Posts filed in: House and Garden

This Was May

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This was May, though there were a lot more necklaces, paintings, flowers, books, getting cats out of trees, worry, and tears for the state of the world. A lot more tears. And helpless, seething anger and fear for our children's futures. Every night I fall asleep to a sleep story (right now, Humphrey in Rio) on my Calm app, taking big, deep breaths and listening to the traffic outside. In my head, when the story finishes and I'm not yet asleep, I throw imaginary pots on the potter's wheel, slowly centering clay, feeling it push against my hands, feeling myself attempt to steady and control it. I'm terrible at it, in fact. The clay spins and slumps.

The weather has been warm but still very rainy, generally speaking.  The sweetest thing is watching Agatha learn how to be outside. At times we're still unsure about this decision we've made to let her Out. But she, mostly with great caution, has been going outside for about a month or two now, ever since the weather has warmed up. The backyard is fenced and she mostly stays in it (though we did find her in the driveway a few weeks ago, which is why I say "mostly"). But mostly she literally creeps around the backyard, trying to move so no predators see her, apparently. She listens to the birds and sniffs the air and lays on the warm bricks in the sunshine, watching little bugs crawl in and out of the cracks. She sits on the back porch and tilts her face up toward the sun. She runs over to me, meowing loudly — it's genuinely like she's trying to talk to me, and tell me things about Outside — whenever I come out. She sits under the thick hood of climbing hydrangea against the wall when it rains. Three times she's run straight up the trees — twice up the apple and once up the dogwood, each time going way too high. Making the choice to run up a tree gets you a swift trip back into the house. (Andy and I look at each other, grimacing, picturing ladders and balancing and trying to grab a cat that is trying to stick every claw into you while you teeter precariously. Great.) We bring her in whenever we are done worrying about it for the day, or whenever we leave the house. But her joy — her absolute wonder and pure delight as she sprawls out, furry belly splayed on the hot wooden stair, listening to birdsong — you can literally sense it, and it makes me so happy. I wish you similar, simple joys.

Amelia and I have been spending several hours every week in the children's department at a suburban library. She gets her homework done and I sit in a big chair and read and read. I don't know why we didn't do this all year, but we only started a few weeks ago. It's really nice. She's motivated to finish the homework so she can go play on the library computer. I'm thrilled to have several hours of enforced reading time that I don't normally get/take. I've finished two books there since we started going (one was Northern Spy and one was The Secret Place; not sure I recommend either, actually). Not sure what I will read today.

Thank you very much for all the feedback about the books that Amelia is reading/listening to. I really appreciated the discussion about Anne with an E (and Harry Potter). I think I will watch that Anne myself sometime and save the Megan Follows version for Meems this summer. We are almost finished with reading Anne. And now I really have no idea what we should read this summer! I like reading the classics out loud to her because I know she probably wouldn't pick these up herself. But she really likes listening. Hrmmm. What next?

Last (and late): A Tender Year: May is finally now available. Thank you so much for all of the sweet ideas for this, and I'm so sorry for the delay. Hoping to have June finished before July, I swear.

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Big Blossoms

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That exact lilac is sitting on my desk right now, the first I've picked of the season. It's actually my neighbor's bush that hangs over our fence. It's way in the back of their yard where they never go and I'm not even sure they know it's there. Last night we had a FROST warning. I'm so over it. It's just freezing cold and raining every single day. We broke a rainfall record for April. My car is leaking from somewhere onto the passenger-side floormat. It's perpetually wet. I had wanted to have a few girls over for pie under my apple tree. I thought of this about a month ago. I even bought a new tablecloth for the outside table. But there hasn't been one reliably clear day yet todo it. The garden is EXPLODING nevertheless. We kind of miss the show, however, as we run in our raincoats from the house to the car, trying to keep cold rain from hitting us in the face. My gosh, the flowers are so beautiful! The piiiiiiiiinks. I staunchly insist this is my favorite time of year but I won't lie I am freezing and kind of tired.

My May Tender Year design continues to be nowhere in sight, and I don't even have a drawing for it yet. It just doesn't feel like May! It feels like March. What things should I put in May? Help. I don't even have any ideas! If you're keeping up with me on these and you are waiting for May, feel free to yell at me. :| I know. I'm sorry. The days unroll in a scattering of pompoms and beads and blossom petals across the floor. I seem to be doing the bare minimum, somehow. Not sure why.

There is a month or so left of school. Amelia will go back to in-person next year. I am both happy and sad, worried and relieved. Or something. I don't know what I am. I'm trying to savor this time without simultaneously wishing it would change. I can see her growing up before my eyes. At bedtime (or actually, several hours before bedtime, as it turns out) we do our usual routine where we go upstairs (this is early, at about 6:00 p.m.) and we change into nighties and brush teeth, etc., and then I read to her like we always have. We used to snuggle on the big bed in the big pillows and read picture books from the library. But now she likes to play with this pretty fabulous Calico Critter apartment complex she set up in my bookshelves. There are several floors of rooms. It's a hive of activity. So I sit on the bed. She plays and plays and I read chapter books out loud. (Then I go downstairs and she stays up and plays. I need my mommy-TV time.) Right now we're on Anne of Green Gables. I read a chapter or two a night, editing it on the fly (there is a lot of negative adoption talk, among other things). Every night we say, worriedly, delightedly, "Oh, I cannot wait to see what trouble Anne is going to get into today!" Amelia, the child who had more homemade dresses than she could wear, is perplexed by all the talk of puffed sleeves, and Marilla's unrelenting refusal to provide: "Why doesn't she just make her a dress with puffed sleeves?" Genuinely nonplussed. :) I have not watched the newest Netflix version and Amelia has not seen any of the TV series. Not sure which one we'll watch when we finish the book. We read The Borrowers this fall and watched The Secret Life of Arietty shortly after. I didn't really like it, I remember. I didn't realize there was an actual live-action Borrowers (from 1997, apparently) but maybe I'll check out that one. I do remember liking the Megan Follows Anne series when I was younger. I've heard the Netflix one is violent? Or something? Disturbing? Maybe I'll preview it. Amelia recently finished reading the first Harry Potter book to herself, so we are all watching the movie at dinnertime, a half-hour or so at a time. It's the first "big" book that she's read alone to herself so it's been fun to wait for her to finish to watch the movie. Believe it or not, I have never read the books and I guess I had watched the first movie twenty years ago but remember almost nothing about it. My most vivid memory of anything Harry Potter–related is inadvertently going to Costco for one of the first and last times (we just have never really been Costco shoppers; the stores are really far from our house) on the Saturday morning that one of the Harry Potter books had just been released (I don't remember which book it was; probably the third or fourth) and the store was literally filled with children sitting in shopping carts — like, in the actual cart part of the cart — reading big huge Harry Potter books as their parents pushed them around and tried to stuff groceries in the cart around them. Like, fifty different shopping carts, each with a reading kid in it. Isn't that a funny image? Lol. It seemed very meta, actually, like something I could picture happening at Hogwarts itself. It was so sweet. :)

I've been trying to think of and make some props for my jewelry pictures I want to take, so I spent the weekend crocheting little things and making a big Perler bead girl. Maybe I can style them to figure out how to include them in my pictures. I really enjoy doing Perler beads! They have the same meditative quality as designing or doing cross stitch except that you can do them with your kids. We tried dyeing some white Perler beads with Rit synthetic dye, which dyes plastic buttons really well. But the dye did not strike the Perler beads nearly as well as it did the buttons so I don't know if I will try that again. The were pretty, though. But like, the red dye turned the Perlers to peach, and I couldn't get anything darker than that no matter what I did. So it's only good for certain colors. The peach was pretty, though.

Okay, better go figure out what's for lunch. Anyone else have a hard time figuring out what's for lunch? I literally never have a clue what to make.

Fooling Around with Beads Lately

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And where have a been lately, you might ask? Making jewelry. Random! I have such capricious interests and habits. Every month it's a new obsession. For the past two weeks, all I've been doing is figuring out how to make necklaces. Literally have spent hours a day very happily doing this. I have not even started my May Tender Year yet, agh. I ordered a ton of different kinds of beads on Etsy last summer. I have wanted to make necklaces absolutely forever but I could never really figure it out. Making jewelry can be kind of tricky until you figure out exactly WHAT you need. And there are a lot of choices, so this is often easier said than done. I wound up making a few different kinds of necklaces, some for adults and some for kids. Naturally, now I will be opening an Etsy shop to sell them. I go big. Make three necklaces and find yourself designing a packaging concept. Welcome to my life. These are not my fancy pictures, just stuff I snapped on my iPhone to show my friends. I need a sturdy, sunny day to take some pictures and then I will show you. The weather has been as unreliable as I have. One minute sunny, next hailing, next sunny, next raining. 

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Look at my tree. It's so beautiful it almost makes me cry. Spring is my absolute favorite time of year.

** Thank You **

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Thank you so much for all your kind words about Clover. We read every comment and were moved to tears several times. I am so touched that there are still so many of you who remembered when we got her back in 2007 (and even those of you who remembered Audrey). I find it just so touching that people take a little moment to think about a little dog they've never met in real life, and wish her well on the next part of her journey. Thank you for doing that, and sharing that with our family. It really helped me and I am grateful for your gentle kindnesses here. Thank you.

We have been working like crazy on our yard. I was sitting in the hot tub a few mornings ago just staring out at the backyard, feeling proud of what we have done. I realized that both the front and back yards felt a bit like the secret garden. We had kind of neglected the back yard, especially. Dead leaves, dead plants in pots, yucky hydrangeas covered in old brown blossoms, broken pots. A very gnarly porch rug covered in black stuff. Empty planter boxes on the porch. A ton of crabgrass in the front borders. Almost nothing but strawberries, a few calendulas, and a forget-me-not in the raised beds in the hellstrip. I mean, it happens, over the winter. This is all pretty standard. But it had been a while since we'd really done a thorough accounting of our plants, and really tried to get nice stuff (even a few perennials) into our many pots (I counted a total of 31), and had bought compost to mulch the beds. So we started cleaning out old pots, going to the nursery to get a few things every week to plant in them, moving strawberries from the raised bed into pots in the backyard, planting the planters with stuff that will be pretty in a month or two. We ordered two yards of compost and had it delivered to the driveway, and Andy spent the weekend covering the beds in brown paper bags to keep down the weeds and topping it all off with several inches of compost. Trimming back the ornamental grasses, which have grown monstrous and probably need to be divided. Planting a few clematises to replace our big one that looks mostly dead. (They often looks mostly dead in spring before they leaf out, but this one looks particularly dead.) Amelia and I started a new hobby of constantly checking NextDoor (neighborhood app) for new postings of free plants and, when we saw something good, jumping into the car and hauling across the neighborhood to be there first (and, we often are!) So far we've gotten a clump of pink phlox, a bleeding heart, and, yesterday, a whole bunch of purple alliums! That said, you get what you pay for sometimes — by the time we got to the bleeding hearts, the plant had been completely run over by a car and was smashed to smithereens. We still took it home and planted it. I even got that darling green table for twenty dollars! So, everything was looking so pretty. The apple and dogwood trees were about to bloom. The tulips were in full flush, the daffodils were finished, the magnolia was flowering, the hydrangeas are fully leafed out. And then at 3:30 a.m. I woke up to go to the bathroom and look at this:

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SOB! Noooooooo! Oh my stars. Absolute chaos. I had heard rumors of this in the forecast but never thought it'd hit us here on the valley floor. It was literally 76 degrees three days ago! And now it's 36! We hardly get this much snow even in the middle of winter, let alone almost mid-April. So, school is canceled today, even online school for us, due to many power outages around town, and I know there are many downed big trees from the pictures I'm seeing on the news. I mean, many trees are fully leafed out or heavy with cherry blossoms or other blossoms right now so, oh my. They say we haven't seen this kind of thing in eighty years here. Quite unusual and I won't lie, I want it to melt immediately. I was absolutely and totally ready for and indulging in spring.

I have my April design for A Tender Year ready, and I just need to proofread it and then post it. I will do that tomorrow or Wednesday, I promise. I got behind in my work and Amelia got really behind in hers while Andy and I were busy with Clover, and it was a unique kind of challenge (I don't want to repeat) trying to get her caught back up. She was about eleven or twelve assignments behind and wow, that was a first. Do not recommend. Anyway, my April design is ready and has been photographed and I just need to get back in my swing. I was able to send another check (for $110 this time) to the Ukrainian Bible Church last week, so we altogether sent $360 to Ukraine for the month of March. The war continues to rage on in a horrendous way. It's just terrible. I pray for peace daily and it's just . . . absolutely heartbreaking.  I can't even find words.

I am reading The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman and it is very compelling. I am only about halfway through it. At night, I've been watching a lot of Monty and Gardener's World and also these two very light shows that I just absolutely love: One is Baby Ballroom, about little kids (and some tweens) who do ballroom dancing in England, and Old Enough!, about toddlers running their first errands in Japan. I think they are both on Netflix. If you can get a chance to watch Old Enough!, try to watch Season 1, Episode 7. Or also Episode 4. I'm only on Episode 16 myself (they're short, probably fifteen or twenty minutes each). Oh my gosssssh. I am fascinated.

Very Impulsive Lately

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A sunbreak! Aw, sunshine. It's very cold outside. I'm scrambling to get caught up. Last week got away from me. I'm working to get my February pattern finished and I owe you a tutorial on wrapping canvas. Those are coming. I have a cross-stitch kit coming, too. Very impulsive lately. Today, it's clean the house, do school, wrangle homework, go to ballet, get dinner, get to bed on time. Amelia's been going to bed too late and getting up too late. It was a lazy weekend and I could've used a few more days of it. I started crocheting a blanket for myself. And then I became obsessed with finding this old pink cutter quilt we have had for twenty years but now cannot find. Andy and I both looked absolutely everywhere for it. It's gone. I wouldn't have thrown it away but it's disappeared. I wanted to cut it up and make some Valentine's hearts for Amelia with it. When I couldn't find it I laid in bed in my nightgown under a heating pad and a cup of coffee and surfed eBay for cutter quilts in the early morning hours. All way too expensive. I got nothing. I pulled some old quilt blocks I made at the beginning of lockdown out of my cabinet. I was stunned to see them, as I had absolutely no memory of making them. There were two sets of Sawtooth Stars in two different sizes. I tried to figure out what quilt pattern I had used that wanted two different sizes of these stars. I couldn't figure it out. Eventually I realized that although they looked similar, the big ones were for a Little Miss Sawtooth Star quilt that I never finished (and don't intend to). The little stars were for a quilt I was going to make for the king-size bed. I decided to re-think it. I made a schematic on graph paper where I set them all on-point and planned to make sort of a checkerboard with stars and solid square blocks, alternating. But on point. Then I dug through my scrap basket, and my scrap tower, and my boxes of fabric. I cut 88 squares out of scraps and stash. Then I thought about the mountains of fabric I still have. I have a lot of fabric. So much of it is just so pretty. It just all looked so pretty together. Then I thought, in all my free time, I would make some quilts to sell. They would be toddler and throw and twin sizes. I would stuff them with Ikea comforters and tie them as I do, so they are puffy and light and squishy and warm. I started looking at quilts on Pinterest. I started thinking about how I don't like flat quilts that use cotton batting and have binding and are just generally over-quilted. I mean, this is just my opinion. But so many quilts are over-quilted to the point where they're sort of turned into . . . cardstock. So flat, so much stitching. So much stitching! I don't like that. I want a "quilt" that's a cream puff. A pouf-ball. A blob. A squishbag. A pavlova. A meringue. A cloud cake. I want them stuffed with fluff and turned (no binding) and tied. So I think I'm gonna do that. In all my spare time. I want to. Comforters for comfort.

Oh! And I wanted to show you these two ice dancing videos if you haven't seen them. Michael Parsons and Caroline Green at Four Continents and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue at Nationals. So incredibly creative and inspiring and moving. I've watched the Hubbell and Donohue vid four times (the first time I saw it it was live) and I cried every single time. Excited for the Olympics.

January Morning

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Cold and rainy this morning. Dark. Sloppy muddy outside. Most of the kiddos are having trouble with Zoom this morning. I feel sorry for the teacher. He is trying hard to suss out the problems (we're suddenly having problems, too) and the kids are totally helping and agh, you know there are other skills being learned right now: patience, perseverance, cooperation, listening. The teacher methodically asks each one whether making the copy is working for them, and what kind of computer they have. School-issued Chromebooks like ours aren't working. And then: A kid just figured out how to get the copy to work on Chromebook and explained it to everyone, and then it worked for Amelia. My god, I secretly feel like crying! Success! Success! This moment was successful, and they all got there together. Over and over and over again. January. We can do this.

Thank you for all of your comments on my last post. I so appreciate them.

Meanwhile, Agatha does what Agatha wants. Agatha sits on the table. Agatha sneaks onto the counter. Agatha methodically drags every loose ball of yarn up the stairs overnight, meowing like a lunatic. In the morning we wake to a dozen skeins tossed around the upstairs hallway; she works hard. She has her own sweater (it's this one) and it is so disgusting, felted and stained and full of holes, a mere rag now, when, in its day, it was so beautiful. She drags it around, too, and every half a day it's in a different room, crumpled up on the floor. Agatha, since her spaying, now that her belly fur has just started to grow back, has reverted to type. She won't let you pet her, won't sit on your lap, will only really let Amelia pick her up consistently while she moans resignedly, plaintively (fifty times a day, until I have to say stop because I just can't take it anymore). We finally filled our neglected bird feeders and she spent two days perched with her front paws on the windowsill and her back paws on the chair, staring with wild eyes at all the squirrel, sparrow, and chickadee action, her pupils down to paper-thin shards. Mesmerized. Mostly what she likes to do is eat, and the vet says she's at the top end of her recommended weight at 8.5 pounds. If she has no food in her bowl, she will come down and try to beat up Clover. You'd think all the dragging-of-things-upstairs would burn a few calories for her. Apparently not enough.

I do love her so, though. My goofy little kitters.

Amelia has joined the chess club after school. Isn't that cool? I am so proud of her. Her teacher runs it, every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30 until 4:30. They play on a digital board that looks fun, and she really likes it. She plays with her dad on a regular board in real life occasionally. I've never learned to play. Andy is good at games and so is Mimi and they play stuff a lot. I was never that good at them, even as a child, though I remember I really liked Mastermind and Battleship. I don't think we even have those right now. We should get them. Maybe she's too old for them now. We probably have thirty games we should go through and pass on. I know I should be reorganizing my kitchen cabinets right now, too. Cliched but true. They're a mess. I've got teetering towers of baking pans stuffed into every shelf, forty-five little bottles of desiccated cake sprinkles stuck to the bottoms of their jars, bags of Andy-chips and popcorn falling off of piles of cookbooks on the top of the freestanding cabinet. It's not terribly terrible, but neither is it nice or helpful.

My next-door neighbor, Gretchen, gave me this delightful book and I finished it in one day (probably the fastest I've ever read a book in my life). When I was done I wanted more like it and remembered I had this book which I'd never finished, so now I'm reading that. I sat in the cold car waiting for Amelia to do ballet class (they don't let parents inside anymore, and although it's only five minutes from the house it doesn't seem worth it to go all the way home just to come back in an hour) reading it yesterday after going to four coffee shops to get a chai to keep me warm (luckily it was this brand, my favorite) before I found one in the neighborhood that was open. Life. At night, I watch documentaries about the Windsors or mountain climbers or gardening. Just when I thought I'd watched everything ever made!

I'm not sure why but in some strange burst of energy I designed the first of a new series of embroidery patterns, even though I literally, in December, said to myself that I was done doing seasonal stuff (the deadlines!) for a while. Classic. So now I'm going to do one not only every season but every month. I'm not kitting it — it's only available as an instant PDF download. It uses Kona cotton in Fog and DMC 6-strand cotton floss (and one Appletons crewel wool, but you could easily substitute DMC floss for it).

The series is called A Tender Year, and this is January:

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It wraps around a 5" x 7" (13cm x 18cm) stretched canvas and is tacked on the back. I should do a tutorial on that for you, but I haven't yet. (It's easy, but let me know if you'd like to watch me do it.) You can get canvases pretty cheaply. Here's a pack of five for $5.99 but there are lots of places you can pick them up. It's kind of a cute way to finish a piece without a frame or without putting it in a hoop.

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The pattern costs $6 to download and there will be a new one every month. I have February's stitched and I will be better about launching the next ones on the first of the month. (I got this idea pretty late, so I apologize that it's already the second week of January, but it goes quick. You can probably finish it in a couple of days.) The product page has a list of supplies needed and details what is included in the pattern. I really enjoyed doing this and I hope you like it. If this isn't in your budget just shoot me an email and let me know and I will send it to you, on me. I want everyone who wants to be able to do this to do it. XO, a

Edited: I think Shopify is having some problems right now so the web site might not be working properly. Their status report says they're investigating, so I'll update when it's solved. Thank you! Update, 4:30 p.m.: Looks like they fixed it! Sorry about that!

New Year's Eve

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A Christmas wish came true when we got snow last week in the days after Christmas. It was just the perfect snow: big, fat flakes that swirled and stuck, no wind at all, temps not even that cold. We walked all over the neighborhood and then down to the bakery. It reminded me of the hundreds of times I walked there with Amelia in her stroller, warm under her Sunshine Day and in her little knitted boots. The sun came out and make everything sparkle. It was a wonderful present.

I know it's been a hard year for everyone, and it has been harder for me than I can even say. I pray that you have found blessings in the challenges and I pray that I can focus on the blessings, and appreciate them and cherish them, and even grow stronger from the challenges. I'm so grateful for every one of you who has been here this past year (and before that) with your kind words and your generous advice and your stories and your orders and your recipes and your pictures of crafts that you've made. Every single one of the ways you've shared support with me has been important to me, and I sincerely thank you for being here with me when so often I feel that I've lost myself, sifting through the days, looking for things to help and hold on to. I'm going to try to be here more on a regular basis to help me remember and honor the little things. I have every hope for a brighter year and I wish each of you good health and every happiness in 2022. Love always, Alicia, and Andy, Amelia, Clover Meadow, and Agatha Raisin Paulson

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

Mud Days

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

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

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

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

Autumn Skies

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The weather has certainly changed and fall is here here here. The yellows are vibrant, the skies are gray. Amelia and I found a glorious patch of cosmos flowers near the muddy soccer fields near Reed College. Purple and pink, glowing in the rain. She doesn't have any Zoom meetings on Wednesdays and I just love that. The wet woods receive us, their slippery, leaf-covered paths slick with shining maple leaves as big as your head. We stop and get chai and hot cocoa on the way, and Amelia desperately wants to carry her cup into the canyon. She has visions. I try to accommodate if they don't mean that you fall down a flight of stairs (there's a flight of stairs) into the pond. The days while the leaves will still be hanging on the trees are drawing to a close. Soon the black branches will be bare, and it will rain more, and it will be colder, and wetter, and harder. Goodbye, social life! It was nice knowing you!

At home, I work while she's in school. This week I've been making a database of all of the brick-and-mortar cross-stitch stores around the United States. It's taking me a long time, but I like this type of torpid busywork. When I get tired of that I go back to reformatting my patterns for eventual wholesaling. By "reformatting" I mean a couple of things. They need some text changes and omissions; my patterns tend to be pretty beginner-friendly, and people who shop at cross-stitch stores generally don't need instructions about how to, say, press their fabric, or use a cross-stitch chart, or frame their work, etc. I also made an executive decision, based on some discussions we had here around this issue, to only offer wholesale printed patterns with black-and-white, not color, charts. Black-and-white charts are also (from the anecdotal evidence I've found and the pros I've asked) the industry standard. For almost two years, since we had those chart-y conversations, I've offered black-and-white charts in my PDF patterns, but I still print only color for my kits (and I will continue to do that). But printed patterns for shops will only be available in black-and-white. And before I get them all printed, I have to do a lot of reformatting of my files — re-exporting new charts and redoing the color-chip lists. I had my graphic designer, Greta, make new product line sheets and an order form and stationery for me, and it's all so pretty (she always gets where I'm trying to go, even better than I do).

I'm stitching on my winter design and am almost done. Next year I've decided not to do as many seasonal designs, mostly because they really lock you in to the calendar! And I need more freedom right now. I have some other design ideas. It probably won't work but we'll see. I really want to be a part of the cross-stitch community but I don't think I'll ever have a floss-tube (i.e.: a YouTube channel where you talk about cross stitch). I just don't have time to watch it and I definitely don't have time to do videos. But I think it's great that they have such a vibrant community when so much of blogging has fallen away (personally heartbreaking to me, but hopefully it will come back — if you have a blog, please comment here so I can check it out!).

I've been trying to buy some new lamps for our home. Almost all of our lamps are the same ones — simple stick lamps from Ikea, over ten years old by now. We have at least ten of them that I can count offhand. The problem with these (I'm sure I've mentioned this, I am obsessed with it) is that they use chandelier bulbs and you can only use Ikea shades with them. (You can't use clip-ons because, chandelier bulbs.) Well, Ikea makes only one shade for these lamps right now and they are dark gray. So, blah. I would cover the shades I have but they are all made out of basket-woven wicker. :| Except for the kitchen ones, which are black, and with a bunch of pleated fabric on them they would be completely opaque. So I've been surfing Wayfair (I need matched pairs and have joy for retiring) for hours, looking for new lamps. I've been doing this for like a year. I can't seem to commit! Ah, silly obsessions. Thank goodness for them!

Chit-chatting about the little things here. Tell me yours.

I'm kind of taking the rest of the day off. Andy is home to run homework this afternoon and I've ordered some lunch (banh mi sandwiches and Vietnamese coffees, my weaknesses) and I'm about to start the colorwork on my Soorik tunic. (I still need to make an entry for that, sorry.) Amelia is going to be a "vampire queen" (her idea) for Halloween (I did not make this costume, I just bought it online) and she and Andy will carve pumpkins tonight. It's supposed to be sunny on Sunday which is really wonderful. Halloween on a sunny Sunday, wow!

***Her sweater is here. It still fits, yay.

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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