Posts filed in: Baking and Cooking

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.

Keeping On

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Hello, hello! I truly hope you are all healthy and well and staying safe. I am thinking of you and wishing you all every good thing right now, wherever you are and whatever your circumstances. These are hard days.

Here we are, keeping-on keeping on. Mimi is doing what Mimi does best — that is, whatever she wants at (almost) all times. For the record, I have zero problem with this. She jumps on her mini-trampoline, writes a letter to one of her friends about her trampoline, does some math problems on the computer, and reads quietly to herself every day at 3:00 (on that I do insist, just to get some quiet). She climbs her tree, she shouts across the street to our neighbors, she is nervous that I've ordered her a new bike without training wheels, and declares she has no interest in learning to ride it. We have gone nowhere but the loading dock at the post office for two weeks now. Well, occasionally we do go walk around the block. I don't enjoy it. She helped me work on cleaning up the front garden and did a surprisingly great job at pulling the stuff I told her to pull. So it goes. She is amazing and carries on without fear or frustration, cheerfully accepting the changes and taking everything in stride in a way that I find humbling and inspiring. She and her friend FaceTimed the other day and just played their toy pianos for each other for a half an hour. I didn't even really hear them talk. They had a fine time.

Andy (cardiac nurse) toggles between home and work, leaving the house in the dark, coming home in the dark, busy at the hospital all day. Empty busses. The sound of crows through the night sky in an empty downtown. The sound of a streetcar bell ringing four blocks away. He gets home around 9:00 p.m. and goes straight to our neighbor's guest house to shower and change clothes before coming home through the mud-room door, which we haven't used in years. Our neighbors are wonderful, and are letting us use the guest house as a place for him to transition between the outside world and home. His shift was cancelled today and a continuing-education class next week was also cancelled so he is home for the next eight days, and I am grateful. So grateful. It is stressful. There have been many tears (mine) and a lot of stress and a lot of worry and a lot of sadness and then just a whole hell of a lot of trying to do everything right when so much is out of our control.

I know people around the country are also sewing masks at home and some people have asked me about that. I am no expert here — I don't pretend to know if they are effective or who is using them. I know that OHSU is not accepting them right now. JoAnn's has collected patterns here and will collect your finished masks for distribution directly "to medical professionals who can best decide how to use them." This article also has information about making masks. I am going to try to make some this week in case they help.

I spent last week assembling and packing up all of the Things of Spring kits to ship off to you. Thank you again so much for your orders. The kits are sold out and I wish I had made more. I always hold out ten or so kits until I know what everyone has received theirs without a problem (and there is always a problem because I always screw something up) and I will trickle those ten back into inventory soon. Don't judge my handwriting on your postcards because it's insane. I know. I was stressed and wanting to get everything out as fast as I could, before our stay-at-home order became official. I do hope you enjoy cross stitching the kit and that it gives you some hours of peace and quiet. I will make the PDF available in the next couple of days as soon as I get organized. ***Update: Here it is! Thank you!

Until then, make pretzels!

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For now, Maggie (and Foxie) are staying cozy and warm. If you'd like to make someone a rabbit for Easter, I've made Maggie's pattern available for free for you. Please enjoy making her and send me your pictures when you're finished, or tag them with #maggierabbit or #missmaggierabbit on Instagram. I love seeing them so much. You can't imagine.

Stay well, my friends. Wishing you every good thing in these hard days. XOXO

Our Spring Things

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Oh, hello, dear friends. Hello! I plopped all of these photos into this post in one fell swoop. I do that with every post and then Typepad arranges them into some mysterious order I don't understand. Usually I fuss with them a bit after that and get them into some other kind of mysterious order. But this time, the scattered and random Typepad arrangement felt as accurate to real life here as anything I could conjure. It's been kind of a random, unsettled couple of weeks here and I'm sure it has felt like that where you are, too. I hope you are all staying healthy and safe and I wish you every good and gentle thing in these stressful days.

Thank you SO much for all of the Things of Spring kit orders! I'm so excited for these, and we are progressing with our work on this end and preparing to start assembling kits. The patterns have arrived from the printer, the fabric has arrived from the distributor and needs cutting, and a few more floss cones should be arriving this week. We still have 43 kits left in inventory right now and we will not be producing more of them once they sell out — we will do 250 of each for the upcoming three seasons (and PDFs of each will, of course, be forthcoming as well). The PDF for Things of Spring will be available soon. I'll let you know when that is ready.

I've been doing a ton of stitching myself! I made Moonlight Visitor by Blackbird Designs and found a perfect frame for it for $3 at a thrift store. I finished Hello Spring by Plum Street Samplers and bought a frame for it on eBay which also fit just perfectly and was a weird size (6" x 10"). I'm working on Have Ye Any Wool by Brenda Gervais, and I just love it so much. What a clever designer she is. I also am working on a new design of my own for Mimi based on the book  Jenny and the Cat Club: A Collection of Favorite Stories about Jenny Linsky by Esther Averill. It's the sweetest little book — probably one of my very favorites for little kids I've ever read. Amelia has read almost the entire thing out loud to me; I think we have one more chapter. Oh it's so sweet. The cross stitch, though! Oh my word, it is challenging me! I was wanting so bad to finish it by the time she finished the book, but I'm only about halfway done. I need to keep taking breaks and stitching on other things because all those black boxes are crossing my eyes. I keep losing my place. It's actually quite a difficult piece! I will likely make it available as a PDF in the future for anyone who wants it but it'll be a little while. I'm very eager to finish it!

We've eaten some delicious comfort food recently, should you have need, and I highly recommend the local restaurant Grassa, as well as the New York Times Cheesy Baked Pasta with Sausage and Ricotta as well as Pressure Cooker Indian Butter Shrimp. You may have to log in to access those recipes and I am sorry about that! I cook almost exclusively from my NYT Cooking app and I'm never sure which recipes are available to the public or not. I will try to rewrite them here with my changes and credit but I'm on the school-run today and need to go. I'm kind of scattered and in a rush today but I hope to come back and do this this week. These were two very nice dishes that pleased even the seven-year-old palette, and I highly recommend.

Mimi won the Kindness Award at school and yes, I cried. I was able to catch a picture of her getting up in front of the whole school to receive it and I will treasure it forever because her face is pure surprise and joy. Most wonderful, kind, dearest, and thoroughly adorable darling. Oh my stars I love her so much. I am so proud of her and her big, generous heart.

Be very well, my friends. Be well, travel safe, and keep the faith. XOX

*** I found a link to pasta bake written out online here (scroll down); and a link to a copy of the Indian butter shrimp recipe is here. Sorry about that!!!

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

Night of Magic

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The weather we had on Halloween was BONKERS perfect. I could not believe it. It was the most gorgeous night. We traipsed through the neighborhood with the neighborhood crew, minus a few who have either aged out of our raggedy bunch or have moved on to other neighborhoods. It's not an awesome trick-or-treating neighborhood. I don't know why. A lot of people just aren't home. We were home after about 6:00 and we literally had only one group come up. We don't make it very far, mostly just around the block. Amelia was highly motivated by candy. It's all about the candy. She wanted, for many months, to be a zombie. She couldn't describe a zombie. Then she switched to ghost. I knew, as she described it (sheet over her head with two holes cut out for eyes), that this was a costume she'd literally take off within five minutes. I tried to talk her out of it for practical reasons. We looked at "ghost" costumes on-line and ran into this pumpkin costume from Pottery Barn Kids. Then she wanted that. I was busy enough and she was flighty enough that I caved and bought it. On sale, but still. I'm selling it on eBay next year, for sure. It was cute. She was happy. They had a parade at school and she went to a birthday party at a bouncy house place the next day, then had a play date to bake cookies on Saturday, and in general it was party party party, candy cake cookies, and quite honestly, as much fun as she had and as lovely as that evening walk around the neighborhood was, I'm relieved it's now November.

At the house, Andy and I am in the homestretch of putting Dovegray Doll and pinafore dress kit contents together, and are still on track to ship at the end of next week. Thank you for being patient! After we finish shipping I will release the PDF patterns of each. Several doll sweater patterns are with the tech editor right now, along with the kid-version of the Little Flower Sweater. Lots of things going on. I'm spinning plates.

THANK YOU ever so much for the book recommendations and the cooking advice! Oh joy! I checked out four of the books from the library (I can't remember exactly which ones, I need to look) and have more on hold. I'm reading The Salt Path by Raynor Winn right now and it is very good. I also made these oven-baked barbecue pork chops (except I used country ribs) and they are totally delicious. After about 45 minutes of baking, I poured the juices/sauce into a saucepan and reduced it until the sauce was thick and sticky and it was so good. I had potatoes on the side. Even Amelia ate an entire decent-sized rib.

Making Progress

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Autumn here in Portland has been cold and crisp and brilliant, but it's freezing in the house today and I am rather cranky. Mimi and I took a walk around Reed College over the weekend and I am missing her (at school) and Andy (at work) today. The wind is whipping about out there and the car thermometer said it was 35 degrees when we left for school. Gusty wind is unnerving to me and always has been. I feel like I'm clenching my jaw and trying to ward off a shiver. My heart is breaking for everyone affected by the wildfires in California. Having a cold wind here is nothing compared to a burning wind, and I truly hope they catch a break in the weather that can help with these fires soon.

Thank you ever so much for your thoughts about how (or not) you use the yarns suggested in patterns. That was so fascinating to me, and I seriously love reading about peoples' personal experiences around these things. I would say the vast majority of people do not use the suggested yarn but substitute something they already have, or buy something they know they already like. I guess yarn, like fabric, is just one of those things that is so personal, and there are so many different types of it available (generally speaking, especially if you're buying it on the computer) that choosing it is just a further part of the creative process. Some people did say that if they like the photo on the pattern they want to make it exactly as pictured, because that's why they liked it in the first place. I totally get that, too. I don't know, I just like reading all of these little quirky details about everyone. I've been knitting along on my little flower sweater pattern for kids. This little sample is the six-month size in Cascade 220. I finished all of the grading for sizes (from six months to twelve years) on Friday and have the pattern out with a couple of testers right now. I'm currently knitting the size 8, this time in Berocco Ultra Alpaca, for which I get the same gauge as 220 (20 sts x 27 rows over 4"). I'm enjoying everything about this process so much. This is my first attempt at writing knitting patterns that are graded and there is so much math involved. I have always liked math a lot, for an English major, and I am finding that everything about this is exciting to me, even if I do have so much to learn. :)

I made my mom's chicken paprika (which we call "chicken and dumplings") the other night. It is very rich but it is just delicious at this time of year. I have been in a cooking slump lately — about the only thing I can do consistently is make tacos on Tuesday. It's Tuesday. I'll be making tacos. I need a good book and some good recipes right now. I have nothing to read and no idea what to cook.

Summertime Starts!

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It's Andy Paulson's birthday today! Unfortunately he has to work! We went to Oaks Park on Saturday instead and had such a nice time. The weather was absolutely perfect — I think every other memory I have of Oaks Park is scorching hot, so this was so nice. It's an old-fashioned amusement park and it is a lot of fun, especially with little kids. It's one of Andy's favorite places. I love it, too. Happy birthday, my dearest love. I hope this year is filled with so much joy.

We've been busy doing I don't even know what, just cruising into the end of the year and doing all of the end-of-the-year things, carnivals and dance performances and final swimming lessons, etc. Andy and I were trying to make our favorite honey-chipotle chicken tacos in the slow cooker; it had been plugged in for about an hour when we realized it wasn't getting hot at all. It was a very old slow cooker and we didn't even try to diagnose it. Those things make me nervous to begin with. So on the way to pick up Meems from school we stopped at Target intending to get a new slow cooker. We came home with an Instant Pot instead. I honestly hadn't even considered getting one, but we saw that it had a slow cooker setting in addition to the pressure cooker feature and so we grabbed it. Late to the trend, as usual, but we're making up for it with a) a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm and b) five Instant Pot meals in about six days. We made the tacos, as well as this jambalaya, Indian butter shrimp, coconut curry chicken, and the lemon–poppy seed breakfast cake (which I turned into Andy's birthday cake) from this book. I was not a big fan of the cake as a birthday cake. It was kind of like a steamed bun. It would have been great for breakfast! Ha. It sure was cute when it came out though.

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We ate it just the same and had such a wonderful birthday weekend! XOXOXO

Blossom Days

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The lovely, tentative first blush of spring with its chilly mornings and brave daffodils has given way to very warm weather, and everything is suddenly exploding in a froth of greens. You know how that happens. It's sudden and irreversible. We've been going to parks as much as possible and it's glorious to be back, and back with a capable six year old who can now do the monkey bars like a pro, loves to play and shout and run as fast as she can, makes friends in about thirty seconds, and just generally is so cheerful and fun to be with that the days out have been pure pleasure. As much as I love winter and cold weather and rain, I must admit that life with kids is about a million times easier and more fun when they can go outside and not freeze their hands off on the metal stuff on the playground. I love it.

Sorry I've been so absent! I don't know where the time has one, I honestly don't. We finished shipping everything for Secret Garden just a bit ahead of schedule, and I've never been so relieved to be finished with a project. It was a pretty big, ambitious project for us, filled with so many new things. I enjoyed it, for the most part, though it's always kind of stressful to do anything for the first time, and many of the things we made and packaged we’d never done before. I was pretty tired when we finally finished, I won't lie! Mentally and physically. I also was, apparently, unable to count to four (seriously happened) so please do check your orders and make sure you got evvvvvvverything you ordered. Because literally every time I tried to count anything, I came up with a different number. It was nuts. So, please check your order and make sure I got everything right and if I didn't just let me know right away and I will fix it ASAP. It's been a week since everything went out and I haven't heard that anyone is missing anything, but I’m on high alert. Again, thank you all so much for your interest and orders, and I truly hope you enjoy everything we made! I will be releasing the patterns as PDFs next week, and we will also make any extra a la carte pieces from apothecary boxes available once we know that everyone who pre-ordered got what they actually ordered!

When we finished, my office and Andy's office both were utterly trashed. I collapsed on the sofa for a couple of days and then started reorganizing the space. This has been needing to happen for a long time. Andy and I tried to figure out how long it had been since we had painted the studio and wow, it's been almost NINE years since we did this. That was really shocking. Nine years. I took everything out of the big Expedit wall of shelves and am trying to reorganize it and eliminate all of the open shelving there by putting everything in baskets or behind doors. I decided, kind of surprisingly, that I want to paint it a creamy white. I ran into this article called "Searching for the Perfect Parisian Cream Paint" (sorry, you might need a subscription to a news service to read it) and I loved it. I, too wound up loving the color that the author chose (Farrow and Ball's Tallow) but I went with a color that I thought was exactly the same just slightly lighter than that (and cheaper than F&B!) called Vanilla Ice Cream by Benjamin Moore. We need to totally prime the whole room first, because I think it will be hard to cover that blue with white, so it might be a week or two before we're done.

I had kind of a funny moment yesterday. I have two ceiling skylights in the studio and I don't like them. The light from skylights is actually sometimes yucky. To me it looks light a florescent light fixture. People are really surprised to hear this. Skylights seem nice. But I honestly prefer just plain old window light. Even if you look up pictures of rooms with skylights, you can totally see this flourescent-effect in the pictures. The light in the room is very cool and white when you have a skylight. And I just prefer lower, warmer light. I almost never take pictures of stuff I'm working on in my studio, because unless I'm shooting right by a window it looks like I'm using a flash camera. I'm sure that might be just me, but it's not really my favorite.

But anyway, back to yesterday. So, after surfing Pinterest for I don't even know how long, looking at craft room and office and studio and even kitchen pictures for inspiration, I ran into a few pictures of rooms (I actually think they were of stores) that had weathered  ladders hung from the ceiling. And then from the ladder they had hung bouquets of dried flowers, or baskets, or lanterns, and I thought it looked so pretty. And I thought it would be a perfect thing to hang just slightly inside the skylight window-well. So, not having ever seen this before, I get super excited: "This is amazing! I've never seen this before! What a cool, inventive, unique, new idea!" And then I take Mimi with me to the antique mall to find a little ladder and we walk in and practically every other booth has, of course, ladders hanging from the ceiling displaying dried flowers, baskets, and lanterns. They were everywhere! It's a whole thing. I was laughing so hard. I never knew. I did, however, find a little driftwood ladder for $35 that will be perfect for this, though, so I'm pretty excited. I'll take some pictures next week and show you what we're doing. I found a really cute Laura Ashley–type lamp, too. I so so so love that she is coming back a little bit. I've been waiting. Anyone have any advice for getting giant stickers off of glass and MDF?

Mimi and I made a rhubarb pie using the sour cream apple pie recipe but increasing the sugar to 1 cup. It was good but the rhubarb is so acidic, I guess, that it kind of curdled the sour cream, so I'm not sure I would recommend it. . . . We also made this Shoemaker's Chicken and served it with buttery mashed potatoes and it was AMAZING. Highly recommend.  I need more of those chicken tray-bake things. Another trend I'm late to the party on. I'm slow!

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

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.