Posts filed in: House and Garden

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.

Continuing my cat obsession I got this adorable paint-by-number for my birthday a few days ago and I worked on it a little this weekend. I have always wanted to do one of these. The areas are small. It's perfect for me because I like that. 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!!!

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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.

School Has Started!

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Yep! It's September! School has started! Amelia is behind me right now virtually presenting her "All About Me" report. She is reading it out loud to her class in the sweetest, most presenter-y voice. I wish I were recording this. "My favorite color is magenta." Agh, she's so sweet. They're all so sweet. I love these kids. Amelia has a gigantic pink gift-bow in her hair right now. It's on a wire and came on a present from someone at some point; I can't even remember who. It's about half the size of her head. She looks like a Victorian doll. But school (they are following the Florida Virtual School curriculum, for anyone interested) is going great so far. It's only been two weeks, of course. But the amount of stress that has been removed from my life now that only the teacher is asking her to do her work and I'm not asking her to do her work (as I was when we were doing Oak Meadow, which turned into a bit of a power struggle, and I hated that) is immeasurable. This seems better for both of us. I mean, I have no idea if this is a "better" education. I'm not saying that either way — I guess only time will tell and I really don't know. But she is happier, and I am happier, and it is just better for our relationship and that's worth a lot right now, so I would say it is a better education for her at this point. She had to answer some multiple-choice questions on the module that gives an overview the lesson set-up, and one of the questions asked what they liked best about learning; she enthusiastically chose “taking tests!” Her second was "doing worksheets." Which, like . . . I burst out laughing. Aren't they supposed to hate worksheets and tests, or . . . ? :) Ha! And I think Andy’s still planning on doing some special studies with her when he’s home. They really enjoyed that.

It's freezing in here! It was 44 degrees this morning. All the windows were open upstairs and the wind whipped through. I've been waking up way too early, like 4 a.m. When that happens I just chuck in any attempt to go back to sleep and get up, go downstairs and make a cup of coffee, and then come back up and get under the covers and surf Pinterest in the dark for a few hours. Surfing Pinterest makes things feel like the old days, when I decorated rooms and made clothes and cooked more. It makes me want to do those things again, so I like it. Still haven't done many of those things but I'm still trying. I don't mind getting up at 4:00 because it's very quiet (aside from Agatha meowing at me; she's a very meow-y cat) and I get some time to myself. I printed off a recipe for apple muffins this morning. That's on my list for the day. Maybe it will be a muffin lunch here.

Having Amelia occupied for part of the day has given me more time to work, and I am so happy to be working. Two new kits are in production right now; FedEx tells me that patterns should be here today. New assistant Anna is just amazing and is putting together all the kits, including two reprints (The Leaves by Hundreds Came and Things of Autumn — we'll re-launch those at the same time as the new ones), and making more lotion bars. Andy has pulled the floss for all four kits and that's all done. We found some stuff (Phyllis Mouse kits and Calicozy strips) in the attic that we didn't know we had so I've been putting some new-old things together as well. Amelia's desk is ready and Andy finished building the big shelf and we gave his old desk away. We've all been working nonstop for the past few weeks and are slowly catching up.

I started a new Porty Cardigan last winter. It's another thing I recently found. I picked it back up and have been knitting the body and am now trying to bind-off. I'm using Jamieson & Smith 2-ply jumper weight. It's probably the scratchiest yarn I've ever used and I really hope I like wearing it when it's all done. It has definitely not been my favorite yarn to knit with, though the colors are splendid. I also recently found and finished another Granny's Favourite in Woolfolk Far for Amelia. I apologize for the scanty info on these Ravelry entries; I don't seem to remember anything about them! Need to write things down more. A few nights ago I had this very old memory of a sweater vest I had when I was a kid — it was navy blue, just a crew-neck wool vest, but it had an intarsia autumn tree in red, yellow, and orange on the front. I remember that I wore it on a field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago on a beautiful, beautiful fall day and I just loved that vest and that museum and that day. I remember riding the bus on I-290 and looking at the Congress El at rush hour. I found this pattern started it (without the fair isle) in Nature Spun sport and am planning to embroider a fall tree on the front in duplicate stitch for Amelia. I'm hoping to have it done by her birthday. I've been just knitting in circles every night as I watch This Farming Life. (I'm on Season Three, which is the last season for me as I started with Season Four, and I will be SO SAD when I get through it! I love this show so very much! Should I just start watching again? What do I do? I need more!)

For dinner, I made Creamy French Mustard Chicken and everyone here really liked it, including Amelia, which made me feel really good. I roasted some vegetables on the side and, I don't know, there really is nothing like cooking something autumnal that your child will eat to make you feel happy and accomplished.

Already Mid-May!

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I'm sitting in the living room listening to traffic, lawn mowers, and birds outside. Andy's at work. Amelia just logged into math, and she'll be in Zoom school for at least another hour. Clover is asleep on her pillow and not stalking me to feed her. I've got old episodes of Real Housewives of NYC on in the background. I love Bethenny and I think she's hilarious. "The only person who got the memo was Dorinda, who showed up wasted. She understands. Where we are." Ha! Silly and funny. I find this show so silly it's relaxing. I love all the Bravo shows. My favorite is Shahs of Sunset, but I also like a few of the Housewives, and I love Million Dollar Listing New York and Los Angeles. Agatha is creeping around on the mantle chewing on stuff and chasing flies through the house like she's on fire. She will mow down anything in her way to get to her fly. I still haven't let her outside and I'm not sure I will. We've never had an indoor cat before. She seems to like it okay. The biggest change is that we never have our back door open like we used to. It opens out so there's no screen door. How do you put a screen door on an outward-opening door? Is that a thing?

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I've been trying to work on my gardening. There are a bunch of little calendula and cornflower and strawflower volunteers down in the parkway (parking strip) that I've been nurturing. I water down there almost every single day, and that is unusual for me. I am typically a very unreliable waterer. But now I've figured out how to do it with the small hose (it's one of those fabric hoses) and I can sit on the front stairs instead of standing. Its best done in the early morning when it's all in shade. I was down there this morning at like 8:00. I saw everybody. A neighbor across the street. A lady riding her bike with two kids ("Hey! I got the same bike helmet! It looks so cute on you!"). Two ladies who looked like twins walking down the middle of the street who complemented my sprinkler system (me with a hose on a stair). Then another lady stopped by with a birthday gift for my other neighbor because she wasn't home. So many people! That's more people in one morning than I've seen in a week!

I'm late with my summer cross stitch design and my summer hoop design. I am almost finished with the cross stitch sample. We have made five different types of soap that we will be launching soon, along with restocking lotion bars and making new bubble scoops and bath soaks. Making body care stuff has been bringing me happiness lately. Who knew! I am trying to make some videos about the process and I will post those on IG.

I get my second shot next week and I can't wait. My electric bicycle will be shipping out from California on June 4. I absolutely cannot wait for the bike to get here. We have a long multi-use trail called the Springwater Corridor that Andy and I used to ride our bikes on all the time. It's a 20+-mile-long trail that runs from Southeast Portland to Boring, Oregon. You can hop on it all over the place. I am going to ride all over it with my electric bike. I could not be more excited about it. I'm just going to ride and ride and ride. I just can't stop thinking about it and I can't wait until it gets here. It can't come soon enough.

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I was just heartbroken to hear about the passing of one of the sweetest, kindest people I have ever known in the blogosphere, Teresa Kasner. She was so joyful, always so encouraging, so curious about things, so filled with delight, and always, always had something nice to say and took the time to say it. God, it just breaks my heart. Andy and I both (Andy still reads every comment on this blog, and he knew exactly who Teresa was from all of her many years of generous commenting here) are thinking of her and Dayle and their sweet family. Rest in peace, dear Teresa. You set such a beautiful example. Thank you.

Doing Random Stuff

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The biggest news in my life lately is that I bought a new duvet cover and king-size pillows. And also these shams. I just felt like our bedroom, which has become my Mom Cave, needed some cheering up. I also wanted those red gingham shams from Zara. They are a really weird size — they call them for "big pillows." A "big pillow" is 27.5" x 35.5". That's huge. That's like the length-of-a-standard-pillow high, and a yard wide. Those pillows sell for like $85+. There was no way I was paying that. I spent hours on Google looking for the same gingham shams (dark red gingham, not red gingham) but in a normal size (like, a king-size pillow, or even a standard) or big pillow inserts that weren't $85+. I Googled every word for dark red — maroon, wine, burgundy — and I couldn't find the right gingham that was like the Zara gingham. I finally found  floor pillows with yucky covers from Overstock that were the same size as "big pillows" but were about $30, I think. Then I gave up and ordered the Zara shams. I went totally crazy. I spent a week doing that.

So you see, you have missed nothing re: my lack of blogging.

Andy has received both doses of the vaccine, so that's been a huge relief. Amelia and I still live as if we are under house arrest but I don't care how long we have to wait, now that Andy is more protected. I send my prayers for all of you adversely affected by this virus. It's been hard. I'm eager for spring to start arriving. Amelia and I have spent many mornings watching for beavers at a local pond, but we're not having much luck. I need to start going very early in the morning because beavers are nocturnal, and I think they start heading home at dawn. . . .

I'm working on the three projects I told you about, and almost all of the things I've ordered for all the kits are here. The jewelry kit will include Weeks Dye Works hand-dyed embroidery floss, so that is still being dyed. The are going to be such nice kits. I am so excited for them. My assistant, Ivy, is working on cutting fabric and assembling jewelry pieces at her house and I'm trying not to overwhelm her with stuff to do — she has a full-time job and works for me only when she can. But we will get there. I'm hoping we can start shipping stuff sometime toward the end of March. I will definitely let you know when everything is ready.

Here's a list of the British mysteries and cop shows I have watched on BritBox and Acorn TV and Netflix this year: Happy Valley (my favorite), Vera, Shetland, Broadchurch, Scott & Bailey, Grantchester, No Offense, Dr. Foster, Unforgotten, The Sounds, The Nest, Marcella, Collateral, London Spy, and lots of Marple, Midsommer, and Morse. Also Loch Ness. What am I missing. Case Histories. I finished Catastrophe (loved it) and lost my mind for Normal People. Gosh that was good. What should I watch next?

It’s A New Year

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Happy New Year, guys.

Eeeee-yipes, am I ever lazy. That's January. I usually lay around. The other day I stayed in my nap dress and got back into bed and put my computer on my lap to work on my cross-stitch pattern and watched TV all day. It was glorious. Andy busted out laughing when he came upstairs and saw me, a stack of dirty dishes next to me on the nightstand. I'm finally starting to get into lockdown. Nowhere to go, no one coming over, nothing to do, no guilt about that! I did feel vaguely guilty about not even getting dressed. I only get to do things like this when Andy is home, of course. Generally he works four 12-hour days in a row, and yes, I am almost shrieking by the end of Day Four, especially when Amelia decides to throw a wobbly right at bedtime. Why is it only at bedtime?! It only seems to happen on Day Four. It's only Day Two today, so hopefully we're good. . . . I can’t take it.

Last night Agatha Kitten was just attacking me relentlessly for an hour! Biting my hands, stalking then lunging at me, and trying to jump up from the side of the bed to get under the covers and claw my feet. What is her problem! She was possessed. She just wouldn't stop. I put her in the hallway and shut the door and then she howled and banged on the door. I'm not kidding. I got up and let her in and she just started biting me again. She is a very bitey cat. It's been so long since I had a baby cat that I can't remember how long this attack-stage lasts. I remember Violet when she was little attacking my feet under the covers, too. That's very annoying. I'm ready for her to start acting a little more mature instead of like a rabid goblin. (And, BTW, she did very well with the Christmas tree and couldn't have cared less about it, but she was absolutely obsessed with the decorated mantel and went up there almost every day and tried to throw things off of it and knocked everything over regularly.) She has no fear and is utterly indifferent to our displeasure. But then she can be such a little lover! Agatha is like a Garbage Patch Kid. First she's sour, then she's sweet. Currently napping sweetly and adorably on the sofa next to me.

I cleaned the house for several hours yesterday. It was so messy. We put all of the Christmas stuff away and I redid my mantel with nothing but a few fake candles, a fake snowy owl, a little vase of fake eucalyptus, and two baskets. I ordered new curtains to cover the shelves on either side of the fireplace (they hold nothing but all of our photo album and old VHS tapes that we can't part with on one side, and a bunch of toys and junk on the other side). I used to have two matching curtains for those shelves but apparently one is lost. I might get two new lamps for the tops of those shelves. We just really need a change. I have two little Ikea lamps up there right now and I've probably had them for twelve or thirteen years. I don't like Ikea lamps because you can really only use Ikea lampshades with them (unless you want to do a clip-on, on the lightbulb). Ikea lampshades are kind of lame. I enjoy surfing Wayfair and maybe I'll do that later.

Andy got his first vaccine on December 26. He gets the booster in ten days or so, depending on his work schedule; I can't remember. So grateful for this. Beyond words.

I got a plug-and-play hot tub for my birthday! It's absolutely awesome. We go in it almost every day. It's really, really good. We need a cover lifter. I don’t enjoy staggering through the mud trying to heft a giant cover onto the table so we can get in when I’m here alone with Amelia.

Currently obsessed with documentaries and reality shows about polygamous cults and other cults. Naturally. Andy was mildly disapproving every time he came in and saw me watching Escaping Polygamy again, goggle-eyed, munching on my lemon cupcake in my nightgown and pointing at the TV like I can’t believe this! But then he'd sit down for one second and start watching it and couldn't look away! I told him! And have you watched Wild Wild Country? Rajneeshees in Oregon. Andy and I are glued. We have one episode left. Incredible story. Well worth watching this. ***Finished it: WOW. What a film. I highly recommend it.

Good times!

I have three embroidery kits I am working on. One is a new 6"x8" seasonal cross stitch (to fit an 8"x10" frame), one is another little hooped wreath (for spring), and one is the embroidered jewelry I was making last year. I'm trying to source everything for that now. I've never done this kind of kit. It will include four pendants with jump-rings and chains, and one pin. I think it's going to be really cool. I am happy with my cross stitch design; I was inspired by woodcuts and I think I have pretty good ideas for all of the upcoming seasons, too.

I hope you are all well and cozy. Tell me what January is like for you.

Pulling Together

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Oh, where do the days go? They slide away, they slide away. It's been three months since our stay-home order went into effect. It's felt long and also short, since the days are all so similar they really do run together. I've been having a rough time of it lately. We've gotten out to the woods and the river a bit, and that has been wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. I would like to go all the time. I love everything about the river. I love stopping at Jimmy John's [edited: won't be going to Jimmy John's after what you guys have just told me — ugh, thank you, I had no idea] and picking up sandwiches right on the edge of town. I love the drive into the country, past Christmas tree farms and billowing foxglove groves. I love the smell of the woods and stopping the car for a mama deer and three babies. I love watching Amelia play with her toys in the sand. I love watching raptors circle endlessly over the river. I love reading in my chair. I love when Andy and Amelia go on adventures. I love the sound of the water. I want to go all the time. I can't wait to go back. My nerves feel better for it, for sure.

I hope you are all well and hanging in there!

Amelia is currently in the bathtub. I gave her a can of shaving cream and said go for it. She's hooting and hollering in there right now. She just asked me for another can (no). She's spent most of the day in her underpants, watching Inspector Gadget in the office and eating water chestnuts out of a can with a fork. It's over 90 degrees outside and sunny, without a breeze in sight. I watered the garden at about 8:30 a.m. and then shot right back into the AC. Andy is back at work today for the first time in maybe a week. But we'll pay for that now, all that glorious time off; I think he is working seven days out of the next nine days. Twelve-hour shifts. An hour bus commute on either side. That's rough, though he never, ever lets it show. But we miss him when he's not here.

We stopped at the plant nursery yesterday to pick up some shade annuals for the porch and then we went to the library to pick up the book (Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid) I had placed on hold last winter. They are finally doing hold pick-ups at the library. They meet you at the front door; there there's a table blocking the entrance, and they slide the book to you on a tray. Sigh. I can't say I enjoyed being out at all, though I had been excited to go. We were only gone an hour or two. But I was so relieved to be home, back under my tree, watching Andy plant the impatiens and Amelia whack at the lawn with a croquet mallet. I guess I'll stick to the river for a while.

I have started a new Sawtooth Star quilt for myself, but I have not worked on it too much. It will be eight blocks each of ten different star combos, made of my precious calicos and hand-dyed (by me) muslin. It will be a king-size quilt that I will line with an Ikea comforter (turn and burn method [layer batting, top, then bottom; stitch around all sizes leaving an opening to turn, turn then stitch opening closed], then I'll tie it). I like my quilts to be just thin, puffy comforters now. I've decided I really don't like binding and I don't like machine-quilting — it all makes the quilt too stiff, in my opinion. I'm going back to puffballs tied with #5 perle cotton. I made one for my sister's birthday present (see first picture). Stay tuned, we'll see if I get this thing for myself finished. A precision quilter I am not, though I did buy a fancy Flying Geese ruler, and that is helping very much.

Amelia and I baked a blueberry–cream cheese babka, an Earl Grey cake (the recipe I used doesn't seem to be available any more), and a rhubarb custard pie. Today we are going to make Orange Julius popsicles and chicken tacos.

I have finished my design for Things of Summer (digital screen shot is above) and the printed patterns have arrived (though I haven't opened the box yet; fingers crossed that all is well in there), so I will start putting kits together next week, and it will be on sale soon!

What are you favorite historical fiction movies, like big, epic ones? Or series? I am so in the mood for that. I've been watching absolute garbage TV lately. I do love it so!!!

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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