Making Progress

comments: 68




Autumn here in Portland has been cold and crisp and brilliant, but it's freezing in the house today and I am rather cranky. Mimi and I took a walk around Reed College over the weekend and I am missing her (at school) and Andy (at work) today. The wind is whipping about out there and the car thermometer said it was 35 degrees when we left for school. Gusty wind is unnerving to me and always has been. I feel like I'm clenching my jaw and trying to ward off a shiver. My heart is breaking for everyone affected by the wildfires in California. Having a cold wind here is nothing compared to a burning wind, and I truly hope they catch a break in the weather that can help with these fires soon.

Thank you ever so much for your thoughts about how (or not) you use the yarns suggested in patterns. That was so fascinating to me, and I seriously love reading about peoples' personal experiences around these things. I would say the vast majority of people do not use the suggested yarn but substitute something they already have, or buy something they know they already like. I guess yarn, like fabric, is just one of those things that is so personal, and there are so many different types of it available (generally speaking, especially if you're buying it on the computer) that choosing it is just a further part of the creative process. Some people did say that if they like the photo on the pattern they want to make it exactly as pictured, because that's why they liked it in the first place. I totally get that, too. I don't know, I just like reading all of these little quirky details about everyone. I've been knitting along on my little flower sweater pattern for kids. This little sample is the six-month size in Cascade 220. I finished all of the grading for sizes (from six months to twelve years) on Friday and have the pattern out with a couple of testers right now. I'm currently knitting the size 8, this time in Berocco Ultra Alpaca, for which I get the same gauge as 220 (20 sts x 27 rows over 4"). I'm enjoying everything about this process so much. This is my first attempt at writing knitting patterns that are graded and there is so much math involved. I have always liked math a lot, for an English major, and I am finding that everything about this is exciting to me, even if I do have so much to learn. :)

I made my mom's chicken paprika (which we call "chicken and dumplings") the other night. It is very rich but it is just delicious at this time of year. I have been in a cooking slump lately — about the only thing I can do consistently is make tacos on Tuesday. It's Tuesday. I'll be making tacos. I need a good book and some good recipes right now. I have nothing to read and no idea what to cook.


I highly recommend Angela Thirkell—maybe start with The Brandons, and if you like it, there are a bajillion more to enjoy; British prewar domestic fiction with just a ruffled edge of snark to cut the charm.

I highly recommend the book I just finished - The Firebird by Suzanne Kearsley

Yvonne Bouma O'Brien says: November 01, 2019 at 09:42 PM

Oo, on a cold blustery day, a rich spicy stew (I’m grooving on chickpeas or lentils at the moment) is just the ticket. And have you tried the Phryne Fisher book series? So much better than the show (although I love the incredible costumes). I was introduced to them not long after I moved to Australia, and just before I moved from Perth to Melbourne, and the combination of history and feisty heroine is just perfection.

“Nothing to read and no idea what to cook”.....oh jees, I wish we were neighbors, love your honesty 😉. I go through this very thing a lot these days. I recently began listening to audiobooks, and my favorites? Food memoirs! Kathleen Flinn’s Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good as well as The Kitchen Counter Cooking School are both wonderful. Also, I recently listened to the novel Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan, which moved me deeply. The audio is excellent as all of the narrators are so good, plus it incorporates music since music is an important thread in the story. Good luck, and enjoy Autumn. I so love this time of year!

Even though I don't have any summer tomatoes, I made a tomato pie (with Roma tomatoes, cheese, onion, basil, mayonnaise) and it was the perfect savory, gooey, warming thing for lunch on a chilly fall afternoon.

I am constantly re-reading Laurie Colwin's books "Home Cooking" and "More Home Cooking" - not only for her recipes but for her lovely essays on cooking, eating and nurturing.

A lovely dreamy book to read with Mimi is the Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. Every girl should read it! (I still do!) The house, the characters, the food!!

To read: The Lost Recipe for Happiness, by Barbara O'Neal

Colleen Mitchell says: November 05, 2019 at 02:00 PM

Two books I've loved recently are dog-centric (and post-apocalyptic but no zombies or anything). A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher is an adventure that begins on a small island off the coast of Scotland. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller is the story of a man who must find a reason to keep living in a mostly empty world. The writing is weird and lyrical.

For cooking, I can't get enough of YouTube's Little Paris Kitchen, the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen (especially Claire!), and the awkward, earnest Preppy Kitchen. And the Tiny Kitchen videos are adorable and actually kind of inspiring!

Chad Eighmey says: November 06, 2019 at 04:43 AM

Great post! Don’t feel bad I’ve been in a cooking slump too. Hoping to break out of it soon.

I just finished "The most fun we ever had" by Claire Lombardo. It was so good. I also loved Stephanie Land's Maid. Re: cooking. I've been working so much it's almost like I have forgotten how. I can make a great Greek Salad, and a zucchini pasta dish, and a roast chicken. But anything else? Nope. I need to get back at it!

OK, based on Melissa's recommendation of The Essex Serpent, I'm going to read it. It's by Sarah Perry, who then wrote Melmoth, which I loved. It was heavy, and sometimes scary, but throughout most of the book I couldn't put it down. My hometown's brand new main branch library has it, so I'll go borrow it there.

Is it weird that I always come here looking for book recommendations?

Marsha Gibbons says: November 12, 2019 at 12:52 PM

I've just listened to three books on Audible ( in the last couple of months) and they were soooo good!!
1. The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
2. The Dutch HOuse by Ann Patchett
3. The Dearly Beloved by Cara wall

Oh, I almost forgot,
4. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Start with Dutch House!! Brilliant books!
For cooking, this chili has become a fall favorite with my family!
We just make it on the stove top. It's so easy. I leave out the extra brown sugar because the Bush's baked beans have plenty. Also, you may need to adjust cayenne pepper. I like the amount given, but the grandkids like it better if I leave it out. We always double or triple recipe.

The sweater is beautiful!!!

I read through the comments, and I'll be picking up Jayber Crow soon (Wendell Berry). I read Fidelity this year by Berry, a collection of short stories set in the same fictional town in Kentucky. What a stunning read. I'm sure Jayber Crow will be great too. I think he set many stories and novels in the same community, based on his own in Kentucky. His work is golden and so nourishing. I feel at peace when I read it.

I get a lot of recipe inspiration from Fire and Ice (Scandanavian), Mamushka (Ukrainian), and Tartine All Day (San Francisco!). Happy November!

I would like to recommend My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved my Life, by Ruth Reichl. There are tender stories that go along with seasonal recipes and lovely photos too. I’ll bet you can reserve it from your library.

Catherine Werden says: November 19, 2019 at 06:44 AM

Those Yellow Trees are Magnificent!!! Really enjoy seeing your photos from the Fall. We don't get much for seasons in Florida, but it's nice to live it through your photography! Have a wonderful week, Alicia! :)

Indian-ish has so many good-looking recipes! Alison Roman has a new cookbook out, too.

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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.