At Christmastime

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Oh, December! You are filled with some of the loveliest things. Cold, clear mornings and steaming, spicy drinks. Children bonkers with excitement over the slightest things, the picture of a mouse behind an advent-calendar window, a two-cent candy cane, another tiny ornament for the tree. School sing-alongs and the smell of soup for lunch in the morning hallways. While she's at school, I scurry: writing Christmas cards, baking cookies, starting and finishing a comforter for her, shipping orders as fast as I can so I can get to wrapping the gifts that must be shipped. There's a constant back and forth to the post office. I knit and stitch through the chilly nights, surrounded by aging animals and waiting for my love to get home from work. He comes in with groceries and a blast of cold air and his good cheer, warming the room.

We went to Oregon Ballet Theater's Nutcracker on Saturday afternoon, and it was just pure delight, as always. (The photo of the Waltz of the Snowflakes is by Blaine Truitt Covert, and I always include it here because they don't allow you to take pictures, but I don't want to forget this. It's my favorite part.) Amelia made it all the way through (it's looooong, isn't it?) and snuggled on my lap in the dark auditorium for the last half of the second act. Afterward we went to The Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner, which felt festive and fun and sits beguilingly right on the river in one of the best spots-with-a-view in town. Boats decorated with lights floated down the river beyond the windows. A balloon guy came over and made her a balloon rainbow, and we all ate sherbert and spumoni for dessert. It was a wonderful day. This morning I was lying in bed and Amelia brought me a tiny cup of what looked like four or five crushed up Cap'n Crunches. "Huh," I said. "Thanks, I think?" "It's a special present," she said. "My nutcracker crushed them for you!" Right on.

Thank you so much for all of your pattern orders!!! I'm rounding third on all my little chores, ready to be done with the to-do list. Today Andy is home, and is already doing the school run, and will do the pick-up, too. My freedom is strange and luscious. I hardly know where to start! I'm trying to tie Amelia's comforter while she's at school — this thing so far is still a surprise, and I keep it hidden when she is home, as much as I wan to be working on it because it's taking forever to tie. My fingers are so sore. (I'm using a big fat doll needle to tie it with perle cotton, and I recommend using a very big needle for this.) We are one week from Christmas, and it really does feel like a slow but steady slide, right into the heart of the season. I recorded The Sound of Music the other night and played the Do-Re-Mi scene for Amelia (it always chokes me up, right when Julie Andrews comes swinging through that sunny green bower and the music swells, oh man!). We sang it together for the rest of the night.

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I made these cookies and I thought you might like them. For me they are the perfect Christmas cookie — chocolaty, salty, buttery, and minty. And just the right amount of sweet. They don't keep very long, so eat them up.

Chocolate Buttercream Mints

Cookies (adapted from Hershey's Chewy Chocolate Cookie recipe, which I have a handwritten copy of from twenty years ago but can't find on their web site anymore):

1 cup salted, softened butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar in large bowl. Add eggs and vanilla and blend well. In separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Blend flour mixture into creamed mixture. Drop by teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350° for 8 minutes (Do not over bake. Cookies will be soft. They will puff during baking, flatten upon cooling.) Cool on cookie sheet until set, about 1 minute. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Frosting:

1 cup salted butter
4-5 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
Pink food coloring
Crushed candy canes

Cream butter in large bowl. Add powdered sugar gradually and blend very well. Add milk, peppermint extract and blend again. Tint half of the frosting with pink. Spoon frosting into a pastry bag, keeping each color to one half the bag. Use a star tip and blob some frosting onto each cooled cookie. Top with a small amount of crushed candy canes.

 

Wishing every one of you a most lovely, loving, peaceful week as we lead up to Christmas! XOX, A

34 comments

Merry Christmas!
Thank you for another year of graciously sharing beauty, wonder, and inspiration. Your posts, and maybe especially these that come around the holidays, have become a joyful part of what I love and feel thankful for.

Yes, only a week away now!? ♥ How I love that Amelia's in your life. The wonder and joy of it delight me year after year. . .your fairy tale come-true. ♥ Happy holidays, Alicia!

Just in case you did not know? I have USPS free pickup at my home. I schedule on line and get postage printed on line. I order free boxes on line. My next door neighbor has daily pickup and she ships a lot like you. Perhaps you need to do another way but just in case you did not know. Merry Christmas!

Nancy Kelly says: December 18, 2019 at 01:54 PM

thanks for the cookie recipe, will definately try it because I love chocolate and peppermint!
also, what a beautiful wreath with lamb’s ears...have to save some next year and try it!

Your mention of the Old Spaghetti Factory took me right back to my college days. Loved going there as it was affordable, and my favourite dessert was the spumoni ice-cream. It is so hard to find good spumoni ice-cream here in Canada. I think it has gone out of favour. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to update your blog and show us all the holiday happenings in the Paulson household. I love the photo of Mimi climbing up the stairs. Love all the photos living the stairwell.

Thank you so much for the recipe. I've been DYING to make a chocolate peppermint cookie. This could be it!! I know you mentioned that they don't keep long. Have you ever tried storing them for a few days or do you not recommend this? I love this idea, but also need something I can have around for a few days.

Thank you!!
Michael

Kristen from MA says: December 18, 2019 at 05:57 PM

I know that your life is hectic Alicia, but your blog posts are a soothing balm to mine. ❤️

Oh, what a lovely peek into your days! I always feel the peace, joy, rushing, excitement of life with you three. Thank you for sharing! 💜💜💜

I always love seeing celebrations at your place. One day when I have a place of my own I would love it to be as warm a homely as yours.

Beautiful photographs and a much fun filled December. The Nutcracker is my favourite too as I danced in a production many years ago when I was a child.

Mx

Such a pretty post! I love the warmth your photos convey. I only learned of Santa Lucia (Day) a few year's ago by watching - of all things - A Rick Steves European Christmas special. (You can actually find the hour long show on You Tube to watch.) The show has lovely music and girls singing Santa Lucia, with children delivering saffron buns to the elderly. Your photo reminded me of that scene because it looked like buns on the tray your daughter is carrying. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Enjoy this special time with your family!

So beautiful! I've always wanted to see the Nutcracker :) Merriest of Christmases!

Stefanie Price says: December 19, 2019 at 01:35 PM

My how time flies!!!...May you all cherish each and every moment!...I too sat through many years of the Nutcracker...which became its own tradition!...It is very long...and sadly she outgrew it, but the memories are still to be cherished!!!...May you and yours have a most JOYOUS and BLESSED Christmas!!!

Hi Alicia, Andy and Amelia! I enjoyed each and every photo! I think your tradition of going to the Nutcracker is wonderful. I only went once but I was enthralled. Is Mimi still in ballet? Maybe she'll perform one day on that stage. I posted some photos of our house all decorated for my sister's Christmas party yesterday, I'm not sure if you've ever seen my posts of our home all lit up. I look forward to making my doll in the New Year!! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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*M*E*R*R*Y* * *C*H*R*I*S*T*M*A*S*!*
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What a very lovely post. My granddaughter, Gabriella, performs in The Nutcracker with Peoria Ballet every year. I love it so much too! I can't believe how your sweet Amelia has grown. She gets more beautiful by each passing season. Thank you for the cookie recipe. I think I will make some for my family festivities. As always, my time here was peaceful to my soul.
Wishing you and yours the very best the season has to offer,
Danette

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family! Love your pics and posts and I always feel the coziness you share with us! A wonderful season and busy - so much to do and it feels like I'll never get it all done. I'll have to make your cookies and they look so good! Thanks for sharing! By the way, I just purchased "needle grippers by Ever Sewn" and haven't used them yet, but I believe they will help me - maybe they'd help you as well.

Thank you, Alicia, for your lovely posts, today and all through the year. I wish you a very merry Christmas.

I didn’t know you had an Old Spaghetti Factory! We used to go there on date nights in San Diego or Newport Beach as we lived in between the two. We took the kids there last year to show them the tables made of beds and to taste the Italian sodas. We ordered the same as always: the sampler with Mizithra cheese, which I thought was a made up name until just now when I looked it up.

My fingers are sore as well! I finished another Ollalieberry quilt last night and the little needle I used on the binding was killing me. I, too, used all the moments I had while my girl was away and kept it completely secret. She never heard the sewing machine this year. I don’t “think” she noticed the walking foot. It’s a little harder to be so sly with an 18 year old. This quilt is for going off to college. It has smiling sun faces on it. I can’t wait to give it to her on Christmas, which we will celebrate tomorrow. Looks like we were both up against the clock with our projects!

Merry Christmas to your sweet family.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!! Many blessings in the new year ahead! Thank you for all the lovely photos and fun craft projects.

... well I broke down and finally got a scoop to portion my dough. What a handy gadget! The spooning was no longer satisfying enough in getting equal little portions.
Christmas could go on forever. What a wonderful time of the year! Hustlebustle and twinkle, cozy glow and aromas filling the air, family and friends and happiness, acceptance, love and... peace
all preceded by weeks of expectations and preparations. It comes and goes so fast. Here in Germany we celebrate Christmas Eve followed by TWO days of Christmas.
Hope you and yours had a wonderful, very special time!
Xs and Os
Heidi

Sarah Craighead Dedmon says: December 29, 2019 at 12:09 PM

Hi! Love the pics, what is the name of the yoke sweater pattern?

Your words always inspire me to be more creative. This has been a terribly hard year for our family so am looking forward to what a new year may bring. Blessings to you and yours during this special time of year.

Merry Christmas. Is the lambsear wreath made from plastic greenery or live or both? Also, how did you make such a perfect bow?

Thank you

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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.