Posts filed in: Baking and Cooking

School Has Started!

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Yep! It's September! School has started! Amelia is behind me right now virtually presenting her "All About Me" report. She is reading it out loud to her class in the sweetest, most presenter-y voice. I wish I were recording this. "My favorite color is magenta." Agh, she's so sweet. They're all so sweet. I love these kids. Amelia has a gigantic pink gift-bow in her hair right now. It's on a wire and came on a present from someone at some point; I can't even remember who. It's about half the size of her head. She looks like a Victorian doll. But school (they are following the Florida Virtual School curriculum, for anyone interested) is going great so far. It's only been two weeks, of course. But the amount of stress that has been removed from my life now that only the teacher is asking her to do her work and I'm not asking her to do her work (as I was when we were doing Oak Meadow, which turned into a bit of a power struggle, and I hated that) is immeasurable. This seems better for both of us. I mean, I have no idea if this is a "better" education. I'm not saying that either way — I guess only time will tell and I really don't know. But she is happier, and I am happier, and it is just better for our relationship and that's worth a lot right now, so I would say it is a better education for her at this point. She had to answer some multiple-choice questions on the module that gives an overview the lesson set-up, and one of the questions asked what they liked best about learning; she enthusiastically chose “taking tests!” Her second was "doing worksheets." Which, like . . . I burst out laughing. Aren't they supposed to hate worksheets and tests, or . . . ? :) Ha! And I think Andy’s still planning on doing some special studies with her when he’s home. They really enjoyed that.

It's freezing in here! It was 44 degrees this morning. All the windows were open upstairs and the wind whipped through. I've been waking up way too early, like 4 a.m. When that happens I just chuck in any attempt to go back to sleep and get up, go downstairs and make a cup of coffee, and then come back up and get under the covers and surf Pinterest in the dark for a few hours. Surfing Pinterest makes things feel like the old days, when I decorated rooms and made clothes and cooked more. It makes me want to do those things again, so I like it. Still haven't done many of those things but I'm still trying. I don't mind getting up at 4:00 because it's very quiet (aside from Agatha meowing at me; she's a very meow-y cat) and I get some time to myself. I printed off a recipe for apple muffins this morning. That's on my list for the day. Maybe it will be a muffin lunch here.

Having Amelia occupied for part of the day has given me more time to work, and I am so happy to be working. Two new kits are in production right now; FedEx tells me that patterns should be here today. New assistant Anna is just amazing and is putting together all the kits, including two reprints (The Leaves by Hundreds Came and Things of Autumn — we'll re-launch those at the same time as the new ones), and making more lotion bars. Andy has pulled the floss for all four kits and that's all done. We found some stuff (Phyllis Mouse kits and Calicozy strips) in the attic that we didn't know we had so I've been putting some new-old things together as well. Amelia's desk is ready and Andy finished building the big shelf and we gave his old desk away. We've all been working nonstop for the past few weeks and are slowly catching up.

I started a new Porty Cardigan last winter. It's another thing I recently found. I picked it back up and have been knitting the body and am now trying to bind-off. I'm using Jamieson & Smith 2-ply jumper weight. It's probably the scratchiest yarn I've ever used and I really hope I like wearing it when it's all done. It has definitely not been my favorite yarn to knit with, though the colors are splendid. I also recently found and finished another Granny's Favourite in Woolfolk Far for Amelia. I apologize for the scanty info on these Ravelry entries; I don't seem to remember anything about them! Need to write things down more. A few nights ago I had this very old memory of a sweater vest I had when I was a kid — it was navy blue, just a crew-neck wool vest, but it had an intarsia autumn tree in red, yellow, and orange on the front. I remember that I wore it on a field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago on a beautiful, beautiful fall day and I just loved that vest and that museum and that day. I remember riding the bus on I-290 and looking at the Congress El at rush hour. I found this pattern started it (without the fair isle) in Nature Spun sport and am planning to embroider a fall tree on the front in duplicate stitch for Amelia. I'm hoping to have it done by her birthday. I've been just knitting in circles every night as I watch This Farming Life. (I'm on Season Three, which is the last season for me as I started with Season Four, and I will be SO SAD when I get through it! I love this show so very much! Should I just start watching again? What do I do? I need more!)

For dinner, I made Creamy French Mustard Chicken and everyone here really liked it, including Amelia, which made me feel really good. I roasted some vegetables on the side and, I don't know, there really is nothing like cooking something autumnal that your child will eat to make you feel happy and accomplished.

August Days

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I’m doing this post from my iPad. This is a first so I wonder if these photos will format correctly (ed: they did not, but I fixed them on computer :((( ). Forgive, it seemed better than nothing. These were all on my iPad from the past few weeks. This was August. I’ve had a keen, poignant sense this month of wanting to not “waste” a moment on Amelia's behalf. I try to get us out all day, every single day. I’ve never really done that before, except by accident. This week it’s been morning tennis lessons at the park. The tennis courts are way off in the corner of the park, overlooking the dry hill and the railroad tracks down below. Beyond the tracks is the multi-use path and then the Willamette River that cuts our city in two, east side and west side. We are decidedly east-side people this summer, sticking close to home and, in fact, going to Sellwood, a neighborhood a few miles south. Suddenly everything we do is in Sellwood: Sellwood Park and Sellwood pool and Sellwood tennis lessons, and the rhododendron garden near Sellwood, and my fish-burrito place and Reed College canyon, and my mom’s house and then, I don’t know, back to Sellwood for something again. Too bad we don’t just live in Sellwood. But we've been outside all month nevertheless.

My god, the tennis lessons are terrible. Twenty-five little kids, two teenagers literally on their phones. The “teachers” are sitting on the ground looking at their phones. The kids throw balls across the court for a half an hour. That’s the activity. Just throw balls across the court while the teachers take a break at 10:30 in the morning. Then at 11:00 they do their main activity. That’s stand in line, wait your turn, then go to one side of the court and "serve" a ball over the net. They can barely hit a ball. Amelia throws it up fifteen feet in the air and backwards over her head. If they whiff it, and most of them do, too bad, that’s their turn. Then they go to the other side of the net and “receive” (mostly nothing). Then they go back and wait in line again. They do this for another hour (the teenager, lobbing balls dolefully toward them, gives them no instruction, no advice) and then the lesson is over. There’s only one other mom who stays for the lesson, as I do, knitting at the picnic table up the hill. She, chasing a toddler, is apoplectic (love!), has already emailed and called the director with complaints, and we’ve both spoken to the teenagers — alas, this is all on plan. After the lesson, we compose: Amelia is thrilled, pink-cheeked and delighted that she hit two over the net. She’s with her bright-pink backpack and her racket and her pink water bottle, in shorts, knee socks, and a button-down Peter Pan–collared blouse over a long-sleeved striped t-shirt with her hair in two long, tangled braids, smiling and telling me that tennis is her new hobby, that she’s going to be in the Olympics when she’s a teenager, she will be, in the Olympics, but for gymnastics. All of this breaks my heart in a hundred thousand different ways. I feel pieces of it exploding weakly up into the parched, ancient pine trees above. The air is cool and scented with pine and chlorine. It’s the end of summer and I ache with love and sorrow daily, in every moment. I love her so much and want every good and golden thing for her, every day. She screamed at the park yesterday when the ice-cream man came and she got her Powerpuff Girl ice-cream bar, literally screamed like she'd been bitten; I froze with alarm and turned to look at her but she was just that happy, and we all, even the kids, bubbled with laughter.

I won't tell you about the hellscape of the hospital or what it's like right now, the things that Andy tells me and how tired he is, how hard it is day after day, the beds in the hallways and the skeleton crew, and I burn with a helpless and bewildered fury that it has come to this. Every day, tears in my eyes, trying, trying. We've been instead focused on organizing some of the house a little bit, and had a big shelving unit delivered yesterday to replace Andy's desk, which has become a catch-all for his stuff in general. It's basically become a shelf that really sucks as a shelf. The only time he actually sits at the desk is the day, maybe twice a year, that he cleans off the desk, and that only lasts minutes, at the most. Seems dysfunctional to have a desk that only gets used for fifteen minutes a year. So, once again with the giant wall of cube holes, and storage cubes, and putting things away, and fixing the smallest spaces in a futile effort to assuage the greater chaos and terror of the world at large and all that we cannot control in it.

The weather, hallelujah, I have zero complaints about, and today it will be 75 degrees, max. This makes doing outside things (oh you pretty things!) so doable and delightful, and today, after tennis, we'll go (again and again) to the park.

I have two new fall designs, the next in my seasonal series, coming out soon. I’m still stitching them — well no, I’m still stitching ONE of them. I haven’t even started the hoop-design stitching because the cross stitch is taking forever! It has large areas of solid color. This series has been kind of a departure for me but I have really grown to love it (though I might be the only one — it has not been a bestseller) But did you see the digital on Instagram??? It's adorable. I’m hoping they’ll both be out by early October, at the rate I’m going. I’ll also be reissuing Things of Autumn from last year, as well as The Leaves by Hundreds Came, from 2019, and Andy still has to pull floss for all four of these designs and you can see why things take us a while. . . . But we will get there.

Amelia will stay home this fall and will be enrolled full-time in our school district’s online-learning option. I reorganized her half of the office we share, and got an IKEA pegboard for various supplies and headphones, a computer-monitor riser to raise up the computer (which she doesn't actually use but I use for all my order shipping) and give her room to put her school-issued Chromebook beneath it, and a new filing cabinet for her folders and papers. I spent a few hours over the weekend sharpening every single colored pencil that would fit in the desktop carousel I bought for pens and pencils. I wish that I had done all of this for her last year. I don’t know why I couldn’t figure out that I needed to do this, and I think the disorganization of that desk space — it was all sort of an afterthought, and never didn’t feel like an afterthought, even eighteen months in — did not contribute to her success in any way, though, I mean, she generally succeeded in spite of my failures. I also think that the way we did it (working with her in the mornings on Oak Meadow [the Waldorfy curriculum that we purchased separately] and then having her go to virtual morning meetings with her class and then back to virtual math with them in the afternoon) was actually just hectic and confusing and divided her attention and ours in stressful and unproductive ways. Andy had much more fun with it (and she with him) than I did. But I’m always trying to do my own work in the margins, and that’s hard. Posie is a business and has always needed to be a business, not just a hobby; we rely on the money I make, and not working much these past few years has been really stressful financially, on top of it. We calculate each risk, and make decisions, and worry whether they are “right,” and try to get it all done the very best we can. Like everyone. But wow.

Shows I am OBSESSED with: Clarkson’s Farm and the fourth season of This Farming Life. Oh my gosh I love both of these so much. I love them and every single person in them. I guess I’ve secretly always wanted to live on a small British sheep farm. I didn’t know how much. I love Gardener’s World, too, of course, and there are a gajillion seasons of that, as well as Escape to the Country. But these farming shows. Aghhhh, they really have my heart.

To end, I made the sweet romper (out of luscious Woolfolk Far) for darling Emily’s new baby. And I cross stitched this adorable design by Samantha Purdy for my little sister’s birthday. I can also heartily recommend two Instant Pot recipes that I’ve made that are just awesome. Salsa verde chicken (I might’ve mentioned this one before, but I make it every single week now) and this chicken teriyaki, which Amelia inhaled (no surprise, it’s smothered in honey; you could probably reduce that easily). Also this sumac chicken was great. I like chicken and rice. One good thing about pandemic life is grocery delivery, which has been absolutely wonderful for me and I’m very, very grateful that it exists.

Thank you for the comments on my previous few posts. Your words mean a lot to me and I’m very grateful for your presence here, and for your orders and interest in my designs, at all times. Thank you.

A Weekend at the Farm

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Hello! How are you?

Summer is here and I am thrilled. Amelia has three more days of school and then we are FREE. I've never been so happy about the end of the year before in my life!

Andy Paulson turned FIFTY a week or so ago! I spent the week before his birthday making a secret video (which turned out to be over 38 minutes long). I texted all of our friends and family and asked them to make a quick video of themselves saying "happy birthday" to him. Like, everybody. Literally every single person did it. It was epic. Some people were so creative they made entire little movies and wrote original songs! And so many people dropped in little comments in their videos about something very specific to themselves and Andy together. That was so moving to me (let's just say that when I showed Andy the video on his birthday morning I literally wept, sobbing, through the entire thing, ha!). But some people remembered stuff from college, from Missoula, from childhood, just all sorts of inside–Andy Paulson jokes that kept adding up into something just . . . I don't know, but it was pretty spectacular. I am a genius for thinking of this and feel free to steal the idea because it was epic!

The day before his birthday we went for a two-night stay at Dolan Creek Farm. What an enchanted place. From the minute we got there it was so pretty, the weather was so nice, the birds were so vocal, the sunset was so rosy, the breezes so cool. I mean, it was literally magical. The pictures above of Mt. Hood in the distance? Those are taken from the porch of the studio. Just, right from the porch. Where you sit and drink your coffee. And cows come up to the fence to say hello. And swifts swoop across the fields. And bullfrogs call across the pond. Agh. Andy kept saying, "It's just so big! There's so much space here! I'm never in this much space!" Amelia was beside herself with delight, getting to help gather eggs, bring the chickens in, and feed the horse her dinner. On the full day that we were there, I carried a quilt and my little chair to a big tree down by the pond and finished my book (All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews). Birds and bullfrogs kept me company. Andy and Amelia explored the farm and found another hidden pond. They played cards and ran through the fields. At night we barbecued and the owners, Kirk and Chris, started a campfire for us and showed us around the barns and talked to us about the history of the farm and the pumpkin patch they have in the fall and what it was like for their kids to grow up here. (Several nights later, Amelia stayed up way too late listening to music on her iPod and when I came upstairs she said, "Mama, I just listened to a song that reminded me of the farm ["Thank God I'm a Country Boy," which she and Andy had been playing all weekend] and I'm so sad! I want to go back to the farm! I want to go to the farm! Why can't we go for my birthday! [We can, but we can't stay overnight, because they don't let you stay overnight in October because pumpkin patch, etc.]" Anyway, she just utterly melted down, went downstairs to get a drink, came back up with her dad and did the whole thing again, crying true tears. I turned into broken pieces of hay. My god, my darling girl, I would give you a life on a farm if I could. It was my dream when I was a little girl, too, though I've never really mentioned it. Farm Fever is real. I was a bit older than she is but I used to cry myself to sleep I wanted a horse so bad. My parents' garage fell down in a snowstorm when I was ten and they rebuilt a new garage and painted it barn red with white trim and I thought I'd die of longing. No horse in there, just bikes and floaties and tools. Evermore.)

Anyway, it was the first time that we had been off the property at home in almost a year, and my god, it doesn't take much for us Paulsons. Two nights and a day at a farm forty-five minutes away on the backroads and we are REBORN. Ready to tackle these last few weeks of school, make some plans for the summer that involve rivers and trees, text friends to invite them along, hope for our own invitations, etc. Let it be, let it be! Vaccines!!!!!

My electric bicycle has arrived, and though I need to make some modifications to one petal so that I can fit my wonko orthopedic shoe on it safely AND figure out how to lift it into the back of the car (it's so heavy! it's so heavy!), I am further on the road to freedom and reinvention and I need it. Yesterday I saw a video on Instagram of a bunch of people dancing and singing to a band on the road by the reservoir in Mt. Tabor and I've never vicariously related to anything more. If only I had my pedal and could join them! I will get there. I'm meeting a bike guy on Thursday after I visit my friend in her rose garden and . . . just . . . life on earth. It can be so hard and so beautiful.

Much of the soap that Andy and I made six weeks ago and beyond six weeks is now cured, and wrapped, and ready to go! I think I'll have a launch. I've got two new patterns/kits, one a hoopdy and one a cross-stitch that will be ready within days of June 16, which is when all printed patterns get here. We'll have some reissued older kits, too (and just, for the record, this is literally the only time ever that we are reissuing kits — it is happening, and has already happened for some), and we'll have seven kinds of soap, and lotion bars. No, guys, I don't know how I do it either! I'm thinking Monday, June 21, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. PDT. Here's a cool chart that tells you when that is for you!

So, I'm making fish balls for dinner tonight, and this is one of those recipes where you can make almost all of it in the morning and then fry it up at dinner time. And I need more recipes like this, because I am good at things in the morning and I am bad at things in the evening, especially at dinnertime. I recently had my knives sharpened by a mail-in service called Knife Flight and I cannot recommend doing this enough. It is unbelievably great to have nice sharp knives — today I sliced green onions into transparent wafers (not like I have awesome knife skills, but that's how much having a sharp knife will do for you) and chopped up a pound of cod, and it was pure pleasure. I've also cut myself five times just by waving the knife around carelessly and touching it where it used to be dull (the bottom corner edge, hello; the tip, ow). Anyway, it was really perfect timing because I'm trying to cook a lot more. Here is my cake I made over the weekend and other stuff on Instagram, too.

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I mean, just look at this. I can't wait to go back either, Amelia. It was just so, so nice.

Love and Joy Come to You

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Oh, my, the sun is shining brightly through all the windows here today. The light is so beautiful. It makes the high-ceilinged stairwell glow. I've finished wrapping, shipping, and delivering all the presents — except for my poor sister-in-law's, whose gift is lost in the mail to me somewhere. I hope it turns up. We have the same birthday in a couple of weeks so it might have to be a birthday present. Amelia has the biggest pile of presents I've ever seen. (I saw a funny meme this morning: Kid: "Mom, I know it's not Santa who gets all of our presents, wraps them, and puts them under the tree on Christmas . . . it's Dad!" Mom: "I can, with 100% certainty, tell you that you are wrong.") I bought her a new American Girl doll and Andy got her a checkerboard that she's been asking for and another Lego set. Her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins have given her the rest of the moon, and I think she is going to be thrilled when she sees what's under the tree. I know that Christmas is about more than the presents, but this is the first year Amelia has actually asked for anything (thanks to hours of TV watching, probably) and I think we are all happy to make those sweet, simple wishes come true for our girl right now.

The weeks have gone by in a bit of a blur. I knew Christmas would come quickly without all of the usual events. I haven't really tried to make up for that. It's been nice. We've baked stuff and learned about Christmas carols and played with the kitters and watched movies. There will be Zoom calls with families tomorrow, and present-opening for us, and Andy and I are going to make Swedish meatballs from scratch, with rice pudding and buttered noodles. My friend Amy gave me a caramel-apple crisp that she got from her realtor but couldn't eat because of allergies, so we will bake that up for our dessert. Andy works on Christmas Day, and I'm planning to watch The Sound of Music that afternoon with Amelia. I'm not sure she'll make it through the whole thing, but I will. I often watch Heidi or maybe an old version of A Christmas Carol on Christmas night. My dad loved that movie. For a few years when I was a kid I sang in the children's chorus of Oak Park's Village Players in their yearly production of Ebenezer (a musical version of A Christmas Carol). That always feels like "my" story, and I still love it.

Mostly I sit around knitting my Porty Cardigan and it has been a great project for these months. I have made many mistakes on it but none of them were deal-breaking, so I just keep going. I finished the first sleeve (see my Instagram for how I felt about it) and I'm starting on the second sleeve. This is a fingering-weight sweater in size XL so it feels like there are millions of stitches in it and it is literally taking forever. BUT I absolutely love the weight of this sweater — so much better for my climate and lifestyle than a worsted-weight sweater. So, I am already planning my next fingering-weight sweater, and I will probably use the Jamieson & Smith 2-ply yarn I bought for this one and didn't wind up using. First I have to finish this one, though, I know. I will try to make a video when I cut the steek because you know everyone likes that drama.

Andy and I are hopeful that he will be getting the vaccine sometime this or next week, maybe even on Christmas. What a great present! He said he saw a few of his colleagues posting pictures of themselves getting vaccinated on Instagram, and this morning the hospital sent a questionnaire in preparation for its employees' vaccinations. It can't come soon enough. I can't thank the people who worked on this enough. I still just feel like I am in a daze about it all.

I wish you all the happiest of holidays and I have the highest of hopes for the new year. Please take care of yourselves and your families, and enjoy the small joys of this season. Thank you for being here with me this year — I'm so grateful for your friendship toward me and my family, and I send you our warmest wishes for these sacred days.

Love always,

Alicia, Andy, Amelia, Clover Meadow, and Agatha Pirlipat Paulson
XOX

Into the Woods

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Helloooooooo out there! Hiiii. How are you?

I'm sitting on my bed. Amelia is crying because she just fell down five stairs while wearing her new slippers and carrying a gigantic toy piano (everyone's fine — that was scary). Andy is handling the general chaos today: Children crashing. Dogs repeatedly going upstairs even though they can't come down (anxiety). Cats jumping on wide, high, plant-holding windowsills and knocking plants to the ground in a crash of ceramics and soil (four times now). Dog and cat standing six inches away from me no matter what I'm doing when they're not doing those things. Child recovering quickly and now playing "Good Morning Dear Earth" on the same piano. Husband is absolute saint and most skillful manager of creatures big and small, encouraging me to stay out of it all today and let him know if he can do anything elllllllllse for me. Too good to me, that guy!!!

December 3rd, then, and these pictures are several weeks old. The leaves are gone from the trees, and on Tuesday the wind whipped the around the house so hard the windows rattled. Not a fan of wind. I grit my teeth through it. Winter in Portland includes white skies, cold rains, and lots of wind, generally speaking. We've been out to the woods a bit and there was some complaining about being cold. I like the cold (though I do find myself dreaming of the river house frequently [which I believe survived the fires this fall, fingers crossed]. I picture myself sitting in the middle of the river reading my book in the sunshine.) We haven't decorated for Christmas yet, though that's on the schedule for today. Maybe driving out to the country to get our Christmas tree tomorrow? Will Agatha Kitten destroy the tree? Seems likely. She does not hesitate to wreak kitten-havoc wherever she can. She sits on the mantel, steals and hides stuffed animals and balls of yarn, and tries to run out the door every chance she gets. Soaking wet, she cares not when she gets sprayed with the water bottle for climbing and hanging on the screens. Oh, but I love her so! I love that little hellion!!!

THANK YOU so very much for every single order you placed here over the last few weeks! I'm so, so grateful for that. Ivy assembled everything and I shipped everything and somehow, in three days, I got all of the orders out before Thanksgiving. Now I'm just back to shipping a couple of times a week. I hope you all enjoy making these things. It warms my heart more than I can say to imagine you stitching in your homes across the country and in Europe. I love it, and thank you again for supporting my work all of these years. I recognize so many names every time I do the shipping and . . . it's just so nice. Thank you. XO

We've decided to take December off of Oak Meadow and study Christmas carols and The Nutcracker. I bought the curricula online but they're not super comprehensive and I don't know that I recommend them yet. Yesterday Amelia and I finished painting our cardboard Christmas village that we made out of box sides. I really have had the urge to bake lately. We made yeasted doughnuts and they did taste exactly like my grandma's; she used to make doughnuts (but she didn't call them doughnuts, she called the "pizzared" or something [Italian] like that?) once a year, some time in the winter. It would be a special treat. Our whole family would go to her house in the morning and eat them as she fried them. She cut the dough into strips with a pizza cutter, and then into rectangles. She stretched a hole in the middle of the piece and friend it in her cast-iron frying pan. When the doughnuts came out we sprinkled them with plain white sugar or honey from the honey-bear bottle. They were so delicious. I haven't had one in forty years. But the ones I made the other day were perfect and tasted almost exactly like my grandma's. I used this recipe. I highly recommend it. I have pictures of the doughnuts on my Instagram if you want to see them.

(Mentioning my grandma sort of makes me want to talk about DNA testing and my experience with it and my [many, intense] feelings about it, but I will save that conversation for another day, because I think it will be hard for me to write.)

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It was strange not being with family for Thanksgiving and I know Christmas will be strange too (and Andy is working Christmas Day, as well). My heart breaks for people who have lost a loved one to the virus. I just can't even get my mind around it and am still just in a state of bewilderment and sorrow, to be honest. I wish you all peace as we move into the holiday season. Peace and joy in the little things be with you, friends. And thank you for being here with me. XO

At the Table

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Oh, man. What a week. It's been challenging, guys. Thank you to everyone who wrote in and asked how we were doing. I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to get back here and update you. School is taking a lot of time and I haven't quite figured out how to balance all the things I have to do now.

For almost two weeks, really up until last night when we had a thunderstorm and a bit of rain, we've been dealing with the effects — emotional and physical — of the Oregon wildfires, specifically the Riverside fire, burning just southeast of Portland. That particular fire started on September 8 and now encompasses over 137,000 acres. There are several other very deadly fires burning in Oregon, and as I'm sure you know they have incinerated entire towns. Gone. These fires are unusual because they are burning in places west of the Cascade Mountains that are usually wet. No longer. Forests are going up like tinder, and even the southern Portland suburbs were a Level 1 evacuation zone (we are couple of miles from the southern edge of the city, and yeah, we got our papers together in case we had to evacuate). The heartbreak of the local news cannot be underestimated. The smoke that has clogged our lungs and the skies of our state is awful. Truly awful. (Imagine being afraid to open your front door; indeed, we barely have opened it in over a week.) But the human losses of the fires have broken our hearts every day. I pray for rain, more rain than today's brief storm, as much as it was appreciated.

This poignant essay pretty much utterly sums it up for me.

Meanwhile, the house here revolves around our darling daughter's days. And I mean, literally revolves around. Her schedule is dizzying. She goes to the morning meeting with her class from 9:00-9:30, then we do Oak Meadow from 9:30 until 11;30. Then we have lunch and play with the kitten. Then she reads out loud to her grandmother every day on FaceTime. Then she goes to Zoom math class at 1:00 until 1:30. On Wednesday she goes to P.E. at 1:15 and on Thursday she goes to music (but I'm going to have her drop both of those; she does Zoom ballet through her ballet school for two hours a week, and we're learning to play recorder through our Oak Meadow curriculum.) In the afternoons we usually do art at the table or play games. Then she's free, and I clean everything up and go make dinner. I'm exhausted. Very happy with it all, but I won't lie, I am tired, and, just, TGIF. I'm ready for the weekend!!! We've been at the table a lot and I'm ready to go outside.

Things of Autumn kits (and PDF) are coming soon. I have all of the materials to assemble kits in hand and we've literally just been waiting for the smoke to clear (because it was in the house for a week — really awful feeling, let me tell you). But now that it's raining I think we can open the boxes. So I will be back with an update on this soon!

Good recipes for you: Really fudgy and delicious brownies; the best orange chicken I've ever had, let alone made, I must say; curried shepherd's pie from The New York Times; and Jamie Oliver's chicken tikka masala. All very, very good!

School Is Cool!

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We made it! We made it through the first week of school, and it was seriously awesome. I could not be happier, and Amelia is over the moon. She's asking to do school on Saturday and Sunday. How sweet is that. It's so much better than I expected. I haven't felt this much peace in ages. Our teacher came over on Wednesday. I could've sat and talked to her for hours. She's just so cool. Amelia can definitely stay enrolled in her school and participate in the school's distance learning, and this was such a huge relief to me. I didn't even know how big of a relief it would be until the moment of confirmation, and then I literally felt a weight lift. Her teacher said that they would have a Zoom meeting every morning and then have both computer assignments and assignments that she could do in an actual notebook. Group cheer! Let me just say, and those of you who have computer experience and small children right now know, it is trippy to watch them navigate the mouse and, like, place and resize objects (like stars and hearts) on their selfies, and write with pen tools, and just do stuff like that. I mean — does that not totally blow your mind? I definitely didn't teach her to do that. I think it's wonderful. Watching her morning meetings, seeing all the little kids on the screen wiggling, falling off their chairs, looking so much older, with their sweet little bedheads and their kittens and their bowls of breakfast cereal, my heart overflows with love for all of them, and I realize that I have missed seeing them all so much. I used read with many of them as a volunteer in the classroom every week. Since Mimi is in a 1st/2nd grade split class, half of the kids are the same from last year and I know them. The other half are new first graders, and we know some of them, too. They're all just so sweet and cute and wonderful. The teacher asks them to un-mute themselves, one by one, and tell everyone their favorite color. The second kid to go says "turquoise" and then at least half of the class follows by also saying turquoise. :) I text Andy as I'm watching, See, this is why they need this. They need each other, even if it's only on-screen right now. This is real, these windows of life, too. They are in this together.

After her class meets at 8:30 every morning, we then go into the dining room and do circle time, and then we start Queen Anne's Lace Homeschool. We've been drawing, printing, doing cursive, playing the recorder, painting, reading, and learning to crochet. Today Andy did social studies and science with her. Math starts next week. Also French (were using Muzzy BBC).  We worked on crochet for the first time yesterday. It's part of the Oak Meadow curriculum. It was your basic disaster. She got super angry when she couldn't make a foundation chain. I watched her hands and thought, "Hmmm, yeah, this is too hard. Her left hand is not coordinated enough to hold the chains and the working yarn, and she can't make her right hand manipulate the hook at the same time. It's okay. We'll try again another time, maybe in a few months." She was so mad she threw the hook across the room and then sobbed. I was cool — it's okay, honey, it's hard, it takes a lot of practice — and we put it away and went on with the day. And then last night after I got back downstairs after putting her to bed I found on the sofa her yarn and hook and a foundation chain of about seventy-five chains that she had done quietly while I was making dinner. She didn't even say anything. I couldn't believe it! And that moment was a gift that I'll never forget, and I think it will be a good metaphor for this year. Note to self: Don't underestimate this kiddo. She will surprise you!

Took the kitten to the vet today. The way they do it is that you come to the office, call when you get to the parking lot, they come out and get your animal and take it in, and then the doctor calls you after the exam. The doctor was adorable. I don't remember his name but I've never met him. He was gushing about Agatha: "Oh my gosh, she is adorable! She's just so cute, she has such a cute face, I mean it's like round, but fluffy, and it's just so cute! Everyone was freaking out she was so sweet. She let me do my whole exam without any problem. She's adorable!" I was laughing. He gave me the report (she's healthy, but has a slight heart murmur). At the end he goes, "Okay, they'll bring her out soon. The girls are taking selfies with her right now." Ha!

Such a proud mama of all my little girls!

Pulling Together

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Things of Summer

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Oh, where do the days go? They slide away, they slide away. It's been three months since our stay-home order went into effect. It's felt long and also short, since the days are all so similar they really do run together. I've been having a rough time of it lately. We've gotten out to the woods and the river a bit, and that has been wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. I would like to go all the time. I love everything about the river. I love stopping at Jimmy John's [edited: won't be going to Jimmy John's after what you guys have just told me — ugh, thank you, I had no idea] and picking up sandwiches right on the edge of town. I love the drive into the country, past Christmas tree farms and billowing foxglove groves. I love the smell of the woods and stopping the car for a mama deer and three babies. I love watching Amelia play with her toys in the sand. I love watching raptors circle endlessly over the river. I love reading in my chair. I love when Andy and Amelia go on adventures. I love the sound of the water. I want to go all the time. I can't wait to go back. My nerves feel better for it, for sure.

I hope you are all well and hanging in there!

Amelia is currently in the bathtub. I gave her a can of shaving cream and said go for it. She's hooting and hollering in there right now. She just asked me for another can (no). She's spent most of the day in her underpants, watching Inspector Gadget in the office and eating water chestnuts out of a can with a fork. It's over 90 degrees outside and sunny, without a breeze in sight. I watered the garden at about 8:30 a.m. and then shot right back into the AC. Andy is back at work today for the first time in maybe a week. But we'll pay for that now, all that glorious time off; I think he is working seven days out of the next nine days. Twelve-hour shifts. An hour bus commute on either side. That's rough, though he never, ever lets it show. But we miss him when he's not here.

We stopped at the plant nursery yesterday to pick up some shade annuals for the porch and then we went to the library to pick up the book (Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid) I had placed on hold last winter. They are finally doing hold pick-ups at the library. They meet you at the front door; there there's a table blocking the entrance, and they slide the book to you on a tray. Sigh. I can't say I enjoyed being out at all, though I had been excited to go. We were only gone an hour or two. But I was so relieved to be home, back under my tree, watching Andy plant the impatiens and Amelia whack at the lawn with a croquet mallet. I guess I'll stick to the river for a while.

I have started a new Sawtooth Star quilt for myself, but I have not worked on it too much. It will be eight blocks each of ten different star combos, made of my precious calicos and hand-dyed (by me) muslin. It will be a king-size quilt that I will line with an Ikea comforter (turn and burn method [layer batting, top, then bottom; stitch around all sizes leaving an opening to turn, turn then stitch opening closed], then I'll tie it). I like my quilts to be just thin, puffy comforters now. I've decided I really don't like binding and I don't like machine-quilting — it all makes the quilt too stiff, in my opinion. I'm going back to puffballs tied with #5 perle cotton. I made one for my sister's birthday present (see first picture). Stay tuned, we'll see if I get this thing for myself finished. A precision quilter I am not, though I did buy a fancy Flying Geese ruler, and that is helping very much.

Amelia and I baked a blueberry–cream cheese babka, an Earl Grey cake (the recipe I used doesn't seem to be available any more), and a rhubarb custard pie. Today we are going to make Orange Julius popsicles and chicken tacos.

I have finished my design for Things of Summer (digital screen shot is above) and the printed patterns have arrived (though I haven't opened the box yet; fingers crossed that all is well in there), so I will start putting kits together next week, and it will be on sale soon!

What are you favorite historical fiction movies, like big, epic ones? Or series? I am so in the mood for that. I've been watching absolute garbage TV lately. I do love it so!!!

List of Projects and Not So Much

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Hello, dear friends. I'm so sorry it takes me so long to get back here more often. I don't know where the time goes, honestly.

I am thinking I need to make a list of projects that I would like to do. Firstly, I do have work to do, and am almost finished stitching Things of Summer, the next cross-stitch design in my seasonal series. We already have the fabric for this one on hand, and will be able to make 250 kits again. I had ordered this summer fabric back in February and it came right away, which is good. I also ordered fall and winter fabrics and was a bit worried that they might be cancelled or delayed due to virus stuff, but it looks like they are only a bit delayed. I hope to finish Things of Summer this week and will photograph that and show you. We will probably print patterns and assemble these kits before we sell them (rather than taking pre-orders) because we have the materials on hand. So stay tuned for more on that.

I did design a cross stitch for boys and I need to finish the pattern for that! It's completely done (I'm not stitching it, just showing you the computer version) and I just have to finish the pattern stuff then I will release that one for free.

I decided to start a new Volo sweater for Amelia, and I splurged and bought very fancy yarn for that (Woolfolk Far). I guess I've come all the way around on my acrylic bender. Acrylic is soft, it's cheap, but it pills so bad. :( Wah. I was warned. And, as everyone says, it's true that it just does not stretch. However, my child still will not wear any wool that isn't crazy soft. You know what she will wear? Woolfolk Far, the world's softest and loveliest wool yarn (at least in my opinion) that is also quite expensive. But I thought, if ever there were a time when I needed some very beautiful, very soft, very comfortable yarn in my hands and on her body, it is now. So that's on my list.

I ordered a really pretty puzzle and I hope it comes soon.

My quilt blocks stalled out. I haven't done anything with them.

Amelia and I planted ALL of those seeds in our raised beds yesterday. Apparently I bought them last summer and never planted them. I didn't even remember! I opened a little drawer in the kitchen recently and there they all were. We put them in a bowl — all of them, all together — and mixed them all with a cup of sugar (just to spread them out a bit) and then sprinkled them all over the raised beds. Keeping fingers crossed that something comes of them. It will be survival of the fittest.

I am still working on the paper mache mobile and I will be finished soon! I will take pictures of everything and show you. And for those who asked, I just used 1 part flour to 1 part water, cooked it for a few minutes and then strained it. It made a nice smooth paste.

I really love paper mache and I will need to think of another project when I'm done with it.

Mostly I am rather aimless and still trying to find a path to get on. The days run together, and even though we are so tired at the end of the day it feels like not very much is getting done. Is anyone else experiencing this?

For instance, it has literally taken me all day to write this award-winning post.

How are you?

Finding Our Way

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Hello my friends. How are you doing? We are all home today, in various parts of the house. I'm sitting upstairs on my bed with the computer on my lap. Andy's downstairs looking for our pasta machine that we haven't used in probably ten or fifteen years. It's not going well, and he just shouted up that he's looked in every place it he thought it could possibly be. We both can picture it perfectly in our minds, in its ripped old yellow cardboard box, but it's just not in any of the places we expected to find it. Mimi was on a call with her teacher and classmates earlier, and her job today is to write a thank-you note to her uncle for the very cool wood-burned sign he made for her secret hideout, then there's ballet on Zoom at 3. The weather is cool and cloudy and wet. The yard is covered in petals and puddles. My heart is sore and full of sorrow for the people who are sick, or who have lost friends and family, or who are otherwise suffering losses of so many kinds. I send up my prayers. We are all finding our ways, I know. I would love to know how you are doing.

I have found some respite for my worried mind in a few projects that have kept me busy. I started drawing one afternoon from this adorable book that I bought several months ago and hadn't taken the time to play with. Mimi and I made paper mache faces of each other and had a good time doing that. I decided to make a mobile for her with little paper mache things that she likes. So far there are: a kitty, a mouse, a book, a rainbow, a bed, an ice cream cone, a sun, a boat, a lemonade, and a house. She still wants Saturn, a teacup, and a mushroom. I sat on the bed where I have my own little TV and binge-watched Doctor Foster (very dark but with one of my favorites, Suranne Jones, who I loved in Scott & Bailey — I really like British lady-cop and detective shows) and taped things together out of cardboard boxes, milk cartons, the protective packaging that came with my printer toner, a toilet paper tube, and various other pieces of garbage I could find around the house. It was delightful. Then I spent a day paper mache-ing them (also while sitting on the bed. Andy was impressed that someone could paper mache eight things while sitting on a bed. I told him that when there is a will I will find a way). Sometimes it is just nice to have some time and a little corner of the house to oneself so you can paper mache ice cream cones and watch scary lady-dramas in peace, you know?

Yesterday it was beautiful and sunny and we covered the new back-porch table in paper and painted out there all day. Like all day. I must say, it's pretty wonderful, in spite of everything, to have all day to do something so silly and sweet and fun. I think it was the first time that I had been able to relax in the past two months, quite frankly, and even before the virus started there would've been no way that I ever would've spent a whole day just doing something like this. I have spent entire days sewing or embroidering before, but that always ultimately, even if I'm just making something personal, feels a little bit like work for me. Doing new things, things I never usually do, feels helpful and I'm finding joy in the doing.

I made this magic custard cake and more cinnamon rolls. And I highly recommend both. Now let's hope we can find that pasta machine. I really want some ravioli.

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.