Posts filed in: Baking and Cooking

Summery Scenes

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Good morning! It's summertime! Wow! School is out, the sun is shining, and the flowers are blooming! I hope you all are well. We've been busy and I got a new computer last month and have been trying to get all my ducks in a row on it. I knew it would be messy, and yes, it has been messy. I hadn't gotten a new computer is over ten years. I hate getting new computers. I went from a PC laptop to a MacBook Air. The Mac is nice, and I have an Apple phone and iPad and I've had Macs before, so I am not new to them. But there's still been a bit of a learning curve, getting all my fonts onto my new computer, figuring out photo stuff (really different process to upload, etc.), making sure I can access my old files (PC Stitch, which I use for all of my cross stitch designs naturally does not work on the Mac, etc.). Just, annoying stuff. Getting email to work (totally different email programs and I am not a fan of MacMail, etc.). But I think I'm getting to a new place and once all of this kind of yucky stuff is dialed in I will love it, I know. This is the first blog post I have really written on my Mac with all photos resized and color-corrected on the Mac (oh, and I had to get a larger monitor to plug into it because the screen is so small, so I've been trying to manually color calibrate that, because it's a very inexpensive monitor and I'm trying to make it work). I'm lying in bed right now, next to Meems who is watching a Toca Boca (Toca Life World) video. (Note: She typed that last part for me :)) hee hee! She wanted to make sure I got it right.) The first day of tennis camp was canceled today because it's been raining and the courts are too wet to play.

Ahhhhh, sigh. So! Yes. In between that, I have been food shopping and cooking and photographing food (for better or worse; I am struggling with that lately) and cleaning the kitchen and cleaning the kitchen and cleaning the kitchen. That said, we are eating well here lately! My cooking has increased approximately 7,000%. Approximately. I fell down the rabbit hole of watching YouTube videos on cooking Thai and other Asian foods and have been determined to figure out how to make some of my take-out obsessions, including Chicago egg rolls, Thai fried rice, Thai curries, pineapple fried rice, boba tea, Mei fun noodles, homemade bread for banh mi, char siu pork, chicken satay. . . . I mean. . . . We have eaten a lot. I feel proud because these are things I have been wanting to figure out how to make forever. YouTube is amazing. At night I knit and watch cooking videos and during the day I cook and cook. The kitchen is taking a beating, however; cabinet doors are literally falling off, and today I am going to pull out a paintbrush and touch up all of the scuffy marks on the counter edges, cabinet doors, drawers, etc. That is one hardworking galley kitchen, I tell you. There is literally no room for anything. I had the mildly surreal experience of looking at pictures of a pretty house Pinterest the other day and wishing I lived in it and, you know, it was actually my own house, just six or seven years ago, when it was cleaner and tidier. . . .

In between we have been getting out and about to parks and woods and restaurants. The weather has been absolutely spectacular this month, and school ended with most wonderful, beautiful days, inside the building and out. Amelia had an incredible year and an incredible class and an incredible teacher (who won a Major Award this year and we are so proud of her, and have been so thrilled to have been in her class). There were many emotions and tears last week (mostly mine) as school ended! It was an awesome year, and I am just so relieved and grateful for that.

I have a new summer cross stitch design for you and am just waiting for paper patterns to get here and then I will launch it. I am also developing a kid's beginner cross-stitch kit using gingham, so I will show you more about that as I go along. It's going to be cute, I think. We'll see if I can get Amelia to test it out. She "knows how to embroider already," so she tells me (hmmm) so, I will report back after my ten-year-old tester tells me what she thinks. XOXO

Thunder, Flowers, Cookbooks

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Good flowery, rainy, thunderstormy morning to you! I’m writing from here in my office where we’ve had all manner of thunder and lightning this morning. This is very unusual for Portland, Oregon, where rain tends to fall as a dull curtain of mist instead of a dramatic, rolling cacophony of sound and shattering light. I have a new app on my iPad called “My Lightning Strike” and I kept my neighborhood moms’ chat punctually informed of all nearby strikes (one just 700 feet from our house, and one across the street from Rebecca’s) because a bunch of lightning happening right as everyone is getting the kids to school is a bit stressful (and, I have to repeat, really unusual here). But everyone now seems to be safely installed wherever it is they should be this morning, and although our power just went out and came back on (everyone in moms’ group’s did as well) and the sky is dark dark dark, the rain seems to have mellowed into a drizzle, and I’m going to keep writing and saving this document every three minutes, just in case.

Thank you for all of your enthusiasm and encouragement over my cookbook idea! I’m so excited! I’ve had a busy week of running around and playing Pickleball and having lunch with someone almost every day (very unusual for me, actually [laughing]) and am just today getting a chance to catch up. But I wanted to post about some of the details of my process so far. These details will be kind of random because — it’s all pretty much happening in real time. So I’ll just jump in and get going with the first thing I did!

1. I made a very comprehensive recipe list from the blog.

One great thing about having a blog, especially having a blog for so long, is that pretty much anything that we’ve cooked in the past eighteen years that we’ve been proud of or that we eat regularly has made its way onto the blog. So I started here. I went backwards through the “Cooking and Baking” category on my sidebar and just wrote down every single thing that we had made and photographed. And it was over a hundred different things. That was pretty shocking. I put all of the names of the recipes into a table in a Word document, and organized them by categories like “Breakfast,” “Main,” “Soup,” and “Sweets.” I also kept track of the date on which a thing appeared on the blog, whether I wrote down the whole recipe or had taken a photo of it, so that I could go back and find it if I needed to.

2. I went through my recipes in my recipe box, in my little notebook, in my Paprika app, in my binder, in the stuff my mom had given me years ago, in Andy’s binder, in Andy’s handwritten notepad pages, and in some of the magazines we’ve kept since we were first married.

There were definitely a few things that in these sources that I had forgotten about and wanted to include.

3. I looked at the recipes themselves and started to think about which ones to include.

Once I had the giant list, I started looking closely at the recipes and thought about whether these were things I had made from other peoples’ recipes or whether they were my own or my family’s recipes. We immediately eliminated anything that was solidly from another person’s recipe that we make but just don’t change at all, and wouldn’t want to change. (But I was also reminded that I really loved those recipes and want to cook them soon, even if they won’t be in my book, so I still recommend doing this step!) Some were definitely in a gray area so I wanted to know what the actual copyright laws are around recipes in general and found several resources for further information:

This resource at the Copyright Alliance gives an overview.

Here is a great blog post by David Lebovitz that discusses using other peoples’ recipes.

And an article from CopyrightLaws.com.

Basically, if you use someone else’s recipe in any way (even if it’s just on your blog or web site), you definitely want to give attribution (and a link, if you’re online) to the original writer at the very least, and you will need to rework and rewrite the recipe to make it your own version of the recipe if you want to publish it. This is pretty commonsensical, but you can find many other discussions of this topic online that will help clarify any questions you have about it if you just start searching a bit.

4. So now I’ll whittle down the recipe list even more.

I think I’m aiming for around fifty recipes, which should be about half of my original list, but the number will be whatever it is. I would like to finalize it very soon so I know. I think I will do that this weekend.

5. I think the categories will be:

Breads
Breakfasts
Sides
Mains
Sweets and Other Things

I also plan to write an introduction, chapter openers for the categories, and maybe include some old blog excerpts if they are relevant. I’m guessing I will also include:

Cook’s notes (discussions of ingredients, what you should have on hand, etc.)
Resources (web sites I’ve loved and cooked from, shows about food I love, YouTube channels, etc.)
Index
Table of Contents (but will this have each recipe listed?)
Measurement conversion charts for overseas readers
Other stuff?

6. I plan to have large photos for every single recipe.

I will either re-shoot those photos (they’ll have to be verticals) or dig into my archives to look for the hi-res I have from whenever I originally blogged that recipes. And I will also be slurping up many other photos directly from the blog through the years and including them on “collage”-type pages. Those photos from the blog will print small — 2.4”w X 1.8”h at the most — because they are sized specifically for my blog, not for printing, and there is no way I could go back and resize every single one of the photos I want to include or we’d be here for years. (I will definitely talk more about photo sizing and photo considerations in later blog posts, but I just kinda wanted to write this down so I had an idea of what I need.)

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I’m not a professional chef and this isn’t a fancy food blog — I’m just a home cook who likes to cook (sometimes!!!), and has to cook most of the time, and even loves to cook occasionally, and my cookbook will definitely reflect that. This will be a book of family recipes from our moms and my dad and our grandmas, along with ones that Andy and I have made over the years, some completely original and some definitely adapted. It will be a book that represents the way we eat here, at home, in our very tiny, very un-fancy kitchen, with our little will-try-anything girl, as we make the meals that Andy and I both ate as children, and while we were becoming adults (many of my favorite recipes I started making in college!), and during the past thirty years of living and learning and cooking together with our family and friends and the people, all of you, who read and have read this blog.

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Some stuff I’ve listened to, read, or ordered this week that you might be interested in:

  • I’ve been listening to a podcast called Everything Cookbooks which is hosted by three cookbook authors named Molly Stevens, Andrea Nguyen, and Kate Leahy. I’ve listened to the first four episodes, titled, respectively, 01: Should You Write a Cookbook, 02: Do you Need a Cookbook Agent, 03: Cookbook Proposal Writing Tips, and 04: Let’s Make a Cookbook Deal.

This is obviously (so far) a podcast about publishing a cookbook with a traditional publisher, but since I’ve done a couple of books with a traditional publisher I’ve been interested in what they’re talking about and there is a lot of great information and discussion here for anyone writing a cookbook, self-published or traditionally published, I think. I’m going to keep working my way forward through the podcasts because I have already gotten some great recommendations from this one for further reading, including some books, such as Recipes Into Type by Joan Whitman (I’ve ordered it, haven’t gotten it yet) and The Recipe Writer’s Handbook by Barbara Gibbs Ostmann and Jane L. Baker (ordered, haven’t gotten yet).

I am very much looking forward to having those books as resources.

  • I’ve also been listening to a podcast called Cookbook Club, which is hosted by Sara Gray and Renee Wilkinson here in Portland. They pick a different cookbook every month (not all of them new), make a bunch of recipes from it, and then talk about what they’ve cooked and what they thought about that. It’s really fun to listen to and I’ve gone to the library and checked out several cookbooks they’ve used.
  • I’ve been watching Nigella Lawson’s newest show on BritBox called Cook, Eat, Repeat. I always, always love Nigella and have been watching her shows since her Domestic Goddess and Nigella Bites days, and I just love her. That’s all. I checked out all of her books that I didn’t already own at the library the other day and I just love reading what she writes. So I read them like novels, from the introduction right through.
  • Unrelated to cooking: I am also watching The Diplomat on Netflix and it’s very fun to watch although I think it’s too smart for me (I literally have no idea about half of what they’re saying, literally — it’s so fast, and I am a tired mama, and I need to watch it twice in order to figure out what the heck just happened). But I love Keri Russell and Rufus Sewell, too, and they have pretty great chemistry. (I have a soft spot for Keri Russell ever since Felicity, which Andy and I used to watch every single week. That was a pretty amazing show about growing up, honestly. I think it was really underrated.) The Diplomat is super fun to binge.
  • I also bought the book Book Design Simple and Professional by Nancy Starkman but I haven’t had much of a chance to get to it yet. I’m not really there yet, but I feel glad to have it for when I am ready.

I looked at many, many cookbooks at the library and on my own shelves for inspiration, and just thought about what I liked about them and what types of things in them I wanted to include in my book. I also thought about what I didn’t love about some of them and made notes of that. More on these kinds of specifics in future, as well.

A few cookbook editors emailed me or commented (still need to get back to you all and thank you personally — until then, thank you!) and their comments warrant much further discussion (that we will have), because they were all talking about style sheets, and every single thing they said was super helpful. I had already been thinking about style sheets (if you don’t know what a style sheet is, stay tuned — we will discuss) but their comments really stressed to me the importance of of creating a style sheet early in the process rather than later, so in my next post I will be talking all about style sheets — what they are, why we need them, and how to make one.

If you are joining me on this self-publishing adventure, please comment with a link to your own blog or  Instagram or wherever you would like to send us so that we can follow along! I will re-post all links here at the end of each post so that they are in one place. And to the people who sent emails sharing their own previously published cookbooks or cookbook dreams, thank you so much and please comment here again (in this post, so everything is in the same place) if you'd like me to share your blog (or whatever you have) with the group. I truly would love for this to be a collective experience as it really sounds like it's something that at least a few of us are interested in exploring. So whether you are at the point where you want to share, or are just following along as we go, welcome! And please don't be afraid to join in at any point on this journey. It's a big project, and it's going to take a while, so I look forward to settling in and having a great time together. XO

Making a Cookbook

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Thank you so much for the spring orders! I truly appreciate every order and every comment on my new designs. Thank you! I hope you are enjoying making them! I just mixed up some no-knead bread (pictured above) and covered it with a towel to rise for the next 90 minutes. Why did I do this? Why did I cook all of this food over the past week, and take pictures of it? Because I've decided to self-publish a cookbook and I want to include the recipes! As you do!

Are you familiar with self-publishing? Like Kindle Direct Publishing? I had never really heard of this (I'm really not sure how I'd never heard of this, to be honest) but I was immediately intrigued when I first heard about it a few weeks ago. Ever since my days working as a production editor when I first moved to Portland (and through working on my own books with Potter Craft), I've always been interested in book design itself. I've never actually done it but I've always wanted to learn it. So I opened InDesign and started playing around with it. I design all of my patterns through Microsoft Word — I'm not sure exactly why I started doing it that way many years ago, but that's just what I've always done, and that seems to work just fine. But InDesign is a really cool program and I've always wanted to get better at it, and it's what pros use to create documents like books. (You can use a bunch of other kinds of book-design-specific software, too, but InDesign is more sophisticated and gives you a lot more options.)

So I started practice-designing a novel. I watched YouTube videos about how to do this and also watched a few SkillShare classes. In the classes they were showing how to design novels using books that are in the public domain, like Alice in Wonderland and Jane Eyre. I decided to work on one of my and Andy's favorite old novels called Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith (you can see over seventy thousand fee e-books that are in the public domain at Project Gutenberg — what an amazing web site). But I realized that I really wanted to walk through the entire process — not just designing a book but actually publishing it, too. So I did some research and found out that you can publish novels that are in the public domain but if it's free content that is already available in the Kindle store, they will only let you publish a differentiated version. You can do that in a few different ways, and one of the way is by adding relevant illustrations. So I decided to do that, with my watercolors.

But then I got the idea to make a cookbook out of many of our family recipes and recipes that I have made here on the blog through the years. (I may still finish Diary when I'm done with this.) And that's when I got really excited. I started spending ballet-waiting time at the library just down the street from the ballet school, and I have been sitting there with big stacks of cookbooks in the afternoons while I wait. Cookbooks are really amazing. There are a lot of different kinds of cookbooks, LOL. I started thinking about my favorite cookbooks, and dreaming about what kind of cookbook I would make. We also (not coincidentally) looked at our budget and saw how much we have been spending on eating out, and knew something had to change — we absolutely need to start focusing much more on cooking at home again!

So all weekend Andy and I talked about our book, and I've been making lists of our favorite recipes that he and I have been making for over twenty years. I know I'm not a foodie, nor a trained cook (but my sister is, so I'm going to talk her into helping me, and my mom will be looking at all of our family recipes, too), and this is not a legit "food blog." But I looked back through the "Baking and Cooking" category on my blog and found over a hundred different things that I had cooked or baked or photographed! I had no idea how many recipes I had talked about over the years — it was so interesting to see that number. We pulled out our recipe binders and my mom's recipe box, and the tattered, stained pieces of copy paper with recipes we'd printed out that were stuffed all over the place in the kitchen drawers, and the "cookbook" Andy made for our family and friends a long time ago, and the tiny little notebook that says "Recipes" on the front that I started way back when we first got married. And I don't know, but I just got very excited.

So, yeah! I'm going to design a cookbook of our recipes and my photos and even a bunch of blog photos throughout the years! This won't be the world's most comprehensive cookbook or the most well-rounded, but I do want it to include all of our favorite family and friend-made recipes, the ones we've been making for twenty years, the ones I want to pass down to Amelia — the ones she's grown up eating and the ones I want to teach her how to cook. I want to make an e-book as well as a paperback version and a hardback version. I will ultimately list them on Amazon and IngramSpark and all of the other e-book/self-publishing outlets. I want to learn about the entire book design and self-publishing process in doing this, both so that I can gain experience and learn something new and also because I am really excited to be making a book as an author/photographer again (and this time, designer, too). I published my craft books fifteen years ago now. I mean, I actually had to look that up, and it's been fifteen years. A lot has changed. And I'm really excited to catch up with the whole industry.

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I hope you will join me on this journey and in this conversation! If you've ever wanted to make a cookbook, maybe you will be interested in going through this process along with me (cookbook-a-long, anyone?). Have any of you ever written a cookbook? Even a family cookbook or a community cookbook? Do you have any advice? What are your favorite cookbooks? As a home cook, what do you think makes a good cookbook? Please advise! I'm new!

Snowwww no!

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Oh HELLO! Hello, hello! It's March 1, oh my. March 2023. March 2023!

Gosh. I need to let that sink in for some reason.

All of you, first of all, we truly thank you for every one of your kind and gentle comments on the loss of Andy's beautiful mom. I always think of each of them as a small prayer, and each one bring us comfort, and makes us feel less alone in our sadness. Thank you so much. It has been almost a month now, and there are so many moments in the day where I just want to tell her something, or send her something, or send her a picture of Amelia, or tell her something funny that she said or did. All the little things. She delighted in every one of those things, I think. Pops (Andy's dad) got the surprise birthday gift of a new kitten from our nephew, Max, a veterinary student, and I believe he picks her up sometime this week, and we'll find out what he is naming her (he's keeping that secret for now!). There are not many days in life that are better than that first day with a new pet, and I am excited for both him and Miss Kitters, and I know they will bring joy to each other.

We got a very unexpected snowstorm here exactly a week ago, and it was absolutely bonkers for a while. I picked up Amelia an hour early that Wednesday because the forecast suddenly got very real (and my reconstructed foot does not do well on snow or ice). At 3:00 p.m. it started snowing . . . and snowing, and snowing, and snowing. By nightfall, roads were at an icy standstill; it took my friend's boyfriend almost six hours just to get across town. Andy decided to stay overnight at the hospital because the busses had stopped running up the hill. I was home frantically packing boxes for the Nashville Needlework Market, starting to wonder if everything was going to get there in time. We had a small window of about one week in which to get our stuff shipped there; nothing could arrive before February 24. I shipped the box with my stitched models on the 21st. The snow had started flying on the 22nd. By the 23rd the post offices were actually closed (along with almost everything else). By Friday we were able to get our car out and get down to our local P.O., which was mercifully open. And by this morning, March 1, sixteen of my twenty boxes have been delivered, and I am just anxiously tracking the last four, and hoping they get there by Friday, when the show starts. . . .

Normally you know I would be so into a freak snowstorm! But not when I have to ship twenty boxes to arrive somewhere across the country within a small window of time! Golly day!

Andy made it home late Thursday morning. The weather was still really gnarly — very cold and windy, and quite icy. He took Amelia sledding on Friday and then Amelia and Iris sledding on Saturday (we had no school Thursday and Friday), and then we went roller skating with our other friends Stefan and Mia on Sunday. There was a LOT of falling down, a few tears, a corn dog, some Slurpees, lots of fun. Some aches and pains on Monday!

I'm here in a quiet house today. I'm trying to plan for summer, as many summer camps' sign-ups start today. It's basically impossible for me to plan things for summer. I have no idea what's going on or what we will be doing, and I'm terrible at committing. Which, as any parent knows right now, that just won't do, because things fill up fast, and there isn't that much availability to start with, so . . . I need to pull it together. I literally look at the calendar and just blank out, and start sweating.

I have three new designs that will debut at Nashville this weekend. I will show them to you next week! I posted them on Instagram but I need to resize the photos for the blog. I will do that. Literally as soon as I got home from the post office, I started designing two new things, as well. It's funny how that happens. It's like the creative part is literally bottled until the non-creative parts are absolutely done (I had to finish the tax stuff for the accountant this week, too) and then it just comes bursting out. I designed two things in about four days. I've been stitching on the nursery rhymes design I made a few years ago (not sure if you remember that, or when I ever posted it, or I would link to the digital). I watched all of the series called Slow Horses with Gary Oldman and I thought that was really good. I tried to watch The Recruit on Netflix and it just got too ridiculous, so I stopped watching it. Andy is still watching Indian Matchmaking with me and it's the best. I love that show.

I recommend, as always, this spicy chicken and sweet potato soup, which we now make about once a week. And this winter squash and wild mushroom curry was awesome. I've also been watching Indian Food Made Easy (it's a BBC show but I watch it on FreeVee) and it has some great ideas. I haven't made any of the recipes yet but I am going to.

I hope you are all well! What has everyone been doing? What is giving you joy these days?

Pumpkin and Sunshine

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Oh, the sunshine. The sunsunsunshine. It shines and shines and shines. Like, 88-degrees-everyday-and-no-shade shines. It just keeps shining. Every single day. Into October. We're now in October. And it's still 88 degrees. (Note: That was yesterday, when I wrote that — today, trying to finish this, it is cool and cloudy and I am thrilled.)

We went to the pumpkin patch! Everyone wanted to wear plaid and flannel, so they did. All were sweating by 1 p.m. But darn it, it was worth it. Hasten autumn! I am ready for you! My retinas at the very least are ready for you!

Thank you so much for the orders for the new kit and patterns! I truly appreciate every single one of them. All of the Pumpkin & Moonshine kits were shipped last week. The patterns for the kits and for the future Christmas kits are all here; I'm waiting for one more bolt of fabric and then I will at the very least launch pre-orders for all of those. I'm excited about them. Three very different things. Stay tuned for more.

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I took the week off of cross-stitching now that I'm kind of in a waiting mode — waiting for fabric to arrive, waiting for Andy to pull floss. The hard parts for me (basically the pattern writing and proofing, and sending off for printing) for this next batch are done, so I treated myself to some plain old knitting. I made a really cute sweater for Amelia from the Stopover Cardigan pattern by Mary Jane Mucklestone. I knit it in NatureSpun worsted on size US11 needles (huge!). It made a very floppy, very loose fabric (that has grown like crazy with blocking, but hopefully will still fit her). I made the women's size XS. It's a steeked cardigan so I'll steek it once it's dry. I gave three big bags of Amelia's outgrown hand-knits to my friend yesterday to pass down within our friend group who has younger girls and it was very liberating. And now I see that Amelia needs stuff. I couldn't see it before with all of the old, too-small stuff hanging around. So on the list for her are new mittens, new hat, new legwarmers, and new ballet sweater, for a start.

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If there is a folded-up quilt around, Agatha will find it and put herself into it and take a nap. Isn't that the cutest? She totally put herself here.

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Amelia helped make cookies (we made butterscotch chip cookies from this recipe which I think is the absolute best best best — I have never been able to make good chocolate-chip cookies myself from the Tollhouse recipe but now with this McCormick recipe I do and I am happy to have found it; I think I originally stumbled upon it on Pinterest). Then I made this Spicy Chicken Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Cabbage by Sohla El-Waylly and it was possibly the best soup I have ever had in my life. Not just made, actually had. I used four bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs but otherwise did everything exactly the same, down to the Fritos (also possibly the first time I've ever bought Fritos — you could definitely just use any kind of corn tortilla chips here). WOW. It was so great. Amelia and I had it for dinner and then Andy came home and ate the rest of it. There was not a drop left. It was that good. Highly recommend. I love Sohla's videos and recipes. (I watch a lot of cooking videos on YouTube streamed to my TV, which is so nice.)

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Kind of a cool thing happened yesterday when Andy and I were about to leave the house. Some people showed up and said they were from Salt Lake City and their relatives used to live here from 1946-49 and they brought us some pictures. The first one is of the house (obviously) and the second one is of the daughter of the family who lived here. She's with her fiance or husband (I think the man said this might have been an engagement pictures?) in front of our fireplace. She was 18 and he was 20. Aren't they just so lovely and fancy and sweet? Look at her gorgeous dress! What is that flower spray on the fireplace behind them? And look, the shelves had doors! And the woodwork is so nice and clean. And their carpet is gorgeous. The people didn't stay very long but I gave them my card and I hope they get back in touch and send more pictures. They said they would! Fingers crossed. It was such a random and cool thing!

Summer Starts

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A mostly cold and rainy start, but still, it's a start! We've had a busy and fun few weeks, with a ballet recital, a midsummer festival, and a trip to Oaks Park amusement park for Father's Day. I love these traditions and it feels so, so good to be back at them. The weather held off raining for the most part, but you can see how muddy it was at the midsummer festival. We broke a record for rainfall in April, May, and June (so far). No one is really complaining, not out loud at least, because I know we all think that if it can keep the place from burning down in August, we'll take it. This week has been beautiful, and everyone is ready for sunshine. Yesterday it was about eighty degrees, and even the plants were thrilled. I mean, you could see it! Everything sort of stood up a bit straighter, faces pointed toward the light.

Amelia was a bit bummed that she hadn't dressed fancier for the midsummer festival, and I promised to make her a cute Swedish or Norwegian (turns out she's both, along with having ancestors from Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, Mexico, Northern Africa, the Levant, Indigenous North Americas, and Spain — amazing! Thanks Ancestry!) dress for next year. I'll have to do some research on that! I do love a challenge that involves folk-wear. Andy is 60% Swedish. Turns out, Ancestry says I'm 7% Swedish myself. Never knew! Matching family outfits???

I'm in my office, trying to get caught up a bit. I've finally had a bit of time this week, and it's clear that I have so much work to do to just . . . get myself back on track. Back on track. I have a million projects that are about 90% finished, with the hardest, most un-fun last 10% abandoned, pre-completion. Hmmm. Necklaces, paintings, ceramics stuff, glazes, underglazes, kiln stilts, beads, quilting stuff, yarn stuff, just . . . lots of stuff, and lots of allllllmost-finished but definitely not-finished stuff. I have cross-stitch designs that I've never stitched that I want to complete. I have a box of cross-stitch fabric that I want to turn into a few small runs of kits. I have three big boxes of undyed yarn that I want to dye. Maybe I'll get my mojo back in the fall? I'm usually a finisher. . . .

Thank you so much for all of the book recommendations for Amelia and I to read together this summer! It's just so exciting. We finally finished Anne of Green Gables last week and it was just a wonderful experience. I had read the book before but I absolutely loved reading it out loud to Amelia. For our next book, I decided to go with Thimble Summer, which was one of my childhood favorites. It's must longer than I remembered, so it's just perfect for her right now, and I think the main character, Garnet, is actually nine, going on ten, just like Amelia. But I'm thrilled to have the list that you all recommended, and I thank you for your suggestions and thoughts and memories. I love them.

I myself am reading Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, which was a birthday present from my sister Julie that I'm only now getting to. I really like it. I recently finished The Good House and An Innocent, A Broad, both by Ann Leary. I also really liked both of them and read them very quickly. Another library book that I am reading is called Ancestor Trouble: A Reckoning and a Reconciliation by Maud Newton. (I read an interview with Ann Leary and she recommended this book; I actually read the interview before I had read any of Ann Leary's book, but I liked the interview so much I decided to look the books up. Here is the interview.) Not sure why I'm spending so much time reading when I actually have four hundred other things I need to be doing, but there it is.

I have finished my design for A Tender Year: June and I also have a brand new cross-stitch kit and design finished and I am going to stuff those kits today. I need to run right now but come back tomorrow and I'll have a post so that you can see them!

P.S. Amelia got a little autograph book at her end-of-the-year class party and had the idea to take it to Oaks Park on Father's Day and get signatures from all of the ride operators throughout the day, which was basically the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life.

Mud Days

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Soggy is an understatement. It pours and pours. It pours every day. It's warm, windy, and wet. I feel like I'm slogging through mud, inside and out. Inside, I knit and knit. Hundreds, thousands of yards of stitches, on fingering-weight yarn for my Soorik and bulky-weight yarn for my Getting Warmer. When I'm not doing that, I'm surfing Ravelry early in the morning under a pile of down and flannel, drinking coffee by the light of my iPad, looking for something else to knit. I bought two new raincoats this year, one dark green and one like a dark . . . bark green? Like pine-tree trunk. I meant to return one of them, depending on which one I liked better, and much to my chagrin I liked them both and I am keeping them both, even though they're really similar. They are both perfect Pacific Northwest winter raincoats, in my opinion. I hadn't gotten a coat in a few years and I've made up for it this year. Now I want to knit a hot pink cowl. I think it will look cute with either coat.

We also got two new plug-in sconces for the kitchen and two new lamps for the living room. I am happy with all of them. Andy did a pro-job hanging the sconces and then getting cord covers for them (the cords were black, and plug in under the cabinets). The sconces take 60w bulbs, which is very nice in there (and a lot brighter bulbs than we usually use around here, ha!). So now I can take pictures of dinner in the dark. The other day was Helen's rice pudding to serve with Ikea Swedish meatballs and gravy. This is just the best rice pudding in the world. It's a recipe from Andy's (Swedish) grandmother and we make it regularly. It's perfect for meatballs, and I actually have started baking it for about ten minutes less than the recipe calls for. That leaves a lovely, jiggly layer of custard on the top and it is all just [chef's kiss] perfect for a sloppy, soupy rainy day.

Thank you so much for the blog recommendations on my last post! I am enjoying checking everything out! I sent my last pattern of 2021 in to the printer a few days ago and it will be here on the 22nd, and then we will get to work stuffing kits. We are reissuing Things of Winter, First Snow, and Winterwoods ABCs kits later this month, as well, so stay tuned for that! (Those are all links to the patterns, BTW.) And when all that is done, that will be the END of the reissues and the end of 2021! Yippee!

Clover needs to have some teeth pulled and they can't get her in to do that until next month. She is otherwise healthy, which is good news. Agatha continues to destroy every houseplant (I only have three left) while also being incredibly cute and also mildly savage. I'm planning to make my way through this list of ice-skating documentaries and videos. I have so many texts and emails I need to answer. And I should probably order some groceries. Blah. Not inspired to do that. Every outdoor play-date and hike has been canceled this week due to the rain. I'm already over it and it's only November.

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.

Farm

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

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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