Posts filed in: Events and Holidays

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.

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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.

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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.

SweetHome

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.

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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

Getting There?

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Whooooosh! That was spring "break." Yes, it almost broke me! Firstly, when I scheduled the shipping of kits, I forgot that spring break was the same week. Secondly, I thought, up until 8:00 this morning, that they went back to school today, but they don't. (Thank you, Joyce.) Thirdly, I did assemble and ship all of the Time of Flowers kits last week, and the last batch is going out to the post office today. And fourthly, the house is trashed. Like — I don't even know. It looks ransacked. I was going to clean it today while Mimi was at school but, as above, it's still apparently spring break until Thursday, so no go. Also, broken dryer that has finally bitten the dust, so: laundromat. Etc. Life! :)

Nevertheless: THANK YOU GUYS for all of the Time of Flowers kit orders! Oh, my heart swells when I pack the orders. So many familiar names, year and year. I'm so grateful to you for all of your support. Thank you. I have 56 extras that are in the shop right now. I will be working on my cross-stitch post and releasing the PDF-only option later this week, when Mimi does actually go back to school and I have a minute. But for now I truly hope you enjoy working on these kits and I sincerely thank you so much for your orders and your interest. Summer and fall designs are swirling around in my head and I have loved every minute of working on this series so far, with more to come.

Also swirling around in my head are . . . I don't know . . . a million things. Andy took a week off a few weeks ago and completely cleaned out our basement. It (and he!) is spectacular. Next up is my office and our "annex" office, which is where I store a lot of Posie stuff, including floss, yarn, fabric, packing supplies, works in progress, so much stuff. I've kind of been in a state of . . . I don't even know what to call it. Sort of a mania, I think. I'm changing as Amelia changes, I think. Her independence literally grows before our eyes. And as it does, I'm discovering new things for myself, as well. It's a seriously exciting time, but it's also, like, weirdly uncomfortable. I have a million ideas I want to pursue, but I need to totally reorganize my office first. The things in these small spaces that once served me — really, for the seven years (I think?) since we last re-did the office — just aren't serving me or my current interests right now. So I want to repaint (what color?) and remove things that I'm just not working with currently, and move in the things that I am working with (yarn, dyeing supplies, new doll ideas, etc.). This feels like a huge job. I'm reading the tidying up book and I'm all-in on it, conceptually — it's literally just a matter of finding time. And reimagining a space we've lived in for eighteen years without a major reorganization. So, it's almost like my brain is reorganizing and my space is reorganizing as I prepare for what it will be like to have Amelia go to kindergarten next year. I want to make all of these changes good for our whole family, you know what I mean? And I want to start thinking about it now, and working on it now, so that when we all get to that place next fall we are feeling good and excited and ready for the next phase. I can see that part of me has really been flying by the seat of my pants since becoming a mother, and honestly, I'm ready for things to feel a little more . . . dialed in.

Have you experienced this? I don't even really know how to describe what I'm feeling. I know this is abstract. It does have something to do with the fact that our child is no longer, like, pulling tablecloths off the dining-room table and can, instead, run her own bath. . . . You know what I mean? There's more time to think of things, in a way or, at least, I can see that time coming. . . . Tell me what you think.

***My mom has an incredible blooming yard as well as three chickens, so we have fresh eggs constantly and they are delicious. I love eggs! Also, we went to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show by the Oregon Children's Theater and we loved it. Highly recommend for this age.

So Nice

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I had the nicest birthday. Every minute of it was so nice. It's wonderful to have a birthday fall on a Sunday! I loved it. I had a plan to make my birthday cake (I decided, after all, to do the usuals) and then make bolognese sauce and stuffed shells (from Craig Claiborne via my NYT cooking app). Stuffed shells have been my favorite food since childhood. Andy and Amelia went grocery shopping and got some very fancy ingredients, including handmade ricotta cheese, which was delicious. I made the sauce (but forgot to add the basil and cream at the end) and then my back was bothering me from sitting in the wrong chair for too long at lunch at our neighbor's the day before (it seems fine now) so A & A took over and made the cheese filling and assembled the shells for me while I knit and watched ice skating. It was great. Outside it was cold and gray but inside it was warm and cozy. I got sweet presents and cards and texts and talked on the phone a lot. Before we ate the cake, we put the big camera on the tripod and took some timer selfies of the three of us, which was so much fun. My mom had been reorganizing some things in her house and found a picture of my grandpa with me when I was a baby. She found it in his passport, where he apparently kept it for years and years. I was really touched, and I don't think I've ever seen exactly that picture before. The other picture is of my dad holding me above his head while my sister watched. He used to do this with us all the time. We're standing in front of his teal blue Cadillac. My dad passed away on my birthday, eighteen years ago. It's always a bittersweet day. But I was surrounded by love and family and friends and food and animals and light and warmth, which was the best present in the world.

Here's a delicious present for you:

Stuffed Shells from Craig Claiborne/New York Times

Bolognese Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup (2 ounces) bulk sausage
1/2 cup onion chopped fine
1/3 cup celery diced fine
1/2 cup carrot diced fine
1/2 pound beef ground fine
1/2 pound pork ground fine
2 chicken livers, chopped fine, about 1/3 cup
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt to taste, if desired
Generous grinding of black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups imported canned Italian plum tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup heavy cream

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy saucepan or casserole and add the sausage, onion, celery and carrot. Cook, stirring, until onion is wilted.

Add the beef, pork and chicken livers and cook, stirring down with the side of a heavy metal spoon to break up lumps, until meats lose their raw look. Add the rosemary, nutmeg, salt, pepper, wine and tomato paste. Stir to blend.

Puree the tomatoes in a food processor or blender or crush them by hand. Add the tomatoes and the broth. Bring to a boil and let simmer, skimming the surface of fat, 1 1/2 hours.

Stir in the basil and cream and remove from the heat.

 

Ricotta Cheese Filling (stuffs about 18 large shells)

2 cups (1 pound) ricotta cheese
1/2 cup finely diced Mozzarella cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup finely chopped prosciutto
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Drop jumbo shells into boiling water and cook about 10 minutes or until tender but not overcooked. Drain.

Spoon layer of sauce over bottom of casserole large enough to hold stuffed shells in one layer.

Fill each shell with equal portions of ricotta cheese mixture. Arrange shells stuffed side up in casserole. Spoon remaining sauce over shells. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake 25 minutes.

Happy New Year!

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Well, hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Hello. Happy New Year! I hope yours is starting out well. Lazy days turned into lazy weeks, here. It was glorious. It snowed. Things got cancelled. Things got rescheduled. Family came. Family went. The house got trashed. Movies were watched over and over. I knit and knit. Toys were played with. Books were read. Lots of treats were eaten. Lots of snuggling happened. Lots of days involved no driving whatsoever. Lots of mornings started incredibly late. Lots of baths got taken. Antidote to occasional intrusions of holiday stress: hours of mind-tranquilizing tasks. Like knitting row upon row upon row of stockinette stitch. Winding about a hundred skeins of embroidery floss onto tiny plastic bobbins and arranging them by color into boxes (a job that has needed doing for YEARS now). Cross stitching, ripping out, stitching again. Middle age descends: here's me, sitting in my cozy corner under a comforter doing these things while wearing a new flannel nightgown and watching Just in Time for Christmas. My happy place. I think I was purring. Ohhhhh, you know. It was lovely. I needed it. We all did. I hope your holidays were just as wonderful.

I blocked and put buttons on my Ellen Cardigan (still have yet to put it on Ravelry, sorry) and oh, how I love that thing. I'm really proud of it. It's the third or fourth sweater I've knit for myself and the first one that's ever fit me perfectly. As I mentioned before, I followed the colors of the original pattern exactly, and I made no modifications to the knitting (size 48). I loooooove it. I immediately started  another one based on the exact same sweater pattern, but changing the yoke design. For a while now I've been wanting to make the Ryðrauð sweater but I was nervous about doing any sweater from the bottom up, or, honestly, any sweater other than the Ellen (from now on, forever and ever) because I find it almost traumatizing to make sweaters for myself that don't fit. As I said, I've only made a handful for myself but, if I'm honest, there is something about every one of them that I just don't like. The neck on my Ramona cardigan is just way too big and falls off my shoulders. My Strokkur I made too short and I'm constantly pulling it down (well, I would be constantly pulling it down if I actually wore it). My Birkin sweater was tragic (yoke too deep, my colorwork too puckered, the neckline too funneled, body too big, sleeves started way too low on me, etc.). It just doesn’t fit my shape well. And that was size XL in fingering-weight yarn [shrieking]. I’ve seen plenty of people make this pattern now and it looks so gorgeous on them in all of the photos I’ve seen, but I just didn’t succeed with it. I don't have very much experience knitting adult-sized garments and I find it to be very intimidating and weirdly heartbreaking when I do finally take the plunge and it just doesn't work out. I know I should just chalk it up to experience but I don't. Instead, I just stop trying. But for some reason the Ellen Cardigan seemed like it would work out for me and then it did, and I don't know that I've ever been so happy with anything that I've ever made for myself, sewing included, and it gave me a lot of confidence. It was such a good feeling. Has that ever happened to you?

So, back to the Ryðrauð. I first saw Lori's version of that sweater a few years ago and I just thought it was so pretty. But, as mentioned, immediately after finishing Ellen I was nervous about ever making a sweater that doesn't fit like Ellen. So I took the Ellen colorwork chart for my size and figured out (on my cross-stitch software) a modified, simplified version of the Ryðrauð flowers that would fit right into the Ellen yoke and also could be done from the top down. And that kind of looked like this:

MyYokeSweater

I really had no idea how to do the chart the right way re: the repeat, so this is the whole yoke. Pffff! It worked out pretty well, except that as you can see there are huge spaces between the contrast color stitches of the taller motifs on the first few rows. I tried to float the yarn as loosely as I possibly could but it's still puckering a bit so we'll just have to see how it goes. But I think it's okay-enough. Also, I knit the neckband directly onto the yoke in the navy blue version; the Ellen has you pick that up last and I found that it curls a bit (and also makes the buttonholes space out rather poorly at the top, then).

Anyway, this morning I was trying to get caught up with my overflowing and neglected email in-box (yes, I pretty much suck at everything that has to do with answering all but the most urgent emails, even on my best days) and noticed that a blog reader named Kristi (hi, Kristi!) had suggested that I watch a podcast from Nicole at The Gentle Knitter. I follow Nicole on Instagram and love her work so much but I didn't really know about the podcast. I tuned in to the first few episodes and was totally thrilled to find that she was (or, actually, had been a year ago) knitting the Ryðrauð sweater (also inspired by Lori's version)! Snap! Well, Nicole is, like, the most patient, lovely, gentle creature on earth and she explains everything in such a calming way and she has so many interesting things to say about the Ryðrauð that it is well worth watching if you are interested in knitting it. She also talked about how you can catch long floats on the back of the sweater and I didn't even know that, so I will definitely have to look into that for next time. Also, I don't know, but if this navy version works out and I find myself with at least two sweaters in my closet that I love to wear, I might branch out a little more and risk making more things for myself. I purled the colorwork, above, and it's kind of a giant pain. So, all this is to say that 2018 might be my year of steeking more sweaters (I've only done it once before, for Mimi), and that's kind of an exciting feeling.

Ramble, ramble. I haven't gotten out too much lately.

What kind of cake should I make for my birthday?

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.