Posts filed in: December 2018

At Year's End

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Oh, the days, the lovely days! One after another, filled with light and love. I'm already missing it all, this holiday season that has been so simple and sweet and soft. I'd been meaning to get back here to update my blog last week, last sometime . . . the days rolled out and on, a blur of lights and cookies and carols and crows against the blue morning sky and I never could slow the roll long enough to take stock. Andy's sweet grandfather passed away just before Christmas. He would've been ninety-five in February. He always sang "Happy Birthday" to us, to all of his children and grandchildren and many great-grandchildren on our birthdays. I picture him with his date book and phone book, marking time and leaving these sweet singing voicemails throughout the year, year after year. Andy flew home to Chicago to be with his family in the early morning hours of December 26th, and Mimi and I spent the rest of the week curled together like fluffy kittens, snuggling under blankets watching movies, going out to the wintergreen woods for walks, trotting about downtown to see the lights and the people, going out to fancy lunches and ordering whatever we wanted, messing up every single corner of the house with our gifts and toys and treats. Bubble baths and storybooks, Christmas cookies and new nightgowns. This unexpected week where it was just us girls is one I will never, never forget. Andy got home yesterday evening and we all had a sleepy, sweet reunion. Our dear little Christmas tree is drooping and tired. The floors need sweeping, the beds need straightening, the big house and the dollhouse are basically trashed. But we have had love and joy in abundance and I am so grateful for it all.

Merry, merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, my dear friends! Thank you for all of the generosity, kindness, support, and great friendship you have shown us this year and all these many years. I hope your holiday season has been filled with light, and I wish you much love and peace and comfort and joy in these last days of the year as 2018 trails off and we collect ourselves to begin again. Thank you all for everything you give here, and for all of your indulgence in and encouragement of me. You brighten and enrich my life more than you could possibly ever know. Thank you!

Love,
Alicia, Andy, Amelia, Clover Meadow, and, last but not least, our nineteen-year-old little Bee

Jenny Lind Redux

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My mom had my childhood headboard and footboard in her garage and I got them from her recently. This was my childhood bed (here I am in it back then) that my mom and I stripped and refinished at some point when I was a kid. She brought it out when she and my dad moved from Chicago to Portland in 1998. I don't know why I didn't think to ask her about it sooner, but I had kind of forgotten all about it. Sure enough, she still had these pieces; I ordered new hook-on side-rails and a box spring and Andy put it all together for Mimi over the weekend. Mimi was downstairs playing with two gigantic bags of Barbie stuff that I found for free on Nextdoor; our class has been collecting donations for a family of refugees from Syria, and “Barbie house and toys” was on their wish list and I got so lucky to stumble upon these almost immediately after reading the wish list. Mimi knew she would be bringing these to her friend on Monday, and oh my word, no toys have ever been played with as much as those toys that were headed immediately back out the door. She had the best time. Andy and I busied ourselves with taking out the toddler bed and putting together the big bed and washing the curtains and cleaning her room. In the late afternoon, just as we were finishing, she wandered upstairs and saw the new bed and loved it. I mean, she knew it was happening, but it was really fun to have her walk in to it all having been done without her watching the progress. It felt pretty magical. I have always loved this little bed and I don't really have words to describe how sweet it is to see my little daughter excited about getting it for her own. Naturally I am now spending most free time trawling eBay for vintage Laura Ashley bed linens.

The Nutcracker was so lovely, as always. I did not take that photo of the dancing snowflakes (I found it online and it is by James McGrew) because they don't let you take pictures in there and I'm always sad because I just want to remember how pretty it is — the snowflakes are my favorite. They do have a photo-op for the kids with some of the younger dancers, all dressed up. Andy bought Mimi the tiara she picked out during intermission. Before we left the house, she found a pink flower headband and put it on, and posed with the two battery candles in front of the Christmas tree. This was all her idea and she asked me to take her picture and yeah, my heart melted into a puddle of melted snowflakes in an instant and does again, looking at this.

A few advent calendar reveals! Pretty yarn, spiced hot chocolate from Treehouse Chocolate (from Portland) and handmade vanilla marshmallows from Lil' Miss Marshmallow (also from Portland), silver-plated stitch markers with tiny beads (made by me). Andy and I also made beeswax-(from Portland!)-and-soy-(not from Portland) candles with clary sage and juniper essential oil. I hope everyone loved these things as much as we loved making them and putting them all together. Yesterday Andy and I made our very first batch of cold-process soap and it was thrilling and exciting. It really was. We had a blast. I have plans to include soap in my upcoming Secret Garden project boxes if I can get good enough at it. We used the Creamy Shea Butter Bastille Soap recipe from Simple & Natural Soapmaking by Jan Berry. I scented it with Raspberry Jam fragrance oil, colored part of it with purple Brazilian clay, both from Brambleberry. I decorated it with blackberry seeds and tiny heather flowers. I'll let you know how it turns out in six weeks. My first bars that I made at the class I took at OMSI are almost ready to use. I can't wait.

I've been on the fence about using fragrance oils, even only the phthalate-free ones, instead of essential oils but I think from now on I'm only going to use essential oils. Here is an interesting discussion about the pros and cons of both. Thoughts? Do you have strong feelings about this? I didn't think I did but I guess I might. But what to do when you want something to smell like blackberry and there’s no such thing as blackberry essential oil? First-world problem. But I find all of the soapmaking stuff intensely interesting. It kind of reminds me of learning to throw pots and then glaze and fire them. So. Many. Options. For what to make. And when it turns out how you planned it feels like a total miracle. This soap did not turn out like I planned and in some ways that was the most thrilling part. Much more soap experimenting to come. I'm really excited.

Magic Days

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Early-December-days mash-up, and I don't even know how to organize these pictures. That in itself feels accurate, nonetheless. The days are a swirl of present-gathering and preparations. I try to get my work done as early as I can (thank you for the lotion bar [and cowl pattern] orders! We are making bars and shipping them as fast as we possibly can, so you'll be seeing your orders very soon) and then I go out and have fun. There are so many special things to do. We went to The Grotto one night to see our school choir sing and wander among thousands of Christmas lights. We went to Merrywood Farm, which is just the cutest, sweetest little place, and spent a gorgeous afternoon walking in the woods and hanging around the fire drinking cider. The low, pale sun shown for a while through the pine trees and yule smoke as I sat with my feet up, listening to Celtic Christmas carols piped over the speakers. It was just so, so nice. This weekend is The Nutcracker and dinner afterwards, and Amelia has her outfit all picked out, along with her new (well, used, from eBay) pink suede fancy shoes. I'll be sure to take a picture. I haven't been good about the advent calendar reveals but I am definitely going to try to catch up with that next week now that I'm getting caught up with everything else in my life. We're having a party next weekend. The days keep rolling along. . . .

CURRENT OBSESSION:

Alicia's Winter Day Bath Soak

1 cup Epsom salts
1 cup pink Himalayan salt, fine
1 cup pink Himalayan salt, coarse
1/2 cup colloidal oatmeal (just grind rolled oats in a food processor until powdered)
1/2 cup whole milk powder
1/4 cup coconut cream powder
1/4 teaspoon rose Kaolin clay
Dried cornflowers, jasmine buds, and rose buds

You could add any kind of essential oil to this if you wanted to, but I thought it smelled so fresh and delicious all on its own I did not.

To use, spoon a few tablespoons into a teabag and hang under warm running water while filling your bath, then plop the whole bag into the tub to further dissolve. Relax and enjoy until they make you come out.

Makes enough to fill two 15 oz. bottles like these.

***

Also, cutest winter book in the world: Mice Skating by Annie Silvestro (illustrated by Teagan White). I just bought this for Amelia and it is absolutely darling. About a mouse who loves winter but her friends don't. #relate

I want to totally have a dye-plant and soapmaking flower garden this year, and also plant dahlias. I'm going to put it in our neglected and frizzled raised beds. For my birthday present, Andy is going to dig it all up and add a lot of compost, etc., and try to get it ready for spring. Question: Do we wait until spring to do this? Or should we be doing something now before really cold weather comes and then let it sit until spring, or . . . ?

Amelia: "Mom, your wreath you made looks so good! It almost looks real!" (N.B.: It was real.)

December 1st through 4th, and a Lotion Bar for Winter Days

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Well, hello! It's now December 4th! Let's open the Northern Light Advent Calendar!

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For the first four days of the advent calendar, we had three mini-skeins (one with sparkle) and a pattern that I wrote specifically for hand-dyed mini skeins called the Northern Light Cowl.

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It's a perfect pattern for evening knitting on the sofa while watching a movie. It's made from repeated groups of short rows (without wraps; just turn and go), and all you need to do is set up your stitch markers and knit the repeat ninety-eight times. Then you stitch the short ends together, then pick up all of the bottom edge stitches, knit a few more rows of garter stitch, and you're done. Amelia and I wear a lot of cowls because we can't lose them and they don't have a lot of bulk in the back. I love cowls, and I hope you love this one! The pattern is available as an immediate digital download for $4 right here.

We also received the tins for our lotion bars and I've updated the inventory to reflect every single bar that is finished and ready to ship, including our newest bar, Peppermint Cream:

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I love this sweet and delicate design and it smells heavenly. It's made of local beeswax, shea butter, coconut oil, a bit of lanolin, and scented with first-distill peppermint essential oil and a touch of Balsam of Peru, which has a vanilla-ish scent (since there is no true vanilla essential oil). If we sell out of what is there, we will make more, but those won't ship for another week or so, so if you are trying to get presents for Christmas please order as soon as possible so that we can get them in the mail. These would make such perfect little stocking stuffers!

I have lots of weekend pictures to show you but I wanted to post this because it's taking me so long to go through all of the photos. We had such a nice weekend. I hope your holiday season is off to a really lovely start!

About Alicia Paulson

About

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 aliciapaulson.com

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Photography

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.