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.


If you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society then make sure you read 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, they just fit together. Also, the Guernsey Literary book is even better than the movie, and that’s saying something because Lily James stars in the movie, and the movie is really good. I’m looking for really good new soup recipes, if you get out of your cooking slump, please share.

Here are three excellent books I recently read and recommend:

The Girl who wrote in silk by Kelli Estes
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan
Educated by Tara Westover

Here is a very tasty recipe for salmon, you can make it in foil or parchment paper:

The book that I both read and listened to this summer was “What the Wind Knows” by Amy Harmon. It’s set in America and Ireland and is a haunting tale that stayed with me for a long time. I love books that take me to a place where if I haven’t been but make me feel that I have. I also recommend “The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It was my selection a few years ago, for my neighborhood book club, that’s been going on for fifteen years. Even though both books they are written in time of war, both are love stories.

My go to meals in cold weather are soups. I make Chili Con Carne, Broccoli Cheese, Zuppa Toscana and Potato. I usually pair these soups with rolls, either sweet or savory, or some kind of tart, lemon is my favorite.

Hi Alicia,
We are enjoying the Chef John mushroom soup recipe here today in Colorado where it is VERY cold... one degree this morning at my house. Brrrrr!
Some books you might enjoy are A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier. It’s an excellent book set in pre-WW2 Winchester England and tells the story of a spinster who discovers the needlepoint group at the church who are making cushions and kneeler for the cathedral. Many parts are true and it’s fascinating... cushions are still in use today.
Also highly recommend A Woman of No Importance.
And for a great spy novel series written by a real female spy, try the Stella Remington books.

Website inquiring has some great recipes. Some are very easy, good suggestions for freezing, and easy weeknight meals too. She often talks about her young daughters. Life goes on down here in CA. I feel terrible for all the fire victims. Can’t imagine what it’s like. I have been very fortunate to only have to deal with power outages. Luckily I can still check out your blog on my phone when we don’t have power!

Have you heard about Spouted Kitchen's cooking club? New recipes each each -- and she has frequent suggestions for making meals kid friendly. We have found several family favorites from that. I get an email each week w/several new recipes (a main dish, a side and dessert or breakfast at least) each week. Even when I can't work them into my meal plan for that week, they will spark ideas for me. I think it's really great. -- I am not connected to the family that runs this -- I just really enjoy it :)

I am so excited for you to finish that pattern! I look forward to making it for my granddaughter down in Corvallis.

If you haven’t already read it, I recommend Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Also Holy Lands by Amanda Sthers.

We were just in Portland this last weekend to visit my daughter at Lewis and Clark College. I was blown away by the beautiful foliage. Stay warm!

Take yourself away to England with Susan Hill (lovely family stories plus a mystery in every one) or "Robert Galbraith" (cranky Cormoran Strike) or Deborah Crombie. Not too taxing but all are excellent in imagining another place. When it gets cold I like to cook for two nights instead of just one: make two huge meatloaves and extra baked potatoes, vegetable-beef soup with cheese toast, mac and cheese with bits of ham, scalloped (?) potatoes and pork chops. It's a bit carb heavy, I know, but it's like money in the bank to have good leftovers.

You would like 1000 Years Over a Hot Stove. It's fascinating and inspiring.

My daughter lives in Healdsburg,CA and has been evacuated since last Friday. The fire maps are confusing, but I believe their home has been spared, once again. I have a confession to make: I'm a recipe hoarder. It's gotten to the point that I'm overwhelmed and can't find the recipes I'm looking for, even though they are very organized. I've been going through my files and throwing out about half of what I've collected - should be more! I think it will feel good to only keep the recipes I would actually make.

Dee Deadman says: October 30, 2019 at 11:23 AM

The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan is a great book if you like a psychological thriller, just right for this time of year.

So many good suggestions here! I needed the same inspiration lately. I did just finish The Dutch House which was my first time reading Ann Patchett. I thought it was good but I generally prefer plot-driven narratives and she is character-driven all the way. So if you like that sort of thing, it's a god read! I'm thinking of reading Frankenstein next. Seems seasonally appropriate. My cooking mojo has been AWOL so I always fall back on sure things like Ruth Reichl's recipe for Carbonara (in her book Garlic and Sapphires.) Its a family staple. I've also been doing a lot of crockpot beef stroganoff. I always use boneless beef short ribs for it instead of stew meat and it comes out delicious.
Happy Fall!

Books: Educated, by Tara Westover. The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, by Abbi Waxman. The Gifted School, by Bruce Holsinger. Mrs. Fletcher, by Tom Perotta (soon to be an HBO mini series). The House with Chicken Legs, by Sophie Anderson (a re-imagining of the Baba Yaga folktale).

Dinner: I'm having leftovers tonight. Figuring out what to cook every day is one of the more tedious aspects of being an adult.

I have been in a cooking slump too lately, but made both of these recipes last week and they turned out amazing!

I've been following your blog for years and so appreciate all of your beautiful photos and stories. Hope your fall is lovely.

-Jenny from Salida, Colorado

I'm reading the Inspector Tom Reynolds mysteries by Jo Spain right now. My new favorite recipe collection is What's Gaby Cooking, the book and the website. Try the Chicken Larb Bowl, it's soooo good. I usually cut the spicy ingredients in half and that is the perfect level for me.

Auntie Allyn says: October 30, 2019 at 04:19 PM

Thanks for the reminder of your/your mom's Chicken Paprika recipe! I was in a bit of a cooking slump myself this morning but discovered a package of long-forgotten chicken thighs in the freezer. So that's what my sweetie and I had for dinner tonight . . . much deliciousness! I didn't make the dumplings but used rotini pasta instead, which we really enjoyed (and was easier than making dumplings). Next time I make the recipe (and there WILL be a next time), I think I'll add a cup of white wine or dry vermouth to the sauce instead of chicken broth; I needed to add some liquid to the pot, and I think the wine/vermouth would enhance the flavor of the dish. Looking forward to the leftovers for tomorrow's lunch!!

Read Tapestry by Kylie Fitzpatrick...

MY DARLING ALICIA - if you have not yet read 'The Essex Serpent' get on that one immediately, if not sooner. The first chapter is slow, and then after that, it's like nothing I've ever read before - a very unique book and perfect for this time of year! If you were a fan of Erin Morgenstern's 'The Night Circus' (and if you haven't read THAT oh my word go now), her new book 'The Starless Sea' comes out on Nov 5. I'm so excited I can't stand it.

Debby O'Keefe says: October 30, 2019 at 06:12 PM

I also think you would love The Gown, and then read A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff.
Also add Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl to your list.

Sheila from Champaign says: October 31, 2019 at 09:18 AM

Have you read the lovely treasures of prose and recipes by Kate Young, The Little Library Cookbook and the just-released The Little Library Year? Also, I recently finished A Gentleman in Moscow and thought it was one of the best novels I've ever read. I always wish you were my neighbor!

Lovely photos like always! We have been making ethnic recipes lately. Started to read Wolf Hall highly recommended by my brother-in-law who reads a lot. My husband read it and he liked it. Lovely sweater! Sadly I don't knit. Love all the Fall colors in the window photo!

D.A. Squires says: October 31, 2019 at 02:16 PM

I love your writing and photos, and I am in awe of your all your creative talent, which combined with your cozy home and precious family, makes your blog feels like a sanctuary from the maelstrom of the outside world. If you have not read it, I would humbly suggest The Time Seekers and The Fantastic Tails of Sammy and Mr. Chips... I think you would love the characters and stories. Both books have an old-fashioned patina, and are centered around family, friendship and love.
I am a faithful reader, but rarely comment (I have never knit one thing, but swoon over your artistry and creativity)... you are a port in the storm for all those lucky enough to have found you in the vast internet ocean.

I haven't commented in quite a while but I never miss a post, Alicia!

Good books? Everything by Beatriz Williams. Love love love!!

I made your meatballs but with a 50\50 pork and beef mix, then put them in stroganoff with chanterelles. Onion, garlic, and flat leaf parsley from the garden harvest. Some sauvignon blanc was involved. The last thing I read was Mary Oliver's Dog Songs. Wonderful. Brie and BlackBerry jam grilled cheese using ghee is kind of spectacular. Had a go at sugar cookies decorated with royal icing. Plans to improve cookie decorating skills. Might have to pawn some off on the neighbors.

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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.