Posts filed in: Books


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No sooner did I threaten to cut down the plum tree than did about a million birds show up, acting so adorable and sweet and storybookish within its branches that I'm torn, now, about chopping it down. What to do!!! What also happened is that we instituted "mom time" out in the front yard in the very early mornings when Andy's off for the day so that I'm able to sit out there alone and drink my coffee, listen to birds, water the garden, and oh, you know, think quietly for just a few secs. I get up and, before I take my shower, I hightail it out and enjoy what has always been my favorite part of the day: earliest, earliest morning. Eventually I fill up the bird bath and sit in the chair in the shade across the yard and wait. Within five or ten minutes, birds come bathing. It's the cutest, sweetest thing. They — especially the robins — splash around in the water and then fly up to the bare branches of the plum tree to fluff and dry. It's just adorable. On Sunday morning, a super-adorable thing happened when I got to watch a mama robin feed a teenager robin — see the picture of them up there? They're hard to see, being totally camouflaged by the tree, but my gosh. How cute is that. I swear the robins are coming just to visit me when I go out there, especially when I'm alone. They do always seem to show up within a few minutes! My own little Mary Lennox moment, and I just love them.

I feel so very behind on everything. I can't get my chores done and I'm stressed, so birdwatching feels desperately necessary but also crazily indulgent somehow. Summer at home with a little kid is seriously chaotic. There are so many things that I want to write about and talk about and think about, but I just won't have time or brain or breath until preschool starts again and I have a few more unengaged hours. And there aren't enough kids home during the day in our neighborhood to make it easier. I mean, there are no kids at home during the day in our neighborhood. Back in My Day, everyone was home. Everyone. We played outside or at each other's houses on the block every. single. day. To the point of utter, complete, blissful boredom. Sigh. Sometimes I worry. Where is everyone?

Nevertheless, in spite of having a scant amount of free time/me time, I checked five of the books on last week's book list out of the library, even though I'm only halfway through Coming Home (by Rosamunde  Pilcher). The librarian said that the damage I did to the book wasn't even worth noting, so that was a nice surprise. I renewed it, because it's taking me forever to read. That book is enormous! But it's really nice to read. Sort of slow, with a mildly remote protagonist (which is, oddly, relaxing). But it also just feels measured and capable and . . . professional . . . I need not worry . . . and that alone is chillaxing me down to my toes. Also, her descriptions of place are so on-point I sometimes read them twice. I mean, this:

    August, now, and a wet Monday morning. Summer rain, soft and drenching, streamed down upon Nancherrow. Drifting in from the south-east, low grey clouds obscured the cliffs and the sea, and heavy-leaved trees drooped and dripped. Gutters ran and drain-pipes gurgled, and the weekly wash was postponed for a day. Nobody complained. After a long spell of hot, dry weather, the sweet coolth was welcome. The rain fell with relentless steadiness, and thirsty flowers and fruit and vegetables absorbed the moisture with gratitude, and the air was filled with the incomparable scent of newly damp earth.   
    Loveday, with Tiger at her heels, emerged into the outdoors by way of the scullery, stepped out into the yard, and stopped for a moment to sniff the air and fill her lungs with this sweet invigorating freshness. She wore gumboots and an old raincoat, pulled over her shorts and a striped cotton sweater, but her head was bare, and as she set off in the direction of Lidgey Farm, the rain descended upon her hair, causing the dark locks to curl more tightly than ever.
    She took the road that led towards the stables, but turned off before reaching them, following, instead, the rutted lane that led up onto the moors. Here the ancient lichened stone walls were divided from the lane by a deep ditch, now running with water, and gorse grew in prickly thickets aflame with yellow flowers smelling of almonds. There were foxgloves too, in profusion, and pale-pink mallow, and tangles of wild honeysuckle, all the way up the lane, and the dark granite of rock wore velvety patches of saffron-colored lichen. Beyond the wall were pasture fields, where Mr. Mudge's Guernsey milk cows grazed, the grass a brilliant green between the random whale-shaped crests of hidden boulders, and overhead gulls, flying inland with the weather, wheeled and screamed.

How pretty is that! By typing it out I'm attempting to conjure a rain spell, because we haven't had any in over fifty days and last week our temps were over a hundred degrees.

How are you guys? How's your summer? How's it all going out there, anyway?


***Mimi just found this picture floating around somewhere in our bookshelf (I have not seen this one in years!), and I realized I forgot to say thank you for all of your incredibly sweet anniversary wishes. Thank you very, very much. We really appreciate them! You are so kind. Thank you. XOXOXO

P.S.: I made my dress from a Style sewing pattern but I can't figure out what number it was. It was really fun to make and is one of my favorite memories from being engaged.


Some Summer Reading!

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It was our twentieth wedding anniversary on July 19. That's the china anniversary, so we were planning to eat Chinese food on our wedding china but instead had our standby anniversary dinner, Rozale Lasagna, named after our first apartment together back in Missoula, Montana, where we lived when that first picture of us was taken, back in 1994 or '95. That picture was taken on Flathead Lake and I can't imagine who took it; I think it might have been a timer selfie taken with my point-and-shoot. We started dating in 1992, but we actually met in . . . 1989? Almost thirty years ago. We were a very unlikely couple and started dating on a whim, literally, after a chance road trip together going to visit some other friends from college. Somewhere in the cornfields between River Forest and Peoria, Illinois, we fell in love in the car and have been together ever since. Being married to Andy Paulson is one of the great miracles of my life and I wake up every morning and still can't believe I ever got this lucky.

Actually, on our actual anniversary we went on a boat ride, above, and wound up having dinner downtown at the world's most unlikely place, Morton's Steak House. Morton's Steak House, in case you don't know, as I didn't, is one of those places that has a super-dark interior with big super-dark leathery chairs and no windows and $59 steaks, where people with expense accounts go when they're traveling for business and trying to schmooze some account rep (maybe). It was, however, blissfully air-conditioned. We wound up there because, after our two-hour boat ride down the river, we were headed over to Piazza Italia in the Pearl (a district that should have been about five or ten minutes away from the boat place) but got stuck in the biggest downtown traffic jam in the world. We were averaging about fifty feet every five or ten minutes. Then we heard the words that strike fear in the heart of every parent sitting in a traffic jam: "Mommy, I need to go potty." Cue me, pulling over (tires squealing . . . just kidding) and tossing the keys to the valet at Morton's Steak House, right in front of which we happened to be most conveniently (or not, stay tuned) sitting, unmoving, in traffic. Into the empty restaurant (it was 5:00 p.m.) and very nice bathroom we went, looking like a bunch of hippies who just tumbled off a boat ride. I won't go into details about the food but will just say that I could have bought her about fifty pairs of new undies for what that (totally overpriced and burnt, ahem) meal cost. But it was an absurd, sweet, really fun and memorable evening, and lord how I love these two. Andy said, "Let's come back in another twenty years but then go somewhere else instead." Ha!

Thank you EVER, EVER, EVER so much for all of the book recommendations. I am so excited about these, and I haven't heard of almost all of them. Amelia wound up picking out my next book, Rosamunde Pilcher's Coming Home, because she liked the cover and color of the spine (pink) and wanted to leave the library, stat. I've never read a Rosamunde Pilcher book before, I don't think, but this one turns out to be perfect for me right now because I just found out through Ancestry DNA that I am actually part English. This is completely shocking and I will tell you more about it later as soon as I figure out a few more things. Sadly, I've also damaged my library book by throwing it into my pool basket and then having everyone's wet towels thrown on top of it so I'm guessing I'll be buying that? I don't think I've ever damaged a library book before so I'm not sure what happens when you do. I feel really bad. I want to finish it quickly so that I can get to some of these on the list you put together. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this list, and I hope you enjoy these!

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towle
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
The Nightengale Nurses by Donna Douglas
Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center
The Time in Between by Maria Duenas
Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
The Bear and the Nightengale by Katherine Arden
Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost
Old Man's War by John Scalzi
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
Ross Poldark by Winston Graham
The Woolgrower's Companion by Joy Rhoades
The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
In the Castle of the Flynns by Michael Raleigh
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne DuMaurier
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
Goodnight June by Sarah Jio
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickam
The Scarlet Sisters by Helen Batten
The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Burntown by Jennifer McMahon
The Dry by Jane Harper
The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard
A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass
The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
Change Agent by Daniel Suarez
Then She Found Me by Elinor Lipman
The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil
The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Party Girls Die in Pearls by Plum Sykes
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
The People at Number 9 by Felicity Everett
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers
Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading by Maureen Corrigan
Princess Elizabeth's Spy by Susan Elia Macneal
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley
Camino Island by John Grisham
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald
The Trespasser by Tana French
The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick
The Great Kitchens of the Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

Also, thank you to everyone who reminded me that the tree book I was talking about was called Trees of Greater Portland. I still have made zero progress on my to-do list re: railings and replanting, but I'm ever hopeful. ;)

Whirl and Swirl

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One by one I've been reading all of the Beatrix Potter stories to Amelia at bedtime. They're quite edgy little stories. Some are too long for her right now. Some I knew and some I've never read before — actually, most classic children's literature was not actually a part of my childhood reading. But I'm enjoying them so much (likely more than Amelia, but isn't that always the way). When we got to The Tale of Two Bad Mice the other night I could not stop laughing: Tom Thumb and his wife, Hunca Munca, notice that the dolls have gone out for the day, so they venture into the dolls' house to have what they think is going to be a marvelous feast. When they find that the beautiful food is all made of plaster, they basically have a fit and trash the doll house. They smash the plates and then try to burn them in the kitchen fireplace, but that's fake, too. Tom Thumb throws all the doll's clothes out of the window. After pulling half of the feathers out of the doll bolster, Hunca Munca (who "had a frugal mind") remembers that "she herself was in want of a feather bed" and they set about stealing the bolster by dragging it to their mouse hole (along with a bunch of other furniture, including the doll-baby cradle). In the end, the dolls return (and silently survey the scene) and the little girl who owns the dollhouse puts a policeman doll in front of the house to guard it. Tom Thumb redeems himself by putting a crooked sixpence that he found under the rug in the doll's Christmas stocking to pay for the damages, and Hunca Munca sneaks in every morning with her broom and dustpan to sweep the dollhouse. I love this story so much. The first time we read it I went downstairs the next morning and stood gaping at Amelia's own utterly trashed dollhouse. "Did the two bad mice do this?" I asked. "Yeah," said Meems, chagrined. I convinced her to put it to rights, but I suspect that Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca might be up to their old tricks in our dollhouse again. . . . The funny thing is that when you start buying miniatures made by miniaturists, tons of it says, literally, "This is not a toy suitable for children under fourteen." Fourteen! Ha. I get that. Like, I think I had my first job at fourteen. When you go to high school you can play with your dollhouse, kid.

I've done almost nothing but cut calico fabric for weeks. Weeks. I stand in the studio, cutting strip after strip for the quilt kits I'm building, and think about things. Often I think about my own inspirations for these quilts in particular, which feel like a story I've been telling myself for a long time. I thought you might like to see some of the images that swirl and twirl around in my head when I'm coming up with a project, so I made this little collection of things, woven together with pictures of some of the actual fabrics that will be going into the kits. These are turning out to be kind of epic, if I do say so. I will give you more info as I get closer to releasing them in the next few weeks, so thank you for your patience. I will be offering a pattern for the quilt-comforter (in sizes from toddler through king, including throw) that you will have to download, and then about a hundred (total) toddler-sized kits to make the quilt top in seven or eight different general colorways. There will be options to purchase kits for larger sizes, as well, but I'm still working that out. I will say that, as with a lot of things that I do, these are a totally limited edition, even more so than usual. All of these fabrics have come from eBay and Etsy or estate sales or my own stash. They are rare. I've spent the past month combing every listing, looking for all of the best stuff, and it has been a massive project. I've cut close to 225 yards of fabric into 4.25" strips by myself. And I have more to go. But I honestly think you're going to be really thrilled when you see these. They're pretty special. Again, stay tuned for more info on these over the next few weeks as I get closer to finishing them. It's taking a long time, I know, but honestly, I pretty much spend every single free minute I have working on them and it's just been a huge project. I think, short of my books, it might be one of the biggest projects I've ever done.

There's no school again this week, for teacher in-service this time. Poor kids. It really never stops raining. We're way ahead of average rainfall for February. Oh that we could have some of this rain during the summer months!!! Yesterday, despite the weather, was a great day. Andy was home and we all went out to lunch and then came back and laid around the house, me knitting, Mimi and Andy playing for hours with the Matchbox car track. Andy made a roast chicken while Amelia and I watched the season one finale of The Great British Baking Show. You get so attached to everybody. It's a very sweet show. Thank for the recommendations of some of the other shows, too. I will check them out.

I finished reading The Orchardist last week, as well, and I don't know that I've ever been so disappointed with a book. (Not since my hissy fit about The Goldfinch, anyway.) When I finished The Orchardist I literally just sat there (alone in my favorite Thai restaurant) shaking — it was, in some ways, so good. But ultimately it felt so empty to me, and it wasn't until the very end, when I finished it and then just put the book down in slow motion, stunned with a very particular kind of Reader's annoyed-disbelief, that I realized how much more I wanted. Demanded. And it was a demand that felt entirely created by the beauty (the almost-beauty) of the book itself. There were so many places where it could have and should have pushed, where something should have been made clear and bright, where hard things to write should have been written and not just circled around and ultimately, almost stylistically and willfully avoided. Toward the end, when Evangelene throws her arms around Talmadge's neck in the wagon after he gets out of jail? There? Right there! That was a massive moment that should have been cracked wide open — even one brilliant sentence could have saved the book there, and it didn't get written. Well, I was mad about this. It felt like plaster food. I marched right upstairs and, though I didn't quite hurl the book, Tom Thumb–style, out the window, I did grab my copy of Howards End (which for me, does the hard things) and huffily opened it, needing my faith restored. Now I will expect too much from you, E.M. Forster. And so it goes.


Photos and illustrations, from top to bottom: 1. Cecile Veilhan, My Treasure 2. Eloise Wilkin 3. Unknown, from Pinterest 4. Carmen Hawk 5. Unknown, from Pinterest 6. Erich Heinemann, Siebenpünktchen 7. Ross Laurence 8. Beatrix Potter, from The Tale of Two Bad Mice 9. Girls in Laura Ashely Dresses with King Charles Spaniels, 1970s, from Paris Vogue 10. WIlliam McGeorge, Picking Blackberries 11. Anne Andersen 12. Jill Barklem, from Brambly Hedge: Autumn Story 13. Still from Tess of the D'Urbervilles, 2008 14. Stevie Nicks 15. Tanja Kuvaa, from the Pretty Gingham blog 16. Edouard Vuillard 17. Beatrix Potter, from The Tale of Two Bad Mice 18. Sarah Freeman and Emma Ashley Photographed in Laura Ashley Dresses, 1960s, from Paris Vogue 19. Eloise Wilkin, from My Goodnight Book 20. Sleeping Mimi (by me) 21. Tasha Tudor 22. Jill Barklem, from Brambly Hedge: Spring Story 23. Sydney R. Jones, The Village Homes of England

Hot Stitches

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Well, I've been trying to write this thing for five days!

Summer is nuts. It kind of leaves me speechless. Yesterday my car thermometer was consistently showing it was over 100 degrees. My bad foot hates hot weather and so do I. I had to take Amelia with me to Target to get a bunch of stuff for our vacation: coloring books and new toothbrushes and ever more sunscreen and mosquito spray and a new backpack and all that kind of junk. It filled up half the cart. How we're ever going to pack it all I do not know. Pushing the cart with her in it out to the car was as far as I wanted to walk without air conditioning. This was all after cleaning the house, watering the pots, having a morning play date at a friend's house, going to swimming lessons (on the other side of town), eating lunch at the bakery (where she ran around the bakery or sat under the table), and driving down SE 82nd Avenue (ugh). I remember at our wedding, Andy's sweet little grandmother, Ruth. I happened to be standing near her when someone said to her, "Oh, Ruth! Isn't this wonderful! You must be having such a great day!" And (it was also about 90 degrees out that day) she goes, "Oh, yes. Get in the car, get out of the car. Get in the pew, get out of the pew. Get back in the car, get out of the car." All with a twinkle in her eye. This week my eye has more of a rabid, possibly heat-stroked, unblinking glare in it. I got to sleep in to a whole 5:30 a.m. this morning (yes, we generally get up at 5:00 due to Andy's work schedule/our child, the human alarm clock). Amelia came bounding upstairs looking like a wild animal, her hair literally going in every direction, part of it held back by the two mini-braids I never took out before bedtime last night. I said, "You need a bath. Go tell Daddy you look like Nell." Summer.

Knitting. I knit like a woman on fire. It's like some kind of homeopathy, wool + heat, like eating spicy food in India. I knit an entire extra-large sweater in a week and a half. Could not, would not stop. I am so proud of my sweater. I love how it came out and it was such a great experience. I love knitting fair-isle. This is the second sweater I've ever made for myself. I've started two more sweaters for myself (pictured above, and on my Ravelry page). I must be asserting myself somehow. Lord, please, please let it get cold enough to wear sweaters. Soon. Or ever.

THANK YOU for the recommendations for new yarns to try. Thank you, thank you! That is such a rad list, and I'm so excited to explore your suggestions. Some of the yarns you like are familiar to me, and many are brand new, so I will have to order some samples and make some plans. I didn't have enough time to do that before planning my vacation projects, but oh, this fall. I can't wait. I wanted to wear the sweater to the Avett Brothers show at Edgefield the other night (it was actually cool and beautiful; what a beautiful night in every way that was). It wasn't quite cold enough, but maybe at the lake in a few weeks. . . . Anyway, thank you for your very helpful suggestions lately. I truly appreciate them and will let you know what I come up with.

I did get to go to Powell's one wonderful afternoon and get some cozy mysteries. That was FUN. That was so much fun. I made a handwritten list of all of the books and authors you suggested and then I just went up and down the aisles, seeing what they had. I chose authors that I had 1) never read before and 2) had the first book in whatever series they've written available right there on the shelf. If the first book of the series wasn't available, I usually moved on (not every time, in the case of Jeanne M. Dams — the covers were so good). Did you ever notice how impossible it can be to figure out what the first book in a mystery series can be (without the benefit of the internet at your fingertips)? It's so weird. Why is that. Anyway, I got a whole big bunch of books. Can you tell I'm excited to have some time to read? I hope I get to. I can't wait.

I hope you are all well! I'm sorry I haven't been here as much as usual. I don't have any dedicated childcare this summer and my time on the computer is so limited. That'll change in the fall, but for now, I'm waving as I race by: Hi!!! I hope all is well with you!!!

Spring Swing

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Days of spring and flowering things. Our girl is busy and buzzing like a bumblebee, flitting from blossom to blossom, up, down and all around. The air is alternately chilly and warming, and the green is fluorescent and glowing. I love the quiet, gray mornings; the sound of crows swooping and calling; the clematis clinging and crawling along the fence, magnolia petals browning. Spring is so, so pretty. I had an impulse to weave something. I drove out to the country on a beautiful afternoon and bought a Schacht School Loom (I got it from Pacific Wool and Fiber in Newburg but it's not on their web site). I followed the directions that were included with the loom and threaded the warp (I'd never done this before, but it was really easy) and then just started weaving. Randomly. Here is a nice tutorial on getting started.

I can't seem to stop weaving now. It's incredibly calming. Have you done it? I remember that I've done it twice before — once as a really little kid, making a little blue weaving for my dad's birthday on a cardboard loom. The other time was in college when I was taking a studio art survey course. I remember that there was a lot of drama going on socially at the time, and I totally remember just sitting in the weaving studio going back and forth with the yarn and thinking, "Yes, please, I'd just like to stay right here and do this, then." It was also spring, then. It feels like a good time to start new things, and I've needed that lately. I'm excited. It's been a long time since I started something new.

I did a little cross stitch design for the incredibly talented Carrie Hoge's new project, details of which are coming soon. I love those two colors, mineral blue and rose-gold, together.

The illustrations are from two of the library books we got out this week, Hondo Escapes and The Story of the Root Children. Story time, when we're tucked up in bed in our nighties and tucked under our quilts and covers and (still) wool blankets (though it is staying ever more light outside), is fast becoming my favorite part of the day. She's listening so intently now.

Sweet, sweet spring. It's almost too much to talk about, so I'll just let these pictures tell my story for the past few days.

Down Home

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So, naturally, all we ever do is eat now, with occasional trips to some kind of water and some kind of summer reading. NOT BAD.

It's very good.

There has been: Homemade pizza dough and sauce from one of my all-time-favorite cookbooks, The River Cottage Family Cookbook; another very excellent pasta dish with prosciutto and peas from Barilla; possibly the best pork carnitas tacos I have ever had, let alone made — done in the SLOW COOKER, to boot! My history with the slow cooker basically sucks (you might remember the Alicia-slow-cooker-disasters of a few years ago), but I'm not kidding — this stuff was beyond good. I did everything exactly how that recipe said, and served the tacos with really good thick, home-style tortillas (can't remember the brand, but I think they're new, they have cursive writing on the package), minced red onion, diced avocado, diced mango, and a few blobs of sour cream (go for Wallaby, if you can find it, oh my). Squeeze of fresh lime over all. My gosh. Reason alone not to take the slow cooker to Goodwill.

I've been so lucky with my recipes lately. I also made this blueberry custard pie. It was delicious, though a bit heavy on the streusel topping for my taste. Next time I make it I might even leave that off; it looked so gorgeous when I took it out of the oven to put the streusel on (you bake it for twenty minutes before to put the streusel on) I almost didn't add it. It kind of overpowered the more delicate custard and blueberry flavors, for me. But still, seriously not complaining, it was very good. And some of those blueberries came from our little bush.

I got a huge stack of young-adult library books for myself from our downtown library the other day. They have a ton of vintage books in the children's department. I actually had, like, a bit of an emotional moment back there. It's just trippy to see these actual copies of books I read as a kid in the 70s and 80s. They have tons of them! I've never thought too much about time travel before, but I think I just did it. . . .

I have so many library books checked out right now it's just silly. Meems and I have gone to a different branch every other week or so this summer. We've hit Belmont, Hollywood, Woodstock, NW 23rd, North Portland, and Central (downtown). Central is my favorite so far. Mimi's still a little too young — she prefers playing with the toys there, or pulling all of those plastic alphabet separator things off of the shelves, or just pulling books off the shelves and throwing them on the floor in general. Or pulling the special library tape off of the special library-book dust jackets. I've had to ask a couple of librarians to give her a little speech about not damaging the books and she takes that very seriously. When she forgets and starts to pull the tape off a cover at home I say, "Remember what The Lady said about not pulling off the covers of the library books?" And she gets this wide-eyed "oh yeah!" sort of look on her face, and stops, remembering what The Lady said. But she's also at the great age where we can now pretty much read any book and she will sit still and listen, and help finish sentences. (Isn't it incredible, what they remember?) We read five or six and sometimes up to nine or ten books a night. For a long time she would reject half of any new ones I introduced, preferring to read the same ones over and over. But now, at almost three, she's down with all of it, and my heart trills with joy. I could read all night.

Speaking of books, try Hemp Masters: Ancient Hippie Secrets for Knotting Hip Hemp Jewelry (I say this with a straight face) if you want to make a micro-macrame necklace like mine. I got it a few years ago and made myself a necklace then (here's a picture, no pattern). I wore it so much it broke (they eventually break). I've wanted another one ever since but just never around to it, even though I still had all of the hemp and beads and stuff. I used 42 feet of 10lb hemp cord (like this) and some small wooden and stone beads for one necklace. I pretty much looked at the book to learn how to do the knots but I couldn't seem to follow the patterns. So I just started going, figuring that when I got down to about 8.5" I would place my center bead, and then mirror what I had done (square knots, switch knots, pretzel knots, half knot sinnets — these are all in the book). I've done most of it at night while watching my favorite show, Ice Lake Rebels. I'm almost finished (probably tonight) and I'll add the lobster clasp (bites nails — a little nervous about finishing it off properly, stay tuned).

And, yeah, I'm also making a plastic needlepoint canvas log cabin for my daughter's third birthday. Because I cannot help myself.

Two and a Half

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Playing with Phyllis Mouse and a Calico Critters' cottage. Phyllis is wearing Juniper's boots. Amelia is exactly two and a half. I don't want to forget what this time is like. How she can take Phyllis out of her high chair and put her back in twenty times, and I'm fascinated. How she's starting to talk in pretend voices, especially the floaty, high, very sweet voice, with a lisp (that's not pretend), doing dialogue for her animals and objects, sometimes so softly I can't hear what she's saying. How she can keep herself occupied now for long stretches with the smallest of things, without needing anyone else's attention. How she loves her routines, and talks about the things she regularly does when she's not doing them (for instance, talking at length about going to the museum when she's taking a bath). How amazing her memory is, and her eye; encountering any new thing that reminds her of something she already knows makes her exclaim it with delight. How sweet she is, putting her animals to bed under pieces of Kleenex, with blocks for pillows, kissing their noses and saying, "Good night, I love you, sweet dreams." Oh, oh. I love you, girl. I love you so much.

I just finished a hilarious book: Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home by Nina Stibbe. My gosh. I laughed out loud while reading the dialogue so many times I lost track. So deadpan. No plot. Lots of swearing (be warned!). Totally prosaic details of everyday life. I loved it. Now reading The Swan Thieves, which my mom gave me for my birthday. I didn't read any of the reviews or blurbs or even the back cover (sometimes I just like to read from cover to cover without knowing even one word of the summary, so I have no expectations), so I can't really tell you about it yet, but I'm 165 pages in. It's a little dark, and a little slow, but I'm sticking with it. Have you read it? I do love nanny novels. I've read several: The Country Life (super weird, I loved it), The Diary of an American Au Pair (terrible title — apparently the original title was Do Try to Speak as We Do, which I think is waaaaay, better, personally; however, I loved this book and have read it several times), The Nanny Diaries (not so much, kind of depressing). Wait, what other nanny novels are there? I feel like I've read others I just can't remember. I love the genre.

Dearest Ginny and Grace are having a stitch-along for My Sweetiepie sampler! Please join them if you want to stitch along and post progress photos on Flickr and Instagram. I actually got a little teary-eyed last night when I read Ginny's post and the sweet comments, and then read some sweet emails I received after people started getting their kits in the mail. I can't even really explain why, just so many things. I always feel like crying after I put something new out there and someone says something nice about it. Thank you, ladies. You made my day, truly. Xoxo

Don't you just love this picture of Joni Mitchell at her house in Laurel Canyon (1970)?


"At night it was quiet except for cats and mockingbirds. It had a smell of eucalyptus, and in the spring, which was the rainy season then, a lot of wildflowers would spring up."
                                                                                                                                                    — J.M.

Photo (by Henry Diltz) from an article in last month's Vanity Fair, the only magazine I seem to read every month, my grocery-store guilty pleasure, along with Harry's chocolate pudding and already-cut-up cantaloupe. I've been dabbing the house with eucalyptus oil every other day now and listening to Blue.

One a Day

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Cooking, cooking. Once I started I just . . . kept going. For Midsummer Day we made the same breakfast we'd made for Father's Day (because that was good), and then I made a strawberry shortcake for dessert after dinner. I didn't split it in half the way the directions say to because I didn't have enough strawberries, so I just buttered the thing and piled the berries on. But this shortcake recipe is good, and I've had it so long I don't even know where I got it originally.


2 c. flour
2 T. sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. cold butter, cubed
1 beaten egg
2/3 c. half-and-half

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine the egg and half-and-half, and add all at once to the dry ingredients, stirring with fork just to moisten. Spread dough in a buttered 8" round cake pan, building up the edges a bit. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Remove from pan and cool slightly. Slice cake horizontally and spread butter on inside layer. Add sweetened strawberries and whipped cream.

Cooking: I have a plan, now. I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier, but suddenly I remembered my old friend: Apples for Jam. This cookbook . . . oh, I fell for it hard. I've fallen for all of the Tessa Kiros cookbooks that I have, actually, but this one, for me, turns out to have been the most cookable. This is the one that is full of family food; the one with the gorgeous, evocative photography of bowls of soup and children's playthings; the one with the sweet, memory-laden, slightly windy creative writing (well, they all have that, but this one is about kid stuff); the one that helped me become a mother before I became a mother. It feels familiar and friendly and also like the greatest privilege to be reading it now, making food as I do every day for my child, who is still, at this point at least, eating everything I serve to her  (until she is full and begins flinging it to the floor, and then hanging over the side of her high chair to watch the dog eat my fresh mozzarella . . . the meatballs that took me all afternoon . . . the fish that cost $8.99/lb., etc., while saying in her most I-am-adorable! voice, "Uuuuh-oh! Uh-oh Mommy!!! Uh-oh Mommy!!!" Pointing at the floor, dog licking franctically).

So Sunday I made the spaghetti and meatballs, and yesterday I made the fish parcels (with cod) and the lemon rice pudding with roasted (white) peaches, all from the book. It was all really good, though next time I'll use breadcrumbs and an egg in the meatballs (her recipe called for milk-soaked white bread, and I think that bread crumbs make more tender meatballs — I like them really soft and mushy, myself). Oh, and all of the brown sugar slid off my peaches and burned on the bottom of the pan, but oh well. Still lovely and fragrant (I used a vanilla bean and Meyer lemon and grated the nutmeg) good. I'm enjoying myself a lot, cooking, but wow, it is a LOT of work to cook this way with a one-year-old who no longer wants to sit still for any length of time. I'm trying to do as much as I can early in the day, or during naptime, but still, some things can't be done until dinnertime, and pre-dinnertime is still (and rather suddenly) proving to be kind of insane. I used to be able to have her in her high chair hanging out with me in the kitchen while I cooked, and lately she is not into it. She wants to — you know it! — go 'SIDE. AND NOW!

So, after yesterday I decided that I'm only cooking one thing a day, on these weekdays. Everything else must require nothing more than chopping up (cantaloupe, strawberries, steamed carrots, spinach, green salad, etc.) or come from the deli case at New Seasons (beet salad, caprese salad with those little mozzy balls, yum) in order for it to go on my table. I mean, that just makes sense anyway. I'm not sure why this is a Major Revelation but that just shows you how complicated I've been making everything.

Just as I got to the colorwork part of the light blue Fimma, I put it down. It suddenly felt too daunting in these evenings lazy, light-filled evenings. It's in hibernation. I started a pale pink Lottie cardigan, and I'm loving it. Easy-peasy and relaxing. Sometimes I think I should just forget anything that's not in garter stitch. When life gets a little hectic my GSB (Garter Stitch Barometer) alarms, and I must knit, robotlike, and then turn and knit again, and then turn and knit again (occasionally increasing at well-marked spots) and feel my breathing slow a bit. . . .

And two people — Erica, a long time ago, and recently Ms. Bibliosophy — suggested the Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy. Medieval Norway!!! I got the first book (The Wreath) and can't put it down. Thank you very much for the recommendation!

Oh, and by the way, I've been meaning to say this if I didn't before, I watched all of the Restoration Homes on YouTube through my television. There's a way to connect the devices through my TV; I'm really not even sure how to tell you to do it, honestly — the possibility just popped up on mine through TiVo, I think, and so I connected them. The picture quality is pretty bad but for some reason I didn't even care. And thank you also to those of you who have suggested things for further viewing, if possible (though we don't get to watch all of the shows, even on YouTube, here in the U.S.). I need to go back through your comments and check them out. If you feel like leaving a recommendation here (again) so they're all in one place, would you? Thank you!

Midsummer, already. She just turned twenty months old. A whirlwind of energy and emotion and curiosity and joy: Walking, running, yelling, laughing, crying, pointing, "talking," playing, freaking out, pulling it together, snoozing, cuddling, watering, hugging her animals so fiercely, staring at them lovingly and stroking their heads the way I do hers, kissing them throughout the day, or pressing her forehead to theirs and saying, "Mmmmmmmm." Lovable, kissable, squishable, sweet, dearest loving sweetest girl. I'm so proud of her.

P.S. By the way, all of the flowers on the table are from my wildflower cutting garden or my front yard. Very exciting for me!

Warm and Water

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She would prefer to stay outside at all times. Around four o'clock, the time between (hopefully) nap time and before dinner time, she's lately letting out a plaintive scream: "'SIDE?!?!?!?!?!" and pointing toward either the front door or back door while scrambling to find some shoes/frantically signing "shoes"/jamming shoes on her [wrong] feet. "'SIDE?!?!?! 'SIDE?!?!?!?!" Oh my lord. This is after being outside for most of the day. The desperation and hysteria that follows if 'side is not an option at that moment is profound. The girl loves to be outside. With a bucket of water, a little pan of water, and sticks, stones, and fancy water cups she makes stone soup, and it is sweet.

I'm making stone soup too, just about. At night I've been watching cooking shows (I finished all of the Restoration Homes and I swear I have post-partum. I love that show so much. That is an awesome show.) Cooking shows are my go-to relaxing shows, and I'm trying to get some cooking inspiration. For something other than ice cream and salad rolls. My cooking of real food, for Andy and me at least, is a total fail lately. Amelia is so easy: tons and tons of fresh fruit and steamed vegetables, occasionally cheese, turkey, chicken, beans, tofu. I feel bored with everything I've made before and I'm not even sure what I want to do.

One thing I do want to do is switch out my plain white dishes for thrifted calico dishes. I seem to have inherited my dad's penchant for getting new dishes once a year. I hadn't been to Goodwill in ages but we went this week and it was so much fun. My little collection of dishes and candlesticks and that sweet little stripey dress came from my local GW the other day. I've missed Goodwill. I'm obsessed with the photo of that kitchen (from the book English Decoration: Timeless Inspiration for the Country Home which I just treated myself to recently). Maybe if I make my kitchen a little cuter, and thrift some fancier plates, I'll get my cooking mojo back. It's been gone for so long!

I just heard Andy talking to Amelia while getting her dressed. "And now we're going to pick out something to wear from the drawer. Most likely it will be what's on top." I busted out laughing. So that's how he does it!

Speaking of clothes, I made a skirt out of a pretty purply brown calico. I used the 'Tis the Season skirt in the book Sew What? Skirts: Sixteen Simple Styles You Can Make with Fabulous Fabrics. This book teaches you how to take your own measurements and draft patterns for several different kinds of skirts. The one I made is a full circle skirt on an attached waistband with a side zipper and button. It was super easy (though it takes quite a bit of fabric), but the calculation for the waist cut on the skirt didn't come out correct for me at all. The skirt was way too big for the waistband. It wasn't a big deal to fix, but next time I'm going to be really careful about calculating that (I would take the exact waistband measurement [minus the seam allowances and button overlap], use that as the circumference of the top part of the skirt, calculate for the radius, draw that line on the folded fabric from the top corner, then cut 1/2" inside that line. This won't make sense unless you make the skirt, I wouldn't think. But it should work). Anyway, the finished skirt came out exactly as I wanted it to, and is a total joy to wear — very swishy and comfortable. More to come.

Oh, and thank you for all of your recommendations on hoses! I read through all of your comments before deciding what to do and wouldn't you know it, I decided to try the X-hose after all. So far is has been awesome (though I've only had it a couple of weeks, and it rained for one of them). I detach it after I use it and coil it up in a basket on the porch. It's so small and light that that is completely possible, and about fifty times easier than wrestling the maddening coil of filthy tubing onto its screeching wheel. So far the fittings have worked perfectly and have not leaked, but I have my eagle-eye out for the smallest spout (not that I'll know what to do about it if it does leak, since it's made of weird fabric, etc.). It seemed worth it to try this, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. And I must remember to take pictures of the flowers in the raised beds. They worked — I have wildflowers! — and they are darling.

The Sweet

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Oh, the luminous, exquisite loveliness of early March. I tried to capture the riotous beauty of our plum tree day by day as she blossomed, her lacy boughs like garlands against the storm-dark skies. Amelia walks around the house in pink ballet slippers (which I've decided must be the best baby shoes ever, as they're the only thing she's never taken, or wanted taken, off her feet). She carries a model horse in each hand. Back and forth, around the table, to the toys, to the door, to the sofa, to the chair, back and forth. It was the sixteenth anniversary of my accident last week, a day which can alternately feel like it was a thousand years ago and then, occasionally, and only for a few seconds, like it was just yesterday. I remember looking up at the sky out the back windows of the ambulance. I remember the trees as we went up the hill. Amelia stops and kisses the little black horse squarely on its baby-mouth-sized nose and makes her humming-kissing noise, holding it out toward me. I try not to explode with secret joy, a charging froth of pink plum petals shooting straight out of my heart. God, how lucky I am. Thank you, thank you. Thank you, God.

Spring does seem to have truly arrived this week. I spent yesterday morning looking at photos of the gardens of Piet Oudolf and dreaming of new borders for our front yard, inspired by his enchanting meadows. It's time to clean up. Our yard is a swampy disaster. I do rush to the clean up because so much is blooming — it's just buried under piles of dead leaves. My 'Minnow' daffodils and my pink woodland violets. My one little hellebore and a carpet of blue vinca. We walk through the neighborhood and look at everyone's parkways. Things are a mess all over, really, though every once in a while we'll come across someone who has already laid a new carpet of compost and mulch, and I love that earthy, strangely medicinal smell. This is my favorite season, this long, chilly, wistful, anxious, shyly budding month of awakening and hope. At night we keep the bedroom window open and can hear train whistles calling off in the distance, and birds waking and singing at the same time as Amelia. In the big bed she stands and pulls on the shade, falling over and pointing, "Buuurdy?" Eyes bright, inquiring. "Tweet, tweet," I say, pushing her hair out of her face. "He's singing to you."

My to-do list is a million miles long. All I really want to do is build block towers, watch movies, sew hexagons together, and plan perennial borders and future rail vacations to Glacier National Park. But: taxes, patterns, logos, floss winding, bill paying, paperwork, blah. I've really been procrastinating lately. Spring forward. I gotta do that!!!

About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




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.