comments: 62


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


Hilarious photo of your cat!

I guess I have always liked nice soaps. For Christmas in fourth grade, I gave my grandmother a tall glass jar of pretty, individual soaps. She used lavender soap in her kitchen. In her papers I found an old poem she had clipped from a magazine, that started out...

“With lavender cleanly, good odor of modesty
All fresh is the chamber of Clemence and Barbery”

I looooooved this, it's so exactly right. The happiness of plopping soap in a mold and the weird evocative unfindable catalog photo from the 80's and the piles of things all over the house. All together, all the time, conjuring all the feelings: satisfaction, frustration, inspiration. Life is so messy and maddening and great.

Oh my goodness, that cat!! Too funny. I bought a ton of Victoria magazines from the early 90s awhile ago doing the same thing. Drawing comfort from my past comforts and wishful thinking. Your soap sounds really lovely. 🙂

Mary Ann in Vermont says: April 14, 2021 at 05:19 AM

I love it all SO much--kitty(kind of naughty!), closets and clothes, dried flowers, yarn, SOAP, Sigourney Wever, ANDY, Tasha Tudor, Keeping Faith, Crabtree & Evelyn, Laura Ashley, and MOST of all ALL the time your sharings and thoughts and photos. Please, don't stop blogging. I LOVE you on Instagram but there is NOTHING like your blog. xoxoxoxo

Lynn Marie says: April 14, 2021 at 07:01 AM

I use to make soap and also found that all natural ingredients was the way to go with it. My home always smelled so good--like an herbal apothecary store. I have been thinking about getting back into it. ☺

Such a hard yes to all this--the soap, the dad story, the possibly-imaginary Laura Ashley apothecary--everything. I have a place like that, too--a farmhouse no longer in our family, where I played with kittens and clumsily peeled a million pears and ate lemon cake baked by an old auntie especially for me, because she remembered it was my favorite. (I'm now awaiting a crack at the soap with barely contained patience.) xoxo

I loved this post. You have NOT lost your words; they almost create a better picture than...pictures!
My mother has been gone for 19 years now and she used Jergens Gentle Touch soap as drawer air fresheners. I don't know HOW many bars of that she had but it was a lot. One old chest of drawers of hers that I kept still had the bars in it and there's one drawer that isn't opened often that retains that scent. It's like an olfactory hug when I do open that drawer. The scent was probably all chemical but I've always liked it and wish they would make it again.

Sue, that was a beautiful memory of your mother!

TJ Sikkink says: April 15, 2021 at 09:40 AM

Your posts calm my soul, even when you talk of the chaos around your home. I'm still comforted and soothed after reading it. Thank you!

I love goat milk soap. There is something about the ph balance of goat's milk being very similar to our skin. Also, I LOVE heliotrope flowers and their smell is delicious. I plant them just so I can stick my nose in them every time I walk by. If you were to make a heliotrope scented goat milk soap, I think my heart would explode!

Very Good! Beautiful Blog ;-)

Oh yeah, Essence was a respite from so many blustery walks home from school. I was super intimidated by the woman who owned it, though, and always felt like a clunky beast whenever I was there. Also, Dad told me once that I reminded him of Lindsay Wagner (a.k.a The Bionic Woman).

Oh Alicia, your words are a balm to my soul. This post touched me, especially the searching for the long remembered picture, even to the point of buying old catalogs on ebay (may you find it someday). the world is a better place with you in it. Amen.

Nice Article.. very much informative..

Michelle Huddeleston says: April 16, 2021 at 06:59 PM

I am interested in weather or not you have sewn all of those interesting things hanging in your closet?

I spend every minute of every day hand stitching quilts, so I've stopped making any clothing. Looking at your closet is interesting me.

Thank you for this blog. It's a moment of beauty and sanity in a crazy world.

Cassandra says: April 16, 2021 at 08:39 PM

Yes! Yes! I can totally relate to ALL OF THIS! And funny, I have a similar thing to your catalog picture...and I just finally found it the other day on YouTube. It’s this short little live action segment on Sesame Street from the early 70’s of the little girls who’s mom knits them sweaters. Their dad sheared the sheep, they carded the wool, and their mother spun and knit them. I was obsessed with this as a kid for so many reasons. I lived in the city with my mom and Grandma so the whole scene was so foreign but oddly comforting to me....it’s what I wanted my life to look like. I don’t live in a farm, but I feel like I’ve cultivated this vibe with my own little family. Thanks for sharing your stories :)

I love your posts and so glad to see them; the way you write, your thoughts, and your honesty! I am organizing my sewing room and feel very nostalgic at sooo many fabrics/patterns etc. from long ago. Hard to give away. As I get older I truly do think of many memories and would love to go back into time! In the meantime, I am driving myself crazy with projects that I love to do, but certainly feel the days fly by too quickly! Can't wait for your soaps - I love mild scents and anything strong will give me a headache. One of my granddaughters (age 4) has exczema very bad - any suggestions for soap?
I have a crazy cat - she always zig-zags and I almost trip and will attack me at times so, I must be careful. I love her anyway.

Hello dear Alicia,
Chiming in to say how much I,too, value these honest and wistful posts filled with so much goodness. And that I thought of you while I was watching season 2 of Keeping Faith (which I hadn't realized they had made and now sort of wish I had stopped at the lovely and satisfying ending rather than starting season 3) and just because I wanted to say hello after many years without leaving a comment.

P.S. I am also curious about how you handle spam comments as I am quite discouraged about them since leaving Instagram and trying to get my own blogging going again. xoxoxo

Funny, how a simple comment from a father can impress or depress a young girl. My daddy was my hero, but I remember getting new shoes and him commenting how big my feet were(they weren't but a size seven) and it crushed me even though he didn't say it in a mean way and was never mean to me. So we never know what we say that might impress on a child at any given time. Evidently your father impressed you by what he said and hey, what girl wouldn't want to look like Sigourney Weaver! And you are selling beautiful things.

Bridgette says: April 19, 2021 at 08:27 AM

This past Covid-filled year had definitely sparked a desire to reconnect with what I loved in my younger years. I seek out the cozy and familiar. It's funny how a scent or particular fabric pattern (blue ticking for me) can bring all of those memories back. And, since you asked, my favorite soap scent is sandalwood. There is something very warm and comforting but also a bit exotic and spicy about it that I just love. :)

I have the same feelings about certain shops i have spent time in. I also love crabtree and Evelyn and wish they would bring back a lettuce scented soap from their gardener's collection. Hint hint Alicia

Hey! I have that same yellow flowered Martha Stewart shelf paper! It's lining an old dresser we have. So pretty. Soap - I like body wash. My husband likes bar soap. I only buy natural for him. Animal fats leave horrid residue on the shower walls, so we only buy plant-based soaps. Also, they have to last longer than a week! Like 3 or 4 weeks. Milled soaps last the longest. It's too expensive to spend around a dollar an ounce for soap to have it last only a week. He also likes ones that are a little scrubby - not with dried plant junk, though. Favorite scents are minty (strong), patchouli containing, and rose. (not all together!) mine is citrus, but it's so hard to have citrus last, let alone be a strong scent.

I only use homemade soap. I buy it at the farmers market from the soap maker, and she has amazing skin. I also buy lotion and dog shampoo from her. Will you design another set of kitchen towel embroidery patterns? Something sweet and vintage-y? I can't see well enough to cross Stitch in my old age, but I've been enjoying simple, old-school embroidery through the pandemic. Crayon tinted embroidery is the best.

Kim-Pacific Northwest says: April 23, 2021 at 02:57 PM

I just wanted to give you an idea for your soap making. I am currently using a handmade bar of soap that was made with a thin slice of a natural loofa sponge inbedded in one side of the soap. I had never seen soap like this before and I really like it a lot.
Just an idea I thought worth passing along.
I hope you are enjoying the nice weather we have been having.

Kerry Jewell says: April 25, 2021 at 03:14 PM

Just dropping a note to say how much I enjoy reading about your memories of Oak Park and the Midwest in general. I lived in Oak Park on Marion Street in the mid-90's after living in Southern California for 7 years. Leaving Illinois made me appreciate it and I was anxious to return. Now I am thinking of leaving again when we retire, but probably to Door County. You live in an area of the country I love and keep visiting, but the Midwest has a pull somehow. Even though we are enjoying what will likely be our 3 weeks of Spring right now. Love your blog, have followed it for many years.

I say EVERYDAY, “you have too much crap”. And I had to move on Jan.1st to a smaller place so I got rid of a lot of it. But really, how much harm can a pecan painted with a sassy face and wearing a cloth turban with golden hoop earrings sewn onto the turban do? it only brings joy on my bulletin board.
yes, I only use handmade soaps. I don’t have a favorite because all of them were gifts. I don’t buy liquid soaps because of the plastic stream. I tried the shampoo bar from Trader Joe’s but it makes my hair dirtier. Back to L’Oreal.

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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




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.