. Your comments were very poignant — so many people have memories of libraries, and so many libraries seemed to have changed. That was so surprising to me. I don't know why. I thought libraries were so immutable! Why would I think that? Newspapers have changed, and I used to think the same of them. Thank you to those of you with information about or offers to take pictures of the River Forest Public Library! I really enjoyed hearing news about it, thank you. I think this summer maybe Amelia and I will do a library tour, and go check out a bunch of the Portland branches and see what they have for us. She's even sort of letting me read my own book everyone once in a while which feels fantastic. Right now I still have Sometimes a Great Notion, Brideshead Revisited, and Canada by Richard Ford in my backpack. Those all seem too hard, don't they? I don't know what I want. But I think it should be lighter than these. There's a reason they call 'em "beach reads," right? (Not these, I mean — the other ones I don't actually have. . . .) Because it's hot in the summer and you need something light. I think I want something funny. . . .

Warming Up

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Yesterday Amelia and I went to the library. I couldn't help think about my own childhood library. My childhood was chaotic; my library was ideal. It was the River Forest Public Library. Beautiful little library. The children's department was downstairs, and presided over by two perfectly classic librarians, older ladies in tweed skirts and baggy brown stockings and crepe-soled shoes and powder-puff-colored blouses, cliched in the very best possible way. They had been there forever. Everyone knew them, and they knew everyone, and everyone's brothers and sisters, and everyone's parents. They knew every book. They were always there. There was never anyone else there to help you; it was always them. Wonderfully, magically them.

You went down a couple of steps to get into the children's department. That was a diminutive world — the shelves were small, the tables were small, the chairs were small, the windows were high. Everything was so old and old-fashioned, and wooden, and sweet. It smelled so delicious, like nowhere else in the world. It was still the time before computers, so your library card had a little metal plate on it, run over with purple ink and used to make an impression on each book's library card. Then the librarians — I can't remember which one was which; they were always a pair, to me — would press the little inked metal plate down on the back of your hand, a stamp. I was a serious summer reader. I filled out my chart diligently, placed my stickers the minute I finished the book, planned my future reads with care. Some of my favorite books I can remember from there: Miss Jellytot's Visit. Farewell to Shady Glade. The Witch's Sister.

Across the hall from the main room was another, emptier room. This one had shelves all along the walls — maybe the picture books were in here? — and then the middle of the room was empty, with chairs, I think. Armchairs. The lights were often turned off, and only sunlight filled the room. It was warm in the winter and very cold in the summer. I spent a lot of time reading in here. (These were the days when you could ride your bike to the library by yourself, and stay, alone, for hours.) Does anyone know if the downstairs of this library is the same as it was thirty, forty years ago? Is the fireplace with the chairs in front of it still there, upstairs? I know the library itself was renovated at some point, and I've been there since then, but it's been years and years. I can't find any pictures of the interior of the library on line. If you live in River Forest, will you take a picture for me? I really want to see it. I'd sort of forgotten how in love I'd been with that place. I want Amelia to have a place like this. Portlanders, what are your favorite library branches for kids? I don't know them at all.

At home, we're starting to get our backyard groove on again. Things are cleaned up, pots are planted, weeds pulled, grass cut, flowers blooming. I feel like summer is getting off to a slow start around here. That's probably good. Let it be slow. Let me take my time. I plod.


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We were going to go hiking but then instead of going straight we turned left, and found ourselves at the river. It's time to put the summer stuff in the car — an extra bathing suit, sunscreen, camp chair, shovels and cups, quilt, binoculars. It's time!

"Do you like the river?"
"Do you like the sand?"
"Do you like the birds?"
"Do you like the trees?"
"Do you like the . . . rocks?"
"Do you like throwing sand on the blanket?"
"I thought so."

Everything is draped in flowers right now. The roses droop majestically and we admire. My little raised beds in the front look scruffy and random, peppered with poppies, alyssum, yellow daisy things, white statice, other things, I have no idea what. The weather has been so unbelievably perfect. I hold my breath.

My sweater comes along! The color is extremely uninspired. The yarn is nice to work with, though I wish my cable were longer. I feel like my stitches are all squished on my cable and I don't like that. I think my other cables are in my basket of shamefully incomplete WIPs. That's like, double lame. Not only are the projects not finished, they have needles/cables sitting in them. Perhaps I should be not so lazy and do something about that. Bah.

Our friends made dinner for us at their beautiful home Saturday night. Their seven-year-old daughter answered the door when we arrived and then wordlessly came out to the porch and squatted down and threw her arms around Amelia, who threw her arms back around her. They stood like that, hugging each other, for a long minute and I almost cried. Sylvie doted on Amelia all night long, letting her play with every toy, bringing her everything she wanted, playing with her for hours. Amelia watched Sylvie and tried to do everything she was doing: eating with a fork, not throwing food at the dog, coloring on the paper and not on the table. When it was time to go home, we were all saying our goodbyes and I asked Amelia to return the baby carriage to Sylvie's room. She wheeled it down there but then didn't come back out. I went down the hall to find her and there she was, alone in Sylvie's (absolutely adorable) bedroom, fully tucked into her big-girl bed, with the covers pulled up to her chin. Serious, hopeful look on her face. God I love this kid.


Quiet Days

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Well, the doctor says the ear infection is much improved, but my ear is still clogged-feeling and I can barely hear out of it. It's not painful anymore but it is very annoying. It's a middle-ear, Eustachian tube thing, on the inside of my eardrum. They have me on a nasal spray to see if it will help clear it. Blah. I feel like I'm in a bubble. Fingers crossed that it improves. And thank you very much for your kind words!

Around the house, things are quiet, too. I've been trying to take it easy, which is really nice (and feels so strange!). The weather's been cloudy and flat and I do like it that way, especially in the spring, when everything is so green. Today it's cool and dim, and there's not a hint of a breeze — it's as still and quiet as I've ever seen it. Meems goes to playschool two mornings a week, and she's there now. Our routine is usually pick up with the stroller and take the long way through the neighborhood over to the grocery store to get some stuff for dinner, talking to cats, bugs, and flowers on the way. On Wednesday I made Indian butter shrimp and that was totally delicious. Definitely special-occasion-type stuff — very rich, perfectly spicy. I love Indian food. I'm not sure what we will make tonight? Maybe Thai salad rolls with tofu? I have fresh basil, too.

So, I finished The Swan Thieves a week or so ago. (SPOILER ALERT!!!) I kept reading it all the way to the end but I must admit that I was completely befuddled by why Robert Oliver was obsessed with Beatrice? Yesterday Amelia and I went to the mall to get some new summer clothes and shoes and I came home with this (which I got to sit and read for an hour while sitting in an armchair high above the ice-skating rink at the mall while she slept in her stroller. I've never done that before but that was pretty nice). I think I might have heard an interview with one of the authors on NPR not too long ago? I'm already on page 74 which is kind of crazy for me, because I am usually a pretty slow reader!

I'm also starting to knit this sweater. Isn't that a pretty pattern?

All of It

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People, Mama went DOWN. Like a felled redwood. I hit the forest floor. Then curled up like a roly-poly bug and moaned. Everything was going well until Saturday night. I thought I was feeling pretty good! We had a great day on Thursday, a wonderful Mother's Day party here with Amelia's birthfamily on Friday, and then Andy worked on Saturday, and Mimi and I had the best time going out to lunch and then shopping for a birthday present for her cousin. We got home around three. Amelia had just fallen asleep on the sofa-bed and I went out on the back porch to read — first quiet moment in days. I was so happy. But no sooner did I get four or five pages in (I'm actually trying to read this, which may have been partially to blame? Not exactly easy reading, what am I thinking) than my ear seemed to spawn an enormous puffball mushroom on the inside. I shook my head like a dog. I stuck my finger in my ear. I tipped my head upside down. I shook my head harder. What in the hell??? I Googled "my ear just filled up like a water balloon and it's gonna blow!" I had no idea what was happening. The next morning, I was at Zoom Care the minute they opened. "Ah yes, you have a little ear infection brewing." My first ever. All my life I've heard people talk about ear infections but I never really knew what they meant.

Sad face! :(((( If you don't know, try to keep it that way, seriously.

Ah, well. No brunch, no rose garden, no new dresses. Instead it was just lots of snuggle time on the sofa yesterday with my sweetest boos, Charlie and Lola episodes on repeat, Andy-made stuffed shells for dinner (my favorite food), sunshine and sitting around in the back yard when we got bored, me endlessly describing my symptoms in great detail. It was actually pretty wonderful, aside from the fact that I couldn't hear anything anyone was saying, and felt like my ear was going to burst, Mt. St. Helens–style, right off the side of my head. I kept looking at my ear in the mirror like, really? But it looks so normal! I just couldn't believe it was skin-colored (and not chartreuse) and regular sized (not gargantuan, like an elephant ear). I thought maybe I was hallucinating the fact that it appeared normal.

In spite of it all, my God, I must be the happiest, luckiest, most-blessed mama on the face of this earth. I kissed my girl a thousand times yesterday, and said my prayers, and I say them for you, too. I wish for all of it, every bit of it, for you. Not the ear infection part. Just everything else. Xo

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Ah, there's a fair amount of dishevelment among our number this morning. Runny noses, sneezing, coughing, and general incapacitation. Andy has it the worst. I have never, ever, EVER been sick as much as I have this year. Ever. It's possible we're on the other side of it, or possibly possible this is only the middle. I think tomorrow will tell. I'm picking up very hot, very spicy Tom Yum soup with tofu and plan to knock every germ out of my system with a blast of chili. Right? Gah.

This past week, when I wasn't watching Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery while lying in a tangled pile of quilts and feeling like a battered sweat sock (?), I wasn't cleaning out drawers or reorganizing shelves or going outside, either. I was making a bodice sloper (fever-induced mania? I am bewildered by my own self). Do you know what a sloper is? It's a basic custom fitted pattern that allows you to design whatever you want (in a nutshell). I ordered and used this one. I don't have any pictures, or any current thoughts about the process because I was essentially in crisis (both sewing-wise and sick-wise) the entire time I was doing it. It's actually really hard to do it by yourself and I don't recommend it. BUT, I finally got a really nice fit (and wow, am I crooked, and wow, my boobs are bigger than I thought — no wonder nothing fits — hello, full bust adjustment, as if I didn't know that).

Completing it successfully was nothing short of seriously empowering!!! [Cue sputtering germ-spreading coughing fit of enthusiasm.]

No, really. I haven't made a sloper in twenty years. If I were to do it again, I might use this blog post to help me draft it from scratch. (I might still do that when I feel like I can lift my hand to do more than change the channel or cuddle Meemers.) The coolest thing about it is just that you learn so much while doing it, and clothes suddenly seem much less mysterious, and you really do feel like it's just all a bunch of measurements and adjustments that you can make based on those measurements, and not that you are somehow a human anomaly that just shouldn't wear clothes.

Do you know what I mean? Have you made one?

Oh jeesh, and THANK YOU so much for your very kind comments about my new quilt!!! It's been making me very happy as I sit under it shivering and sneezing. Thank you! :)

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