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I mean, look at her expression, as she's walking back and forth across all my newly hung hanging clothes (I cleaned my closet). Naturally she's giving me the stink eye. She walked back and forth across here several times, wobbling, meowing, knocking my clothes of their hangers, and looking supremely annoyed by it all every minute, even though she’s the one who put herself up there somehow and chose to stay. Alicia. Why would you put a clothes' closet here where I'm trying to walk?” Ah, we humans are such idiots, I know. This morning I went down to my office and was bewildered by the presence of dried flower petals all over my work island, which I'd literally just cleared and completely wiped down the night before. Looking up, I saw all my cute dried flowers hanging from my cute little driftwood ladder suspended from the ceiling. And now I know what Agatha did last night. Generally she likes to break into my yarn cabinet and drag skein after skein of worsted all the way up the stairs to the second floor, and then drop them all over the hallway while we sleep. But I also cleaned my yarn-cabinet area up and put all the yarn away AND locked the door on it with a twisted rubber-band so apparently she had to find something else to do to wreak Aggie-havoc. She finds things to do that I didn’t even dream were things to do.

For yes, it's been chaotic around here. I've been scrambling to get a handle on it all but no, my taxes still aren't done, my driver's license is expired, the back yard looks abandoned, there are magazines all over the bathroom, yarn all over the house, and, even though my new assistant Ivy is leaving for the summer on June 1, I haven't started any of my summer designs yet.

Nevertheless, I do say to myself every single solitary day, Girl, you did the best you could. I do say that. I say that to the pile of coats, boots, and shoes piling up in Amelia's outerwear corner of the dining room; and Andy's Snack Central bags of chips, salts, and popcorn seasonings scattered on top of our red Ikea cabinet and on top of the cookbooks up there (bags of Funyuns, on top of the cookbooks, good lord); and of course detritus from my own fourteen new hobbies (resin, polymer clay, pottery, and, naturally, metal-smithing among them) covering any available surface. I look around and I say that to all of those things. Girl, you did the best you could today. For what it's worth. Someday I'll get there. Meanwhile I sit on the bed with a giant breadboard on my lap, making soap dishes out of clay and re-watching season 1 of Keeping Faith because Where the hell is Evan??? Season 2 just came out so I will soon know!

THANK YOU thank you thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your orders of my new spring designs and all of the soap and lotion bars and yarn I released. I sometimes cry in the studio and I did cry while packing all of these things, from gratitude and maybe just a little bit of exhaustion but mostly gratitude for all of you and your generous orders and patience and interest in and support of my ideas. Thank you. It means more to me than I can say. My words feel so awkward and hard to find anymore so I don't write often. But I thank you for being here still.

I wrote on my Instagram that Andy and I have been making soap together again, and this, too, takes up much of my sunshine daydreams, thinking about soap and planning for new soap. Milk soap, aloe soap, baby soap, pink soap. We've made two 3.5-pound batches every weekend for the past four weeks. I must say, oh my, I don't know why, but the soap is coming out SO GOOD. Something is good! Maybe we're finally figuring it out. We made an executive decision to stop using anything but natural ingredients in our soap, so no micas or synthetic fragrance oils at all — only natural colorants and essential oils and perhaps pure botanical oils for fragrance. So far we've made a beautiful, creamy pale-pink scented with Ylang Ylang; a pretty seafoam blue scented with Clary Sage and Bergamot; a dull, chalky lavender scented with Bulgarian lavender and peppermint; and the one I'm calling "Dreamsicle," which is a pale rosy orange with cream, scented with orange, pink grapefruit, and balsam Peru (which smells like vanilla), like our Summer Day lotion bar. The bars are cut to 1.5 inches wide, or about 7.5 ounces each, and they are whoppers. They’re huge. And there's just something so beautiful about the big soap. It's so creamy and has these sort of creamy waves on the top that I just smoosh on with a spoon. The consistency of the soap when it's wet is like pastry cream or pudding, but even smoother. It's so satisfying to just mush a spoon through it. It's so pure and beautiful and it smells so good. It plops into the molds with such a ploppy, puddingy sound. I love it. After we put it all in the molds I just lean on the counter and stare at it for a long time. It takes six weeks to cure.

I was thinking about something I think I've written about before — I'm sure I've written about this before but I don’t remember when. I was thinking about this little jewel-box of a store called Essence that used to be on Lake Street in Oak Park, next to the Lake Theater where I worked as a candy girl when I was in high school. Essence sold Crabtree and Evelyn soaps and stuff and all sorts of pretty apothecary stuff, perfumes and soaps and potpourri sachets. The store was the shape of a rectangle with a center entrance and had wooden tables in the center and dark wood shelves on all the walls, and it just smelled so good in there. I used to spend so much time in that store, usually before work at the theater. I still think about it all the time!!! So weird! I also remember this other store that was in Galena, Illinois, on the Mississippi River, where I went for a weekend with my family when I was in high school, because my parents were thinking of buying property out there. There was an apothecary store there, too, and I think it was in an old barn? Maybe? It had dried flowers hanging from the ceiling and it sold herbs and soaps and bath stuff, I think. It was dark and warm and fragrant, like a Tasha Tudor sort of place. And I always remember that because my dad said to me that day that I should own a store like that when I grew up. And I was so flattered. Usually the things he wanted me to do only ever royally pissed me off (I won't get into it, but let's just say I did not want to learn to do martial arts — not judging martial arts but I had zero interest) and he also usually did not say very nice things in general. I remember the few that pleased me, and this was one. Another was that he told me, at my cousin Michele's wedding, before I was dating Andy, that he thought I should marry a hobby farmer and have a rural life (I would've done that). Another one was that I reminded him of Sigourney Weaver, and I will never forget that. I remember those three things. Those things aligned with how I saw myself or wanted to see myself and that was rare for us.

Anyway, I have this vision, those visions, of those places, around these soaps and I don't know why. I don't know if it is tapping into some childhood dreams of mine, or a fiercely beloved version of what I wanted my room to look like in high school (white, with whitewashed siding, and lavender-blue stuff, and dried lavender hanging from the ceiling, and rafters, and a little window, and slanty ceilings, and I swear I got this from an old Laura Ashley catalog I had and can no longer find even though I literally bought all the ones from 1983-1987 on eBay several years ago, I had such a longing to see whatever picture it was that I was "remembering," though I never have found it. Did I make it up?), or something sweet and beautiful that is just literally soothing me right now, in these days. I don't know. I spent a long time looking at '80s calicos again on eBay the other night, thinking this time of how they would look in little strips wrapped around soap. So I guess I haven't gotten it all out of my system. Maybe I'm just homesick. I don't know. I don’t know what it is. Or why it’s happening now.

What's your favorite kind of soap and do you use handmade soap? Do you think about this?

Oh — and also — I went to my P.O. box for the first time in over a year, and thank you very much for all of your kind notes and gifts! I am so sorry it has taken me so long to pick them up! I have not done a good job responding to emails and other contacts this year, and I hope you'll forgive me. I sincerely thank you and am hoping to respond personally soon. XO


I can tell we're kindred spirits, because the things hanging in your closet look so much like the things hanging in my closet! (Minus the cat) I really enjoyed the flavour of this post, and the way it helps us know you....

You might want to get the Laura Ashley Book of Home Decorating. I had a copy years ago and remember the beautiful photos and ideas in it.

So much in this post resonates, I cannot think where to begin; I want to say “yes,” and “me, too,” and “very much.”
Life can be so achingly beautiful, messy, hard, with elusive, bittersweet memories... and lovely fragrances, tender hopes. I’m glad you blog.

We’ve just had Season 3 of KF here in the UK. It’s going to take me a while to recover! The man who plays Evan’s father used to belong to the same gym as us, and my husband ran the London Marathon with him. Nice chap.

Mackenzie says: April 12, 2021 at 05:01 PM

I went to school in River Forest so I love hearing about your memories of Oak Park. Did you ever go in Merz Apothecary in Lincoln Square? So magical.

Happy to hear that you and your family are doing well despite the depths of Covid ennui we all suffer from. I dropped a kleenex next to the waste basket and was too lazy to bend over to pick it up. Til later. Fortunately I live alone! I would buy your entire recipe of eucalyptus soap if that's ever an option! Thank you for the peace and quiet joy your blogs provide.

Twenty years ago I visited a professor and his French wife for a few days, and they had the most beautiful bars of soap (from France)... I still think of that soap and wonder what it was. At the time I was a poor student and the idea that I should pay attention to the brand to someday buy fancy soap didn’t even occur to me.

Shelley Noble says: April 12, 2021 at 07:32 PM

Fantastic post, Alicia

Your writing is superb as always and your confessions/feelings so relatable to me.

Truly a Fan.

I love this. Made me smile. And I definitely needed to hear Girl, you did the best you could. So, big virtual hugs to you.

Oh I love homemade soap! I am currently using a bar that is rose scented and it is lovely. I too loved Crabtree and Evelyn (so sad it is closed), my most favourite scent being the Evelyn Rose. It reminds of a time in my life when all fashion decisions were made from Victoria magazines and finding the perfect poet shirt and prairie skirt were my goals in life (I am mostly still there 30 years later). I still have a bottle of the perfume, who's scent is sadly changing as time marches on, but which I treasure. It would be so wonderful if you could make a rose scented bar!

You have until May 17 to get your taxes in this year. Extended due to Covid.

Yes, you did talk about Crabtree & Evelyn before because it brought a flood of Spring Rain memories...in 1987 I bought scented drawer liners which seemed Such An Extravagance. After the scent was gone I used every square inch to line boxes and cards. Thirty plus years later I can still find Spring Rain paper bookmarks between the pages of fav books.

Marcia L Love says: April 13, 2021 at 01:23 AM

Dear Alicia: I must tell you I love your mind and its wanderings.
Your blog is so refreshing to me and I thank you. I'm getting old, old, old (83 -- I never imagined) and my days of making are sadly coming to an end but I just so enjoy reading about your efforts and love of lovely things. Everything you make is just a small blessing in this crazy world we live in.
I thank you for being you and for your blog.
all best to you and your lovely family.

I was briefly into making glycerin soap as a teen. It was a lot of fun- but I never did the cold process, traditional stuff as I was, well, a teen. I love handmade soap. It feels so much more nourishing for my skin than the store-bought stuff. Although the Amish-made soap around here is very expensive, and I rarely buy it. I love lavender soap, and bergamot soaps. Anything lemony. Those three scents always smell fresh and new to me.

Nostalgia with a dose of melancholy is hitting me hard right now and I think it's a real "thing" -- this past year I have missed my Mum terribly and I long for the time when my son was little. I've been shut in the house since September (7 months now) which I think has something to do with it.

My brother had a cat that did that. One day they lost the cat, but heard a pitiful sound coming from their closet. There they found her, all tangled up in a blouse, hanging by her back claws. She is quite the monkey!

I, too, have some melancholy feelings these days. I feel like our pandemic limbo is winding down, but there is still uncertainty about what's coming. I am anticipating feelings of loss over the shelter I've actually savored in a more limited life, and I know I am going to need to summon energy to return to more circulation (even things I know I'll enjoy). There is always some fear about change, even though I know I can do it. It's small comforts that always help us through... yes, pretty and sweetly scented soap, a row or stack of comfortable clothing that really represents us, a good book to crack open in the sunshine or by twinkly light, kisses and hugs from our favorite people, a walk in the woods, flowers bursting into color all over. Sending you hugs from Champaign!

Love all the beautiful things you create!! Your cat is quite an active one but I presume she will slow down when she gets older and will sleep most of the time. Thank you for all share Alicia!

My favorite homemade soaps are sunflower and camomile, and an Orange and Ylang Ylang. I was at a farmers market on a Saturday, and fell in love with them.
It’s the small things that that bring memories to me. They never seem to flood back in a wild glorious emotion, but just small little snippets. Photos in time. Today I’m seeing Purple everywhere, it reminds me of the violets I would buy on vacation to bring home so I could grow more from cuttings. I was 16. That snippet of memory real or not, of just being in that moment, that feeling of contentment, of ease. I just don’t know if it was real. I have judged my whole life on that memory, always trying to get back there without success.

Melissa@Julia's Bookbag says: April 13, 2021 at 10:26 AM

I HAVE A SOAP STORY. Crabtree & Evelyn used to have a Swiss Goatmilk soap way back in the day, 80's and 90's. I used to LOVE it. It smelled like what I imagined Heidi in the Alps might smell like lol. It smelled so CLEAN.

I can't wait to order soap from you. The one that came in the Secret Garden apothecary box was so tremendous, lasted forever, and was just fabulous!

Your productivity amazes me. I'm hanging on by a thread and I 'accidentally' let my blog domain name expire and we haven't looked into trying to get it back up yet, but I hope to soon. Be well dear heart!

I am absolutely obsessed with the tea tree oil soap made at Fernwood Soap located at The Spruce Forest Artisan Village in Grantwood Maryland. The state of Maryland relocated an old one room school house, a German Settlers house, and some other older houses, and rented them out to artisans (a Potter, an incredible wood carver who sculpts magnificent birds, and more). Furthermore, it’s located on the continental divide in the mountains (tons of winter snow) with a very established Mennonite/Amish community. Anyhoo, their tea tree oil soap has seen my kids through impetigo when they were young, zits as teens, and chemical sensitivity as young adults. I swear by the stuff. By the way, I ordered the jewelry kits and I’m just waiting to get enough nerve to start.

Oh my that is one mischievous kitty you have! Hopefully she'll chill out as she ages. I rescued a siamese kitten that was lost in our woods once and after about 3 days of her terrorizing our house I had to re-home her. We're watching "Broadchurch" and will check out "Keeping Faith". Hang in there.. we're on the upswing.. or at least I keep telling myself that. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

Nicole James says: April 13, 2021 at 01:13 PM

So much has changed in this world of ours, but you are still here blogging and making beautiful things and sharing beautiful photos and I CANNOT thank you enough. How you feel about the soaps I am feeling about dogs, searching the rescue photos and picking out homely black dogs that my husband will never want. Then I realized I am trying to find the dog that ran away when I was 12, my dog that liked no one else in my family but me. In my sad, lonely difficult childhood I needed that dog more than my parents would ever know and it broke my heart when he went missing. When I see homely scruffy bearded black dogs i think I am going back to Pepper. Sometimes these things help us heal, sometimes we just need to feel the longing and see where it’s pointing. Thanks for reminding me of that.

Amanda Bender says: April 13, 2021 at 04:01 PM

Oh my goodness, my cat does the same thing! Sometimes she gets stuck hanging from the clothes and meows until I help her all the way up. She (fortunately) does this mostly to my husband’s clothes. She loves to sleep on his sweaters. Cats! Btw, her name is Hadley, after Hemingway’s first wife.

I, also, have a million hobbies it seems. We are similar in our interests, though I've never made soap (yet). I'm a silversmith - for 10 years now. It's more intense than knitting, weaving, etc... For me, silversmithing is product-oriented, whereas fiber arts and pottery (as a single woman, I was a pottery instructor) are more process-oriented. For me, at least. Sewing is similar to silversmithing as far as my required energy levels go. I think you are reaching back to happy peaceful days because of this collective stress we are under right now. We are all dealing with it in different ways.

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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 aliciapaulson.com