Posts filed in: Events and Holidays

Big Birthday Girl

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My baby is ten years old. I know. I can't, either. I just cannot believe it. My big, beautiful girl is ten. She had such an amazing birthday weekend. Andy's parents flew in from Chicago for the first time in three years. It was pure joy having them here after so long. One of Andy's family's traditions is to wake-up the birthday child (or adult!) in the early, early morning with a rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" and a plateful of lit candles for them to blow out, so we always do that here. It's super sweet. By some awesome stroke of luck, Amelia didn't have school on her birthday, and her grandparents had arrived the day before, so she got to spend the whole day with them and my mom, who we met at the food carts for lunch. The weather was bright and sunny all weekend and we had so much fun hanging out. Amelia decorated her own cake on Friday afternoon and I made chicken paprika and dumplings for her for dinner. (I make it in the Instant Pot so I need to rewrite that recipe.) On Saturday we all sat around and played with the things she had gotten for her birthday, and then on Sunday afternoon she had her friend-party at the roller-skating rink. That was absolutely wonderful. Her friends all came and skated for an hour or so and then they were all able to have pizza, juice, soda, cotton candy, and cupcakes (!!! I know!) in the cafe. They all did so well on skates I couldn't believe it. I mean, don't get me wrong, there was a whole lot of wiping out and a few tears, but overall they were all smiles and I think everyone (Andy and another dad skated with them, but most of the kids did pretty well on their own) had a blast. It was just a great day, and a great weekend. We dropped Andy's parents off at the airport yesterday morning and they made it home safe and sound. We all slept well last night. I am so proud of Amelia. It was a long, busy, wonderful weekend, and we will still be trying to hook up with more family and birthfamily in the coming days, but this girl is a partier!

Did you see the crocheted bonsai tree that Andy made for Amelia? Amazing. He's been working on it for weeks. (Here is the pattern he used.) He has crocheted something for her for her birthday every year since she's been born. I made her a bowl in my ceramics class. She's so cute opening her presents. I always forget this, especially on Christmas, but Amelia is a very slow present opener. She does not tear through her gifts to get onto the next one. She is very slow and deliberate about them, and generally looks carefully at everything. It's very, very sweet.

I just can't believe she's ten years old. I'm overwhelmed with love and so grateful for the miracle of her life. I'm just so, so grateful to be her mama. My sweet, amazing, darling girl. You have been pure joy since the moment you entered the world. I love you so.

We and the Trees

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Ugh, this last one would've made such a cute Christmas card! Alas, in an uncharacteristic burst of organization and wherewithal, I've already had mine printed. But they're not as "Amelia" as this photo. This photo is just so her.

T H A N K   Y O U   G U YSSSS! Thank you so much for the orders. XOXOXO I appreciate them so much. Every order that came in before 10 a.m. yesterday morning has now been shipped. Because of all of the reissues we worked on this year we still have tons of stuff in the shop for Christmas and for the new year, and that makes me so happy. Usually we end the year with absolutely nothing. I have a few new design ideas brewing, including that nursery-rhyme design (that I did a few years ago and never stitched — or rather, I tried to stitch it but I was making so many major mistakes I literally gave up) that I want to get into a shape to release. Not sure if it will be a kit or just a pattern. I also want to do some hand-embroidery patterns for you to frame in little grapevine wreaths (we'll probably make a kit for it that doesn't include the wreaths, but you can get those easily at any craft store these days — it's really hard to get large quantities of stuff like this in a timely way these days, and it would probably go sideways if I tried). I'm also going to think about whether we want to start packaging our soap in little boxes so that they can be shipped in eco-envelopes instead of boxes. That was the trickiest thing about selling soap and embroidery kits together and gave me complete fits when shipping: Soap wants to go in a box so that it doesn't get smashed, kits obviously can be shipped for much less cost in envelopes. If we boxed the soap itself, we could put it in envelopes with the kits. I don't know. Still thinking about whether we even want to make soap to sell. Andy wants to! 

Anyway! Here we are with a lot of trees. We went to the Christmas-tree farm and to the woods. We've had some really nice weather, actually, and it makes hiking really nice. That said, I won't lie, I'm getting sick of going to the woods. Amelia gets her second vaccine tomorrow and then I think life will open up for us a bit more. Planning Christmas stuff outside is a little tricky. There are some things to do outside that we do like to do every year, including seeing the lights at The Grotto and going to Zoo Lights at the zoo, but now you have to have reservations and buy your tickets ahead of time — and what if it's pouring? Or freezing? Or like, no one (probably me) feels like going that night? Agh. I'm really not good at planning stuff in advance, I have to admit. As soon as I have something on the books I feel anxious, especially if I've spent money on it. Maybe this is an introvert thing! Anyway, I find it hard to commit to outdoor stuff at night in the middle of winter. What can I say.

Clover Meadow had two teeth pulled on Tuesday without incident and Agatha Kitters was spayed the Tuesday before that. She gets her silly cone off TOMORROW (she won't believe how happy she'll be) and we all rejoice that our pets are alive and well and good lord, December is an expensive month. . . . Agatha's personality seems to have completely changed, and she has become either freezing or incredibly sweet, as all she wants to do now is snuggle with someone. I was just upstairs brushing my hair and she was meowing and meowing at me and I swear she was telling me to get back into bed. She likes to be completely under my legs under all of the covers and blankets. She would stay there all day. I would, too, if only. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Amelia has made me her Christmas list and it is filled with such sweet, homely things I had to swallow hard when I saw it. A new sweatshirt. A velvet jacket (red or blue or pink or cyan). "Carmal" candy. Oh how I love her! Next week is the last week of school before break and I am ready for it. School's going really well but it's a lot, and I . . . just want to bake cookies and make ornaments and watch movies and reflect and recharge and quit the hustle of trying to keep her on task a lot of the time. Online school has been an awesome experience so far, for the most part. It’s actually kind of a combination Zoom-with-the-teacher-and-classmates and then independently doing computer modules, which, surprisingly, Amelia loves — but I mean, our lives at home pretty much revolve entirely around school. Within the first few days of school this year she made it clear she intended to navigate it all all by herself, for better or worse, and Andy and I actually have very little to do with teaching the actual content of her assignments other than making sure she is staying on track with the work every day. That she wanted to do everything herself really surprised us — this was not at all how things were last year — but we have totally supported it, and her independence and self-direction has been an unexpected and delightful consequence. And she needed that! We had definitely gotten into a pattern of Andy and I providing any and all direction and that never was what I wanted for her. The teacher is awesome. The new curriculum is pretty challenging. She gets a bit tangled up in language arts for sure but it’s seriously beyond. At our conference, the teacher told us that he and the other third-grade teacher think the language-arts curriculum is at more of a sixth-grade level, and I believe that — they're already trying to write opinion essays with a hook, a controlling idea, three paragraphs for supporting details, and a conclusion, and it's like, whoa, I swear she was literally just learning to read, let alone write! I think it's a bit too much. My neighbor, who is an elementary school librarian, told me at the beginning of the year that in first and second grade they “learn to read.” And in third they “read to learn.” That was really helpful to me, just to understand, yes, there’s a leap in third. It’s still been a big leap but she is so far very game, so we obviously protect that. Anyway, school things sort of fell apart for us last year at this time, so I am watchful. But I mean, wow, so far, so very good, and I am just so proud of my girl.

I have literally no idea what to cook anymore. No idea. I'm so over it. I make chicken verde in the Instant Pot every week, and I've developed an addiction to this not-diet-friendly but delicious version of bang-bang shrimp, and I guess I regularly make my childhood favorite, "pizza spaghetti": Cook a pound of spaghetti, mix it with 2 cups of milk and 4 eggs, dump it in a 9"x13" baking dish, top with Ragu spaghetti sauce (my mother only ever used Ragu in this and that’s what I use, too, or it doesn’t taste like childhood) and shredded Mozzarella and bake at 350F until custard is formed and top is golden and bubbling; I think it's probably 30 minutes.  But otherwise, I got nuthin. Please advise.

*** I hated Madam and didn’t finish it and do not recommend. I tried to watch Only Foals and Horses on either BritBox or Acorn but it was too intense so I went back to Gardener’s World and Escape to the Country. I want to plant all wildflowers in my raised beds this year and once again will try to keep them alive. Dang, that location is rough. I watched The Biggest Little Farm. I am knitting the Sirius sweater in Nature Spun sport and the color scheme I’m copying is way out of my usual wardrobe palette and didn’t really come out how I wanted, but hopefully I will like it.

***Darling nine-year-old Hannah suggested adding something for Hanukkah to Winter Rabbit so I made this Hunukkiah that you can substitute for the Christmas tree on the hill, or add elsewhere. Thank you, Hannah!!!

Hunukkiah

Make It More Mellow

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Gosh, the light has been so harsh lately. Every time we go out it feels like blazing sun in a cloudless sky, or in a sky where the clouds are of zero consequence, and it's harsh. It hurts my eyes. Last weekend it was, like, 86 degrees or something and I am so over it. I'm ready for things to be a bit more mellow. We are staying home today, and I am glad. In fact, right now I'm up in bed in my nightgown with a second cup of coffee, laptop on top of the comforter, light just starting to come through the windows. I'd like to stay here all day and knit, and drink hot things, and watch TV, and do no chores. Amelia's birthday is coming up in a few days and it will be a busy week, so I'd best recharge. I don't feel ready.

Thank you SO much for all of the orders last week and beyond. I am eternally grateful for every single one of you. Orders come in a bit differently than they used to — the trajectory of orders is lower but longer. We get fewer orders than we used to but there are still over two hundred. I try to ship as fast as I possibly can while sharing the office with Amelia. I make so much noise in there that I have to do it when she's not in school. The office is getting heavily used! Haha.  Actually, every single part is in heavy rotation. We're definitely getting our mortgage-payment's-worth out of this little house lately.

Many trips to the post office later, I have cleaned up the offices and have designed the last (winter) design in 2021's cross-stitch series. Do you want to see the digital? I never know if people want to see that before the finished, stitched photo. And sometimes I think, in my spare time I should be one of those designers that launches PDF patterns based on digital pattern covers; there's a way to export cross-stitch patterns so that they look like they are made of "virtual" stitches. It's not as fun or as pretty but I would have more designs that way. I have more ideas than I have time to stitch. I don't know. Just a thought. I still need to work on my wholesale pattern efforts, which was my New Year's resolution in January of 2020. That got stalled out because of pandemic, but it's still on the list.

Andy's been home on vacation for the past week, mostly to have oral surgery last Tuesday. We spent most of the day on Thursday at the vet with Clover Meadow, who is now fourteen and is probably battling some dental issues herself. Our vet's office says they have lost six or seven of their vets over the past year. I don't know if you've experienced this where you live but it is practically impossible to get a vet appointment that isn't four-to-five weeks out. We had to go way out to the suburbs and wait in the parking lot of a different walk-in emergency vet for two hours to get seen on Thursday. Clover still isn't exactly right and probably needs to have general anesthesia for some dental investigation. It's really hard with dogs this old. Aging has been pretty hard on her. It's tough. I can't seem to talk about it! Urgh. Hurts my heart.

Now, can you believe this, but I'm done with almost all of my Christmas shopping. I was getting up at 3 and 4 a.m. recently and decided to do something productive with my time instead of surfing Pinterest in the dark. So I just did it. I did it all. On my iPad. That's a first. My friend had texted just the night before that she was done herself and I was inspired. I also bought myself five new books to read in the hot tub. I can't remember what all of them are. Mysteries. I also bought Amelia what I thought was a pretty cute birthday present — I got her a new apron, new cookie cutters, fluorescent food coloring, her own icing tips, and a few new bottles of fancy sprinkles. Do you remember when Sears used to have a WishBook catalog that came out every fall? Oh gosh how I loved that thing! I would spend hours as a kid just paging through it and marking things I wanted. I really wish they still had something like that. They have an American Girl doll catalog, and Amelia does love those. But there's just something about the WishBook. Like, I think it must have had every single toy in it. And do any of you Chicagoans remember Service Merchandise? Oh I loved that place! I used to go there with my dad. Wasn't there a conveyor belt or something? I don't even remember how it worked! I just remember that I adored it. I remember one time my parents left us at home with a babysitter and went shopping together and brought home a White Stag sweater dress for me, with a zipper neck. It wasn't from Service Merchandise but I swear I think it was from Madigan's (that was another old Chicago department store that I used to love). Ahhh, sigh. I was just telling Andy yesterday that I really miss going to Amling's for Halloween, too. Does Amling's still have a carnival and caramel apples and pumpkins in the parking lot and stuff like that? Aww, I'm getting so old and nostalgic. When I look at the pictures above, I think, These will be Amelia's memories of getting pumpkins for Halloween in childhood at Dolan Creek Farm. . . . Nicest people ever, and every single member of their family came and found us on the property yesterday and said hello to us, remembering us from last spring when we stayed the weekend there for Andy's birthday.

I bought a cute cereal bowl with a flower design on the rim on eBay the other day, and when it gets here I'm going to make soup and take a picture of it in that bowl. OH! And I found the old poetry books I was talking about in my last post and I will show you those, too. They are so cool. I meant to do that. I'd best press "publish" on this now, though, and get on with the day. Of relative leisure. I hope you are all well and wish you a peaceful weekend. Xox.

(Riverside pictures above from Milwaukie riverfront, not Dolan Creek Farm.)

Edited to add: More from the western suburbs of Chicagoland memory tour: Kiddieland! Come Back Inn! Russell's BBQ! (And obviously Marshall Field's and Weiboldt's.)

Love and Joy Come to You

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

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

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

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

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

Love always,

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

Into the Woods

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Helloooooooo out there! Hiiii. How are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eight is Great

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We went walking at the Sandy River Delta last weekend and it was so perfect and flat and gorgeous and quiet and beautiful that when I came off Thousand Acres Road and turned into the meadow I just broke down and started to weep. I couldn't take it. Andy stood there with me while I cried. It was so perfect and the world is so hard and I never wanted to leave. I hope to soon be back.

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Our glorious daughter turned eight years old yesterday. The three of us went up to the woods at the end of our street and sat on the hill and ate Burgerville burgers and fries (her choice). She called chickadees with her bird stuffed animal (that sings; it's from Audubon) and they actually answered (it was amazing). She played for over an hour among the fallen logs and lichen patches with her many new LOL dolls, quietly talking in all of the voices of all of her dolls. She had Zoom calls with her family and opened all of her sweet presents and had chicken paprika (also her choice) for dinner. Last night before she went up to bed she said it was the best birthday ever. I'm so proud of my girl and I just love her so so so very much.

P.S. Thank you for every single Things of Autumn kit orders! They are now sold out, but we are planning to make 100 each of many of my older kits, including this one, over the next several months so stay tuned if you are interested. XO

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to You!

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Oh, HELLO!!! Hi! Happy New Year, dear friends! I am home alone in the house here for the first time in many weeks. I'm in my office and have my hot tea and my fake fireplace on. Clover Meadow is in her office basket here with me and Bridget is in Clover Meadow's living-room bed (a recent development that leaves Clover bewildered and the rest of us sheepishly on edge — but Bridget gets what Bridget wants. Apparently she's the alpha in the entire family). Outside the sky is flat and gray and chilly. Inside I've been tidying — oh the post-holiday endless tidying! I have a new box of thank-you notes that need to be written. I have a new stack of my own books I need to find a place for. I have a small mountain of tiny toys to put away. But the tree is down and the Christmas decorations have been put away (we left the general "winter" decorations out) and the piles are dispersed. Mimi is back to school and Andy is back to work and I should be getting back to work, and I will. But today I am missing them, as I always do after everyone's been home for a while. I think I would like some peace and quiet but as soon as I get it I'm at a loss, and missing the chaos of their warm, loud, messy, darling presences so fiercely it stuns me slow.

Christmas was really nice this year, just lazy and simple and filled with family and fun and lovely gifts and lots of hanging out here. Aunt Susie slept over on New Year's Eve. We blew up Amelia's air mattress and dressed it with flannel sheets and quilts and pillows and she made a nest for herself in the middle of the living room, and stayed up until 11 p.m. that night, long after Andy got home at 9 (and I went upstairs to bed). She spent the night in the living room with Aunt Susie on the sofa and in the morning Andy was back up at 5 a.m. for work and I luxuriated until late morning, listening to my sister and my daughter playing together downstairs. No one needed anything from me so I shuffled down for coffee and then shuffled back up to spend four hours shopping for mini-embroidery supplies on my iPad. Ahhhh, pure bliss of idleness! Much of vacation was like this, in fact. The house was fuzzy and soft, meals and mealtimes were fluid and ridiculous, made of cookies and salad rolls and delivered chicken makhani and delivered chicken makhani again. An endless loop of movies featuring impossibly quaint small-towns, vaguely dissatisfied orphaned corporate executives, and gingerbread-house-building competitions (or episodes of Nature Cat) played tirelessly in the background. A gazillion Perler beads turned into ornaments. Every game and puzzle in the game-and-puzzle cabinet got played or made or was given away. Every new colored pencil, crayon, and bottle of paint got used and spilled. It was glorious, lazy, lingering fun, and for the first time, on the Sunday before school was scheduled to start again, I was sad that it was over. Age seven is basically EXCELLENT.

Amelia got her wild hair cut just after new year, and this was a long time coming as it had really turned into a crazy, vaguely felted sort of cloud around her head. Two big snarls in the back that I would diligently try to untangle — literally pulling hair strand by strand out of the nest — just kept coming back. It was nuts, and a source of howls. She couldn't brush or comb it herself and she wouldn't let me brush or comb it for her. So she decided she was ready to have it cut above her shoulders, and so it is. A cute little bob and bangs. I'm not crazy about the bangs, myself, but she wanted them again and they do look cute on her. I do miss the wild-child tangle, as the haircut aged and matured her in an instant, and it's funny how haircuts do that, isn't it?

My goals for 2020 are to be more organized both for upcoming Posie projects and for meal planning. I basically do neither of these, ever, in any real or dedicated sort of way. I don't make lists and I don't write anything down and I have no calendar beyond the Portland Public School lunch menu, and this is not Grown Up. I would also like to be more organized about my personal knitting and crafting projects, as these are important to me and I have a lot of ideas for things that sort of get lost in the shuffle. Since my office is all nice and fancy now I would like to figure out how to do a little more forward thinking about my schedule, and my plan for the year, especially when it comes to timing Posie projects so that we are not is a mad scramble to get something seasonal out the door. That is one of my least favorite states of being, so I am going to work on that.

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It was my birthday yesterday! I'm really old now!!!

At Christmastime

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Oh, December! You are filled with some of the loveliest things. Cold, clear mornings and steaming, spicy drinks. Children bonkers with excitement over the slightest things, the picture of a mouse behind an advent-calendar window, a two-cent candy cane, another tiny ornament for the tree. School sing-alongs and the smell of soup for lunch in the morning hallways. While she's at school, I scurry: writing Christmas cards, baking cookies, starting and finishing a comforter for her, shipping orders as fast as I can so I can get to wrapping the gifts that must be shipped. There's a constant back and forth to the post office. I knit and stitch through the chilly nights, surrounded by aging animals and waiting for my love to get home from work. He comes in with groceries and a blast of cold air and his good cheer, warming the room.

We went to Oregon Ballet Theater's Nutcracker on Saturday afternoon, and it was just pure delight, as always. (The photo of the Waltz of the Snowflakes is by Blaine Truitt Covert, and I always include it here because they don't allow you to take pictures, but I don't want to forget this. It's my favorite part.) Amelia made it all the way through (it's looooong, isn't it?) and snuggled on my lap in the dark auditorium for the last half of the second act. Afterward we went to The Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner, which felt festive and fun and sits beguilingly right on the river in one of the best spots-with-a-view in town. Boats decorated with lights floated down the river beyond the windows. A balloon guy came over and made her a balloon rainbow, and we all ate sherbert and spumoni for dessert. It was a wonderful day. This morning I was lying in bed and Amelia brought me a tiny cup of what looked like four or five crushed up Cap'n Crunches. "Huh," I said. "Thanks, I think?" "It's a special present," she said. "My nutcracker crushed them for you!" Right on.

Thank you so much for all of your pattern orders!!! I'm rounding third on all my little chores, ready to be done with the to-do list. Today Andy is home, and is already doing the school run, and will do the pick-up, too. My freedom is strange and luscious. I hardly know where to start! I'm trying to tie Amelia's comforter while she's at school — this thing so far is still a surprise, and I keep it hidden when she is home, as much as I wan to be working on it because it's taking forever to tie. My fingers are so sore. (I'm using a big fat doll needle to tie it with perle cotton, and I recommend using a very big needle for this.) We are one week from Christmas, and it really does feel like a slow but steady slide, right into the heart of the season. I recorded The Sound of Music the other night and played the Do-Re-Mi scene for Amelia (it always chokes me up, right when Julie Andrews comes swinging through that sunny green bower and the music swells, oh man!). We sang it together for the rest of the night.

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I made these cookies and I thought you might like them. For me they are the perfect Christmas cookie — chocolaty, salty, buttery, and minty. And just the right amount of sweet. They don't keep very long, so eat them up.

Chocolate Buttercream Mints

Cookies (adapted from Hershey's Chewy Chocolate Cookie recipe, which I have a handwritten copy of from twenty years ago but can't find on their web site anymore):

1 cup salted, softened butter
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar in large bowl. Add eggs and vanilla and blend well. In separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Blend flour mixture into creamed mixture. Drop by teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350° for 8 minutes (Do not over bake. Cookies will be soft. They will puff during baking, flatten upon cooling.) Cool on cookie sheet until set, about 1 minute. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Frosting:

1 cup salted butter
4-5 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
Pink food coloring
Crushed candy canes

Cream butter in large bowl. Add powdered sugar gradually and blend very well. Add milk, peppermint extract and blend again. Tint half of the frosting with pink. Spoon frosting into a pastry bag, keeping each color to one half the bag. Use a star tip and blob some frosting onto each cooled cookie. Top with a small amount of crushed candy canes.

 

Wishing every one of you a most lovely, loving, peaceful week as we lead up to Christmas! XOX, A

Night of Magic

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

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

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

And Still Partying!

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Oh, guys! Birthday stamina! This kid has it, I tell you. Happy birthday to you, my sweet, sassy, spectacular seven-year-old darling girl. Your birthday was really beautiful. And I'm sure you're actually relieved to be back at school today, eating lunch with your friends and working on reading and going to P.E. :))) Andy's parents so graciously came from Chicago, and Amelia's birthfamily and my family were all here, as well. It was a blast. I'm so grateful for all the love and family and friends and neighbors that surround us. And now it's time to clean the house!!!

Fall is here in earnest. The trees are perfect right now — red and yellow and russet and gold — and yet our weather promises to be horrible this weekend. Thunderstorms and constant rain, so plans for pumpkin-patching might have to be scrapped. Boo. We'll see. I've been in my office all afternoon and the silvery light in here is so pretty. (By the way, I got this pretty window film for my skylights and I can't tell you how much I love it. I don't really see it, because I'd have to look up a whole lot to do that, but it has dramatically softened the light coming through the skylights in here and I am much happier.) I just reorganized all of the supplies that have come in in the past few weeks for Dovegray Dolls and pinafore kits and we now have everything in. I wound 82 skeins of blond wool yesterday, so all is on track and I am thrilled to be digging into this project full-time now that birthday stuff is behind us. I'm also working on turning some of my doll knitting patterns (forthcoming) into kid-sweater patterns so you can dress your kid like their doll, because of course you know you want to do that!!!

More on that soon.

By the way, her party dress was so much fun to make. It was a LOT of dress. It was almost like a square-dancing dress. She wanted me to take in the arms — they were really full, and she wasn't wrong about that. It's Simplicity pattern #5396 from 1981 and the fabric was vintage Peter Pan calico. (Here is my Instagram close-up of the pattern drawing and fabric.) I miss sewing a lot for Amelia and I have plans to make her a new comforter for Christmas, probably with my Calicozy pattern. I saved out all of my favorite calicos from the kits I used to do for these and have been waiting to find time to sew this. She is totally ready for the twin size now (has been for a while!).

P.S. Just noticed my body-text font looks super tiny? Not sure what that's about but am looking into it. Does it look weird to you? 'Kay, should be solved now. Refresh browser or clear cache and it should be back to normal? Thank you for your patience! Typepad comes through again! (Apparently I suddenly needed a piece of code on my style sheet.)

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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