Posts filed in: Events and Holidays

Love Days

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87DBD436-6092-4B18-B42C-C327F8CDBFD6Sweet Mimi at her Valentine's Day store, 6:00 a.m.

I was going to have all of my Secret Garden things ready to go this week but I'm not quite finished getting the web pages up. I forgot about Valentine's Day, and President's Day on Monday, so I will probably have everything ready by Tuesday and will post links then. There's no need to scramble — this is not a sell-out kind of thing. We will literally take every single order we can get; if you're willing to wait for us to pull everything together, we will make as many of everything as you will want. It will just take some time. Hoops and candle jars are on back-order at the manufacturer, and I'm waiting to place some orders for supplies until after I see how many orders we will get, so I that I try to hit these numbers properly. I honestly never know with new stuff like this — will we get five orders or fifty orders or five hundred? It stresses me out to try to guess. It's too risky to get things wrong. So we'll take orders starting Tuesday and I'll give you more of an accurate expected shipping time when we know how many of everything we need to make. I'm pretty sure that things will start rolling out sometime toward the end of April, and first orders will go out first. Soap takes six weeks to cure. We have about a hundred bars curing right now but, as I said, not sure what the numbers will look like, so stay tuned.

I both very much enjoy and utterly dread the excitement of doing new things. I can't explain the particular emotion. It's complicated.

We had snooooooooooow! It was lovely. So lovely. It was short. We got a few short-lived inches, and those were supposed to be followed by a major snowpocalypse last week, and instead we got literally nothing. Seattle got it all. Well, that's not true — certain neighborhoods around town got dumped on, and certain neighborhoods got absolutely nothing. Mother Nature cherry-picked her locations this time. It was okay. We really enjoyed what we had, and Andy was even home for second day we had snow. He had to work on the first day of snow, a Friday, when school was cancelled and Mimi lost a tooth and she and I walked up to the park and hung out with some old friends. Later we walked up to the cafe for breakfast. The sun was shining and there was no wind and it was just excellent. I miss walking around so much. Now that Amelia is not in a stroller I feel like we just do not do it very much anymore. I miss those walking days, as much as they hurt my foot. I miss being right up close to the seasons like that, noticing peoples' curtains and the things in their yards and the new growth, especially at this time of year. I miss having a baby in the stroller bundled in her blanket, sleeping or drinking her milk, strapped in and not needing anything, me just walking and thinking and talking quietly to her if she was awake. It's nice walking together now, too, but it's different. It's much more active than passive. Pushing a stroller is almost like taking a waking nap. You just keep rolllllling along.

But anyway, we enjoyed the snow, I thought about time, I thought about the snow days of my childhood, how my friend Monica and I spent countless freezing, white-cold weekends at Keystone Park in River Forest, walking under the viaduct with our ice skates over our shoulders, long underwear on under our jeans, a thermos of Swiss Miss hot cocoa to drink in the warming room at mid-day. Everything was white — ground, sky, breath. It was freezing. Every winter they flooded the park and made a big ice skating rink. It was not a destination; it was just our little neighborhood park and grassy ice rink. We shoveled snow off the ice and into big banks of snow around the sides. Bigger boys played hockey. We held hands and practiced going backwards. I honestly don't remember any parents ever there. I know for sure that mine never went. It was the '70s. We walked there on our own and we skated together all day. We did this year after year, Monica and I. Our other friend, Linda, was a skating girl. She took ice-skating lessons at a real skating rink, getting up at five in the morning, every morning, to skate before school. Her mom, who was one of my absolute favorite moms, took her. She skated in competitions. When I went to her ice-skating birthday party at Ridgeland Commons, I was the one who fell down and bit through my lip, getting blood all over the ice and making a scene. I drew a picture of Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, like a big, giant picture of them skating, and I worked on it for a long time. At the end of a skating day, Monica and I would walk back down Hawthorn in the blue snowlight of the winter evening with the huge bare oak trees overhead, fingertips freezing, noses running, ankles aching, perfectly spent. You'd stand at the sink and run warm water over your frozen hands for ten minutes when you got home. I haven't been cold like that in years. 

Weekend Away

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Aw, helloooooooo out there. I feel like it's been so, so long since I've had time to be here. The holidays are so busy. New Year's always stresses me out. It was my birthday a couple of days ago. My brother-in-law's is today. My mom's is tomorrow. My sister-in-law's is the same day as mine. My other sister-in-law's is in a few days. It just goes onnnnnnnnnnnnnnn and on! Andy, Amelia, and I went to Skamania Lodge in the Columbia River Gorge for the weekend. It was really, really nice. It's about an hour east of Portland. We got there on Saturday afternoon and left Tuesday morning. It's a nice place. We splurged on a fancy suite with a fireplace. There isn't a whole lot to do there at this time of year — we took a hike on Sunday and it poured cold rain the entire time. But it was nice. We spent hours and hours in the pool and hot tubs both Sunday and Monday. I think my favorite time was floating around in the outdoor hot tub on Sunday when it was cloudy and rainy and foggy and freezing. It felt like we were in some medieval hot spring. We had it all to ourselves on Monday, literally. We were the only people in the pool all day. It was so weird to just have so much time to do nothing. I clutched a big rubber ball and just floated around aimlessly. Paddled here and there. I thought about my life and the new year and the new decade for me, thought about all the things I am happy about and all of the things I want to change about myself, all the things that worry me, all the things I want to accomplish this year. I never think this way at length but I was thinking this way in the pool. I was making lists in my head. I have so many ideas and things I want to do.

At night, we always turned in early. Andy was fighting a cold. We watched Nickelodeon shows that we never watch and it was a blast. All these kid sit-coms. I laughed out loud at every single one. Mimi stayed up late. We snuggled in the bed. The wind howled outside. It's very windy there and the wind whistled in the fireplace and against the windows. On Tuesday morning, the morning we were to leave, it was basically starting to rain ice and I couldn't see across the river we were in such a cloud . I flipped out and hustled everyone into the car because the weather report seemed to indicate things might get worse. I really did not want to get stuck out there. And honestly, I was ready to get back to regular life. Turns out that right where we were at the lodge was the worst — the road was fine. But I was still ready to go home. We drove back through the gorge through the rain and the pines, listening to Woody Guthrie singing about the Columbia River. Amelia had learned the song at school and we sing it around the house often now. When I asked her if the river was what she expected, she said no: She said she thought it would be "rolling," and made big circles with her hand. It was so adorable. Roll on, Columbia, roll on. When we got home, we found this gorgeous cake that my sister, who had been house- and pet-sitting for us, made for me. I squawked with delight. What a treat. Andy and Mimi went to the grocery store and bought stuff to make individual lasagnas and they spent the afternoon making them. We had such a nice dinner, and such a nice weekend. I feel just beyond blessed in so many ways. Andy and Amelia are literally two of the nicest, sweetest people I have ever met in my life. I love them so much.

Today it's been back to school and work for all of us. When I got home after drop-off, I realized I hadn't been alone in the house for weeks. It was quiet and clean. Luckily I had done a lot of cleaning before I left, and we'd put all our Christmas decorations away. Everything was nice. The studio and office are not nice because we're in the process of reorganizing them. But everything else was nice. I felt my shoulders dropping. I photographed all of the advent calendar treats I just haven't had time to show you yet. It felt good to get a little bit caught up. I made some things I want to put in my web shop next week. I watered my plants. I drank a cup of tea. I ordered a 2019 calendar. Then it was time to go back to school for pick-up, and then ballet, etc. But honestly, I'm so happy to be back in the routine. Hello, January. Here I am.

P.S.: I have done a lot of knitting that I need to photograph and get on Ravelry. But I did finish a little hat for Mimi and it is the Faded Splendor Tam. It actually matches her plaid coat perfectly, but she didn't bring that one on the weekend. All of the yarns I used were various fingering yarns that I dyed myself. This hat is supposed to look like a beret (we were trying to make a hat that looked like the one Annabelle wears in Mary Poppins Returns [which we've seen three times now, and it is awesome] but I think I need to block it on a plate to give it that beret shape. Alas, it's cold here and Amelia doesn't really want to take it off! I'm so pleased by that I can't bear to swipe it from her for the time it would take to block and dry it right now. But I really want to see if it can be a beret! :)

At Year's End

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Oh, the days, the lovely days! One after another, filled with light and love. I'm already missing it all, this holiday season that has been so simple and sweet and soft. I'd been meaning to get back here to update my blog last week, last sometime . . . the days rolled out and on, a blur of lights and cookies and carols and crows against the blue morning sky and I never could slow the roll long enough to take stock. Andy's sweet grandfather passed away just before Christmas. He would've been ninety-five in February. He always sang "Happy Birthday" to us, to all of his children and grandchildren and many great-grandchildren on our birthdays. I picture him with his date book and phone book, marking time and leaving these sweet singing voicemails throughout the year, year after year. Andy flew home to Chicago to be with his family in the early morning hours of December 26th, and Mimi and I spent the rest of the week curled together like fluffy kittens, snuggling under blankets watching movies, going out to the wintergreen woods for walks, trotting about downtown to see the lights and the people, going out to fancy lunches and ordering whatever we wanted, messing up every single corner of the house with our gifts and toys and treats. Bubble baths and storybooks, Christmas cookies and new nightgowns. This unexpected week where it was just us girls is one I will never, never forget. Andy got home yesterday evening and we all had a sleepy, sweet reunion. Our dear little Christmas tree is drooping and tired. The floors need sweeping, the beds need straightening, the big house and the dollhouse are basically trashed. But we have had love and joy in abundance and I am so grateful for it all.

Merry, merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, my dear friends! Thank you for all of the generosity, kindness, support, and great friendship you have shown us this year and all these many years. I hope your holiday season has been filled with light, and I wish you much love and peace and comfort and joy in these last days of the year as 2018 trails off and we collect ourselves to begin again. Thank you all for everything you give here, and for all of your indulgence in and encouragement of me. You brighten and enrich my life more than you could possibly ever know. Thank you!

Love,
Alicia, Andy, Amelia, Clover Meadow, and, last but not least, our nineteen-year-old little Bee

Jenny Lind Redux

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My mom had my childhood headboard and footboard in her garage and I got them from her recently. This was my childhood bed (here I am in it back then) that my mom and I stripped and refinished at some point when I was a kid. She brought it out when she and my dad moved from Chicago to Portland in 1998. I don't know why I didn't think to ask her about it sooner, but I had kind of forgotten all about it. Sure enough, she still had these pieces; I ordered new hook-on side-rails and a box spring and Andy put it all together for Mimi over the weekend. Mimi was downstairs playing with two gigantic bags of Barbie stuff that I found for free on Nextdoor; our class has been collecting donations for a family of refugees from Syria, and “Barbie house and toys” was on their wish list and I got so lucky to stumble upon these almost immediately after reading the wish list. Mimi knew she would be bringing these to her friend on Monday, and oh my word, no toys have ever been played with as much as those toys that were headed immediately back out the door. She had the best time. Andy and I busied ourselves with taking out the toddler bed and putting together the big bed and washing the curtains and cleaning her room. In the late afternoon, just as we were finishing, she wandered upstairs and saw the new bed and loved it. I mean, she knew it was happening, but it was really fun to have her walk in to it all having been done without her watching the progress. It felt pretty magical. I have always loved this little bed and I don't really have words to describe how sweet it is to see my little daughter excited about getting it for her own. Naturally I am now spending most free time trawling eBay for vintage Laura Ashley bed linens.

The Nutcracker was so lovely, as always. I did not take that photo of the dancing snowflakes (I found it online and it is by James McGrew) because they don't let you take pictures in there and I'm always sad because I just want to remember how pretty it is — the snowflakes are my favorite. They do have a photo-op for the kids with some of the younger dancers, all dressed up. Andy bought Mimi the tiara she picked out during intermission. Before we left the house, she found a pink flower headband and put it on, and posed with the two battery candles in front of the Christmas tree. This was all her idea and she asked me to take her picture and yeah, my heart melted into a puddle of melted snowflakes in an instant and does again, looking at this.

A few advent calendar reveals! Pretty yarn, spiced hot chocolate from Treehouse Chocolate (from Portland) and handmade vanilla marshmallows from Lil' Miss Marshmallow (also from Portland), silver-plated stitch markers with tiny beads (made by me). Andy and I also made beeswax-(from Portland!)-and-soy-(not from Portland) candles with clary sage and juniper essential oil. I hope everyone loved these things as much as we loved making them and putting them all together. Yesterday Andy and I made our very first batch of cold-process soap and it was thrilling and exciting. It really was. We had a blast. I have plans to include soap in my upcoming Secret Garden project boxes if I can get good enough at it. We used the Creamy Shea Butter Bastille Soap recipe from Simple & Natural Soapmaking by Jan Berry. I scented it with Raspberry Jam fragrance oil, colored part of it with purple Brazilian clay, both from Brambleberry. I decorated it with blackberry seeds and tiny heather flowers. I'll let you know how it turns out in six weeks. My first bars that I made at the class I took at OMSI are almost ready to use. I can't wait.

I've been on the fence about using fragrance oils, even only the phthalate-free ones, instead of essential oils but I think from now on I'm only going to use essential oils. Here is an interesting discussion about the pros and cons of both. Thoughts? Do you have strong feelings about this? I didn't think I did but I guess I might. But what to do when you want something to smell like blackberry and there’s no such thing as blackberry essential oil? First-world problem. But I find all of the soapmaking stuff intensely interesting. It kind of reminds me of learning to throw pots and then glaze and fire them. So. Many. Options. For what to make. And when it turns out how you planned it feels like a total miracle. This soap did not turn out like I planned and in some ways that was the most thrilling part. Much more soap experimenting to come. I'm really excited.

Magic Days

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Early-December-days mash-up, and I don't even know how to organize these pictures. That in itself feels accurate, nonetheless. The days are a swirl of present-gathering and preparations. I try to get my work done as early as I can (thank you for the lotion bar [and cowl pattern] orders! We are making bars and shipping them as fast as we possibly can, so you'll be seeing your orders very soon) and then I go out and have fun. There are so many special things to do. We went to The Grotto one night to see our school choir sing and wander among thousands of Christmas lights. We went to Merrywood Farm, which is just the cutest, sweetest little place, and spent a gorgeous afternoon walking in the woods and hanging around the fire drinking cider. The low, pale sun shown for a while through the pine trees and yule smoke as I sat with my feet up, listening to Celtic Christmas carols piped over the speakers. It was just so, so nice. This weekend is The Nutcracker and dinner afterwards, and Amelia has her outfit all picked out, along with her new (well, used, from eBay) pink suede fancy shoes. I'll be sure to take a picture. I haven't been good about the advent calendar reveals but I am definitely going to try to catch up with that next week now that I'm getting caught up with everything else in my life. We're having a party next weekend. The days keep rolling along. . . .

CURRENT OBSESSION:

Alicia's Winter Day Bath Soak

1 cup Epsom salts
1 cup pink Himalayan salt, fine
1 cup pink Himalayan salt, coarse
1/2 cup colloidal oatmeal (just grind rolled oats in a food processor until powdered)
1/2 cup whole milk powder
1/4 cup coconut cream powder
1/4 teaspoon rose Kaolin clay
Dried cornflowers, jasmine buds, and rose buds

You could add any kind of essential oil to this if you wanted to, but I thought it smelled so fresh and delicious all on its own I did not.

To use, spoon a few tablespoons into a teabag and hang under warm running water while filling your bath, then plop the whole bag into the tub to further dissolve. Relax and enjoy until they make you come out.

Makes enough to fill two 15 oz. bottles like these.

***

Also, cutest winter book in the world: Mice Skating by Annie Silvestro (illustrated by Teagan White). I just bought this for Amelia and it is absolutely darling. About a mouse who loves winter but her friends don't. #relate

I want to totally have a dye-plant and soapmaking flower garden this year, and also plant dahlias. I'm going to put it in our neglected and frizzled raised beds. For my birthday present, Andy is going to dig it all up and add a lot of compost, etc., and try to get it ready for spring. Question: Do we wait until spring to do this? Or should we be doing something now before really cold weather comes and then let it sit until spring, or . . . ?

Amelia: "Mom, your wreath you made looks so good! It almost looks real!" (N.B.: It was real.)

Posie Winter Patterns from the Archive

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I thought I'd put together a round-up of all of my past patterns that you might want to make this winter. It's sort of trippy to look back at all of these! All of them started off as kits, but the kits (except for a couple, which are noted) are all long-since sold out. PDF patterns are available for every one of these patterns, and they are linked to through the photos and the text. People do ask if we will ever "get more" of the kits for these older patterns, and unfortunately the answer is, at this point anyway, no. We (and by "we" I mean me, and Andy, and a trusty assistant that is working for us at the time) actually put every single one of our kits together ourselves, by hand. It works for us to produce kits when a design is launched because there is a lot of interest and we have the numbers that make it possible for us to pay for all the stuff that goes into every kit, including the labor and the assembly. Once I get on to other things, I'm also usually too busy to go backwards and remake kits. As it is, I have a half-dozen ideas I'm wanting to pursue right now, and I only have so much (and it's not much) mental bandwidth available to keep things happening. . . . But I'll talk a little bit here about places I know where you can get supplies to make these things, and hopefully that will help you find what you need.

So, first off, at this time of year, I think everyone is thinking about making ornaments. I designed six collections of embroidered felt ornaments, one each year starting in 2008 with the last one coming out in 2013. I truly loved making these. All of them are made from wool-blend felt from National Nonwovens. I love this felt. Single sheets of it are available on-line at CommonwealthFelt.com. I know a lot of people sell National Nonwovens felt on Etsy, too. All of my ornaments were made with DMC floss, which is available at any craft store. I have a list of all of the felt colors and floss colors I used available here. These are not specifically sourced in the individual patterns, so you will need to consult this list if you want to get the exact same colors I did. Otherwise you can use any kind of felt you want as long as long as it is not too soft. I don't like working with very soft felt, personally. You also need to make sure that all those stitches don't just rip your felt to shreds. So get some lovely, sturdy felt and go for it.

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(I guess I still have some of the old labels on these photos. Ooops. Must change that.) Anyway, above is Ice Skating Afternoon.

WalkintheWoods

Then there's Walk in the Woods.

Here is Snow Day. You'll need cross-stitch waste canvas for the mitten, which is this stuff.

SnowDay

Then there was Sweet Home. And we still have kits available for this one.

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My personal favorite, Winter Cabin.

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And lastly, Night Before Christmas, with little Mimi with her dark hair! (Remember when her hair was dark like that? I seriously can't even deal with how adorable she was.)

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Okay. If you prefer to cross stitch, I'VE GOT YOU. If you need cross stitch supplies, try 123stitch.com. They usually have everything I need.

Winterwoods

Oh, Winterwoods ABCs. I still love this one. I designed it after we went to that cabin.

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Love and Joy was for Christmas 2016. You could easily change that 6 to an 8. This one is the first that fits easily into an 8" x 10" ready-made frame, which is nice.

FirstSnow

And then First Snow. This was the first of my seasonal series from 2017-18. Also fits in an 8" x 10" frame.

If you would like to make some softies for good little girls and boys, these do not take as long as you'd think. All patterns for all animals and clothing can be found here.

Animals

A few people have written and asked whether I am still working on the girl dolls I started earlier this spring that are based on these animal bodies. And YES, I am planning to produce those patterns and kits for the dolls and LOTS of their clothing. That is on my list for 2019, after I finish Secret Garden. That doll project is bonkers -- probably the biggest one I've ever done, and I got kind of overwhelmed by it and all of my ideas for it. But it is still happening.

Since Santa Lucia Day is coming up on December 13, you still have time to make a A Flow'ret Bright crown (and it's free!)

Flowret Bright

Lastly, if you just want to stay cozy and snuggle, try the Calicozy Quilt. We have two of them, one for me and one for Meems, and we both still use ours every single day. I'm making her a new one for Christmas for her new (well, my childhood) Jenny Lind bed (I wound up ordering bed rails and boxspring, but they haven't arrived yet).

Calicozy

Hopefully I got all of those links correct. If you have any questions, let me know and I'll answer them here. Thank you!!! XO

***Also, we will have a new winter lotion bar available next week if the tins I have ordered are correct. Stay tuned for that — I'll post it on Tuesday morning along with a couple of advent calendar reveals! Very excited.

Start the Season

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Oh, Happy Thanksgiving to you! I've been laaaaaaazy this week. We had a nice Thanksgiving here, and I hope you did, too. People brought stuff to our house and Andy and our nephew, Perry, cooked a bunch of sides so although we had dinner at our place, I think this was the first year ever that I haven't cooked a single thing. I kind of missed it but at the time I wasn't complaining. I was tired. I really had no mojo. We'd gotten all of the advent calendars mailed by Monday the 19th, and then I sort of collapsed into a deflated little balloon-like shape, with just a small puff of air keeping me three-dimensional. Amelia was off school from Wednesday through Sunday and oh my lordy it was so wonderful having her home every day. By today, we were all ready to get back to our routine, I think, but having a long weekend was bliss. She and I went to an ice-cream place for lunch and then a birthday party at a play cafe on Saturday, and it added the perfect amount of sparkle to the mostly gloomy weather we've had. I got to knit and catch up with old mom-friends of mine, which was so nice. Yesterday Mimi and Andy baked cookies and made turkey Tetrazzini and I took a bath and read soap-making books. Usually Andy and I have gone to get our tree immediately after Thanksgiving, but this year the house feels too messy, the legs feel too tired, the weather feels too rainy . . . and so we put it off.

I feel like I have so much cleaning to do. I've started so many new hobbies lately and have gotten so much new equipment for all those things, and I haven't really cleared space, proper space, for these new things. Consequently, it's seriously starting to bug me now. I just literally haven't had time to completely reorganize. I keep talking about it but I haven't done it. I'm hoping to do it in the new year. It feels like a huge project. Everything goes so fast, somehow. I frequently feel quite overwhelmed.

At night, before bed, I watch soap-making videos. Has anything in the history of the world ever been more relaxing? No. No it hasn't. I don't know what it is about them. I like to hear people ramble on about stuff, I guess, and I like looking at the texture of soap as it's poured. I love these ones and these ones. Also, these ones. If you want to learn how to make soap you watch these ones. I don't know, there are a ton out there. Just start poking around. YouTube keeps suggesting things and then I find myself engrossed. I have so many ideas now. You need a LOT of supplies to get started. I'm waiting for one more shipment of stuff (including new goggles and some blackberry seeds) and then I'm going to make my first official batch. I'm pretty excited. Andy is going to help me make space in our pantry for soap curing. I can't wait.

I took Amelia to WinCo yesterday to get a big bag of cinnamon and some applesauce and glue to make cinnamon ornaments. I don't usually shop in big grocery stores like that, and I definitely don't shop in stores like that with a kid who no longer rides in a (absolutely enormous) cart. It was seriously stressful. She kept wandering away to look at things despite my admonitions to stay with me, and I was looking for things because I'd never been in that store before and I didn't know where anything was, and the combination was lame. It's a weird age where they're too big to be contained but too little to totally stay in control of themselves where there is candy and toys and all sorts of junk all over the place. She was loving it, I was stressed. I was in a neighborhood that I don't normally go to, either, and it's just funny how all of those things added up to being something I doubt I'll repeat. Especially now that the holiday season is starting, I think this was a good reminder to me to really pick and choose how to interact with the world over the next month or so. I never really think about stuff like that, to be honest — I usually just bust my way through any and every situation as required, and it's mostly fine — but I think I'm going to actually try to be intennnnnnntional this year. I hear it's recommended. . . .

Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to making the ornaments. I've never made them before. I usually have a theme for our mantel but I don't really have one this year. I think I'll just try to do something pretty and simple.

I noticed people ordering my ornament patterns over the weekend (thank you!!!) and I am going to put together a post with all of my winter stuff in it this week so it's easy for you to find it all together if you are interested. I probably should have done all this before, but I've moving slow lately. Also, I will start revealing all of the advent calendar presents daily on December 1, so you'll hopefully be seeing me more. I'm breathing a bit easier now that it's all in the mail (and, actually, hopefully, at its destinations . . . ).

Halloweentime

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Ahhhh, tomorrow is Halloween. It's never been my favorite holiday. I'm really not sure why. This year we put some orange lights on our fence and some fake cobweb stuff and now I like it a bit better. The yard looks cute and delightfully seasonal, I must say. My garden is one of those that is filled with grasses and meadow-type plants, and they look beautiful now. I love the season, I've just never been that into Halloween, even as a kid. The only costume I can really remember wearing is a giant footie sleeper — I was a "baby." I wore my hair in two high ponytails and carried a stuffed animal and sucked my thumb. In, like, fifth grade. Uninspired. I remember that I just wanted to be warm and comfortable and I didn't want to wear my coat. It was always such a bummer when it was cold or raining on Halloween and you had to wear a coat over your costume. I also remember one time, also when I was a kid, that I wanted to have a Halloween party in our basement because a character in a book I was reading had a Halloween party in her basement. Our basement wasn't finished. It was like a cellar. I colored about twenty pumpkins with colored pencils on notebook paper and cut them out and hung them around the basement. It looked pathetic. I don't know why I wanted to do this — it was not a good basement for a party. I think I stuck a notebook-paper pumpkin on the washing machine. It was there for the next twenty years. The party was a total bust. It kinda makes me sad for little me. I couldn't wait for it to be over. Amelia is obsessed with candy, so she can't wait for tomorrow. She never gets that much but even ten pieces of candy to her is like winning the lottery. She's really in it entirely for the candy. She went to a party this past weekend at a school friend's house and took her owl mask (she's an "owl princess," by the way) and wings off within five minutes of getting there. I asked her if she wanted more elastic for her upper arm, or another solution to those wings (not sure what it would be, but I could come up with something, I bet) and she said no, thank you, byyyyyyyyyyye. So we'll see. There's something to be said for the costume that's as wearable as possible. I'm not sure this is it. . . . But it sure was fun to make. (I used this pattern for the mask and this tutorial for the wings).

We went to the pumpkin patch with our dear friends the Montgomerys, with whom we've gone to the pumpkin patch every year since our kids were babies. I love these kiddos together so much, romping and falling and running and riding. Pure joy. They're getting big now. The weather this fall has been unbelievably gorgeous, mostly dry and crisp and golden. The rains came in suddenly on Saturday afternoon; Amelia and I were out in the country then, and we got dumped on. On Sunday afternoon, thunder rumbled across the sky from one edge to the other. Andy laid on the sidewalk and listened to it. The sky on the west side was steel gray; to the east, the bright-white sun was poking through holes in the clouds. Thunder . . . thunder . . . and swishing of yellow leaves on the trees. Soon, everything will have fallen, and it will just be cold rain. I'll like that, too, as I do, but I can see why people feel anxious about November. It's very gray and very dark. I honestly don't know how Portlanders who don't knit or crochet make it through the winter!!!

Here, we are allllllmost done with the yarn advent calendar. Now that Halloween is almost here, I feel like I can move forward with this. I know I haven't said that much about it, at least not in proportion to how thoroughly it has taken over this house and my life. All our lives, here. I'm going to put together a post about it and let you know the sale date and times (I think I'll offer it in two batches that day, at two different time — there are only fifty calendars available) early next week. I don't know how much to say about it, because I really, truly want it to be a surprise. That's been so much of the fun of it. I'll dish on the yarn details, but not the other stuff, I don't think. I'm doing so many things for it that I've never done before, and I have honestly loved every minute of getting all of it ready. That said, I'm also ready to be done with it, and send it all off into the world. It's almost time. We have thirty more skeins of yarn to wind and fifty more _______s to make and a whooooole lot of wrapping and tagging and assembling and boxing to do, and then we're done. . . . Yay!

Now You Are Six

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Six whole, big years old. My goodness. I never really have words for these things. The week has been a whirlwind of swirling leaves and party streamers and birthday cakes and fancy things, wonderful and bright and filled with fun and family. We have a big family party every year, and this year there were some people who couldn't make it because of traveling and fighting colds and some new family we'd not yet met. Andy's parents flew in from Chicago and they're here until Wednesday. It's my absolute favorite time of the year when everyone is together, celebrating this lovely young lady, who grows more beautiful inside and out every day, and every year. Mimi and I drove her birthmama home after the party on Saturday night, and Bethy told us the story of Mimi's birth, about the Pitocin and the water breaking, the nurse we all really liked and Bethy's long torso and the Lord of the Rings soundtrack cranking, the seven pushes and then the ease with which she slid into the world, eyes bright and tiny fingers ready to hold. I remember it all and I don't — it is a blur, even though I was there for every minute. It was 5:42 p.m., dark and raining. In my mind everything was golden. I remember all four of us, her birthparents and Andy and me, huddled around tiny, tiny her like big, thumping hearts. It was by far the most profound and exquisite and utterly overwhelming moment of my life. I think about it all the time, any random Wednesday, watching her do plies at ballet, running down the hall at school, racing me up the stairs to bed, climbing into the car for the millionth time, every average and forgettable thing — how grateful I am for every single minute of this, all this ordinary beauty that started in such a extraordinary way. My darling girl, you are six, and every day of your life, even before you were born, has been such a dream come true.

Today, Monday, the sky is brightest blue. The sun is low, the air cool and crisp, just like they say. We kept Amelia home from school today so she could have more time to play with her grandparents while they are here, and in a while we'll go up to her favorite park and play for a while. We're about three-quarters of the way finished shipping kit and lotion bar orders, and I hope to be caught up by the end of Wednesday, speaking of Wednesday. It's been mildly bonkers trying to keep everything going while having a party, etc., but it's all okay. We're feeling really good about what we have left to do to catch up, and that's its own reward. I love working, and tree outside my office literally looks exactly like the tree on my kit, so it just all feels right and fine. Watch your mailboxes, and let me know what you think of everything when you get it!

Now, Halloween. "Owl Princess" costume request is next on deck. I can get on board with this!

May Days

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It's a cold and chilly day today, and I love that. This morning Amelia and I were up before dawn. We started the coffee and then sat out on the back porch and listened to that one bird who always seems to sing the loudest. Actually, he sort of is the only bird within hearing distance. Way far off we can here other lone birds singing the same sky-lightening song. Amelia lay, wrapped in her comforter, looking up at the sky. I sat and drank coffee and watched the silhouettes soften into colors. I relished the quiet, save for the bird song. These days our property is drowning in noise from two major construction projects going on separately at each of our closest neighbors' houses. It's literally been almost enough to drive me out of my mind. The noise is shockingly loud and maddeningly constant. And I mean constant. They seem to howl in stereo. Or actually more like call and response. East-side starts, then stops. West-side starts, then stops. East-side starts. West-side starts. Guys talking on one side of the fence. A radio coming from the other side of the other fence. Passive-aggressive construction-dude conversation with new roofer guy: "Okay [skeptically]. If that's what you want to do. . . . Which [incredulous] one do you want? But that's gonna . . . uh . . . o-kay [majorly skeptically]." They all seem like nice-enough guys but uuuuugh. Shush. We can barely hear ourselves in the house. Nail guns. Power saws. Hammers. Compressors. Giant machine noises. Nail gun, nail gun, nail gun. Nail gun nail gun. Power sawing. More power sawing. Fourteen nail guns in a row. Are you annoyed yet? Welcome to our house! It's hard for me to think, I apologize. It's all been going on for weeks and it will be going on for many more weeks.

Inside it's really not that much better. Everything's fuzzy around the edges and needs a good cleaning. Dog hair, dead flower petals, sticks, dead bees. Puzzle pieces, dirty boots, a couch that looks slumped and weary. Andy went back to work today after having two weeks off and I confess to breathing a sigh of relief. When I'm alone in the house I go into a weird, efficient cleaning trance, wiping down crumby counters, sweeping dirty floors, picking up every last ponytail, straightening pictures, dusting surfaces, secretly tossing the kid-drawings that just don't make the save-cut. The list of chores I made went to the second side of the paper. Maybe it's not as bad as I think. I don't know. It does bring me a sense of accomplishment and peace to check things off the list, I must say. It doesn't take much to get it all to a good place but it does take some, and when there are a lot of people in the house I feel like I can't do it. I have a much lower tolerance for disorder than my family. But things are coming together!

Birthmother's Day is Saturday and we are having a party here, so I'm baking pies. I'm thinking coconut cream and banana. Maybe rhubarb if I can still find it in the grocery store. Or maybe chocolate cream? I would love to do one of those super fancy pie crust things that you seen on Pinterest all the time, with the cut-outs and the flowers, etc. Isn't this one so pretty?

I have things I want to write about but I think I'll be able to write more next week, when it'll hopefully be just a bit more quiet. Wishing you all a very happy weekend with lots of love and peace in every way. XOXO

About Alicia Paulson

About

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

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Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.