Posts filed in: House and Garden

Pulling Together

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Things of Summer

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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!!!

List of Projects and Not So Much

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Hello, dear friends. I'm so sorry it takes me so long to get back here more often. I don't know where the time goes, honestly.

I am thinking I need to make a list of projects that I would like to do. Firstly, I do have work to do, and am almost finished stitching Things of Summer, the next cross-stitch design in my seasonal series. We already have the fabric for this one on hand, and will be able to make 250 kits again. I had ordered this summer fabric back in February and it came right away, which is good. I also ordered fall and winter fabrics and was a bit worried that they might be cancelled or delayed due to virus stuff, but it looks like they are only a bit delayed. I hope to finish Things of Summer this week and will photograph that and show you. We will probably print patterns and assemble these kits before we sell them (rather than taking pre-orders) because we have the materials on hand. So stay tuned for more on that.

I did design a cross stitch for boys and I need to finish the pattern for that! It's completely done (I'm not stitching it, just showing you the computer version) and I just have to finish the pattern stuff then I will release that one for free.

I decided to start a new Volo sweater for Amelia, and I splurged and bought very fancy yarn for that (Woolfolk Far). I guess I've come all the way around on my acrylic bender. Acrylic is soft, it's cheap, but it pills so bad. :( Wah. I was warned. And, as everyone says, it's true that it just does not stretch. However, my child still will not wear any wool that isn't crazy soft. You know what she will wear? Woolfolk Far, the world's softest and loveliest wool yarn (at least in my opinion) that is also quite expensive. But I thought, if ever there were a time when I needed some very beautiful, very soft, very comfortable yarn in my hands and on her body, it is now. So that's on my list.

I ordered a really pretty puzzle and I hope it comes soon.

My quilt blocks stalled out. I haven't done anything with them.

Amelia and I planted ALL of those seeds in our raised beds yesterday. Apparently I bought them last summer and never planted them. I didn't even remember! I opened a little drawer in the kitchen recently and there they all were. We put them in a bowl — all of them, all together — and mixed them all with a cup of sugar (just to spread them out a bit) and then sprinkled them all over the raised beds. Keeping fingers crossed that something comes of them. It will be survival of the fittest.

I am still working on the paper mache mobile and I will be finished soon! I will take pictures of everything and show you. And for those who asked, I just used 1 part flour to 1 part water, cooked it for a few minutes and then strained it. It made a nice smooth paste.

I really love paper mache and I will need to think of another project when I'm done with it.

Mostly I am rather aimless and still trying to find a path to get on. The days run together, and even though we are so tired at the end of the day it feels like not very much is getting done. Is anyone else experiencing this?

For instance, it has literally taken me all day to write this award-winning post.

How are you?

Finding Our Way

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Hello my friends. How are you doing? We are all home today, in various parts of the house. I'm sitting upstairs on my bed with the computer on my lap. Andy's downstairs looking for our pasta machine that we haven't used in probably ten or fifteen years. It's not going well, and he just shouted up that he's looked in every place it he thought it could possibly be. We both can picture it perfectly in our minds, in its ripped old yellow cardboard box, but it's just not in any of the places we expected to find it. Mimi was on a call with her teacher and classmates earlier, and her job today is to write a thank-you note to her uncle for the very cool wood-burned sign he made for her secret hideout, then there's ballet on Zoom at 3. The weather is cool and cloudy and wet. The yard is covered in petals and puddles. My heart is sore and full of sorrow for the people who are sick, or who have lost friends and family, or who are otherwise suffering losses of so many kinds. I send up my prayers. We are all finding our ways, I know. I would love to know how you are doing.

I have found some respite for my worried mind in a few projects that have kept me busy. I started drawing one afternoon from this adorable book that I bought several months ago and hadn't taken the time to play with. Mimi and I made paper mache faces of each other and had a good time doing that. I decided to make a mobile for her with little paper mache things that she likes. So far there are: a kitty, a mouse, a book, a rainbow, a bed, an ice cream cone, a sun, a boat, a lemonade, and a house. She still wants Saturn, a teacup, and a mushroom. I sat on the bed where I have my own little TV and binge-watched Doctor Foster (very dark but with one of my favorites, Suranne Jones, who I loved in Scott & Bailey — I really like British lady-cop and detective shows) and taped things together out of cardboard boxes, milk cartons, the protective packaging that came with my printer toner, a toilet paper tube, and various other pieces of garbage I could find around the house. It was delightful. Then I spent a day paper mache-ing them (also while sitting on the bed. Andy was impressed that someone could paper mache eight things while sitting on a bed. I told him that when there is a will I will find a way). Sometimes it is just nice to have some time and a little corner of the house to oneself so you can paper mache ice cream cones and watch scary lady-dramas in peace, you know?

Yesterday it was beautiful and sunny and we covered the new back-porch table in paper and painted out there all day. Like all day. I must say, it's pretty wonderful, in spite of everything, to have all day to do something so silly and sweet and fun. I think it was the first time that I had been able to relax in the past two months, quite frankly, and even before the virus started there would've been no way that I ever would've spent a whole day just doing something like this. I have spent entire days sewing or embroidering before, but that always ultimately, even if I'm just making something personal, feels a little bit like work for me. Doing new things, things I never usually do, feels helpful and I'm finding joy in the doing.

I made this magic custard cake and more cinnamon rolls. And I highly recommend both. Now let's hope we can find that pasta machine. I really want some ravioli.

Working on the Yard

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Good Saturday morning to you, dear friends. It's a rainy morning here. We've been working on our backyard a lot this week. We started at the back door and have been working our way out. It was a total mess. Our yard has been neglected for the past few years. I'm not sure why. It used to be pretty. It's time to reclaim it. We ripped out all the dead plants, cleaned the millions upon millions of tiny Mimi-toys from every planter and pot, replaced dead dirt with fresh potting soil, and cleaned slug streaks from every surface. I trimmed hundreds of old dead hydrangea flowers and have more to do. We ordered some plants from a local nursery that was doing deliveries. I got eight English lavenders for our deck planters and an assortment of fifteen other 4" annuals for various pots. We dumped out piles of old leaves and scrubbed the pots with brushes. Andy planted everything for me and it is beautiful and helpful.

We cleaned up the back corner where Amelia likes to play and are planning to help her make a mud kitchen back there. I didn't realize this was such a trendy thing and had a huge laugh when I saw the fancy pictures of them on Pinterest. How awesome. I think Ginny's is the ultimate. The headscarf Mimi is wearing is a present from my dear Ginny, too. I'm channeling Ginny. Mimi's uncle is going to make a sign that says "Mimi's Secret Hideout" for her (her choice of name :) and Mimi is going to help me trace and cut triangles so we can make a bunting. It's pretty cute. She likes to dink around with little things — pots and pans and leaves and rocks and tiny dolls and furniture — so I am excited to make this a good spot for her. She's excited, too. We are going to get some sand and fill up the planter back there for her to use as a sandbox. It's shady in that corner under a huge lilac tree and the dogwood tree. A giant pile of pea gravel got dumped back there at some point last summer so there's no actual mud, which is nice. There's mud close by, but not right there. I think I am going to give her my lemonade dispenser so she has a water source. This will all be a good way to get her to stop watching so much Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures.

Working on the yard has given me a sense of control and accomplishment and hope. The weather has been absolutely glorious and that's such a gift. I think it's literally the best weather I've ever seen in my life. Andy put up two shade sails over the back deck and oh, wow. What a difference they make. I love them I love them I love them. I mean, duh. The place was as hot as a diner grill back there. Faces south and gets blasted by sun all day long. Now it's all filtered white shade-sail light. You can sit at the table and not get fried. You can sit at the table and drink your blueberry iced tea and think a whole thought in the filtered light. I don't know why it takes us so long to solve these problems, and for next to no money, too. Sigh. We are slow.

My sister-in-law Jen lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and she sent me a few videos of the birds coming to her birdbath and bird feeder. It was so inspiring. I am getting a few more bird feeders for the backyard now. I noticed there were a ton of birds flying across our yard, really low, practically buzzing us. It's kind of a superhighway from one place to another, apparently. It is thrilling. Our apple tree is in full bloom right now, and it's such a lovely, lovely tree. Little chickadees come and sit in it and it literally looks just like a vintage postcard. Now I sit on my shady deck and watch them. It's really nice.

Thank you for all of your kind comments on my last post. I am thinking of you and wishing you strength, peace, and hope. And lots of love.

Keeping On

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Hello, hello! I truly hope you are all healthy and well and staying safe. I am thinking of you and wishing you all every good thing right now, wherever you are and whatever your circumstances. These are hard days.

Here we are, keeping-on keeping on. Mimi is doing what Mimi does best — that is, whatever she wants at (almost) all times. For the record, I have zero problem with this. She jumps on her mini-trampoline, writes a letter to one of her friends about her trampoline, does some math problems on the computer, and reads quietly to herself every day at 3:00 (on that I do insist, just to get some quiet). She climbs her tree, she shouts across the street to our neighbors, she is nervous that I've ordered her a new bike without training wheels, and declares she has no interest in learning to ride it. We have gone nowhere but the loading dock at the post office for two weeks now. Well, occasionally we do go walk around the block. I don't enjoy it. She helped me work on cleaning up the front garden and did a surprisingly great job at pulling the stuff I told her to pull. So it goes. She is amazing and carries on without fear or frustration, cheerfully accepting the changes and taking everything in stride in a way that I find humbling and inspiring. She and her friend FaceTimed the other day and just played their toy pianos for each other for a half an hour. I didn't even really hear them talk. They had a fine time.

Andy (cardiac nurse) toggles between home and work, leaving the house in the dark, coming home in the dark, busy at the hospital all day. Empty busses. The sound of crows through the night sky in an empty downtown. The sound of a streetcar bell ringing four blocks away. He gets home around 9:00 p.m. and goes straight to our neighbor's guest house to shower and change clothes before coming home through the mud-room door, which we haven't used in years. Our neighbors are wonderful, and are letting us use the guest house as a place for him to transition between the outside world and home. His shift was cancelled today and a continuing-education class next week was also cancelled so he is home for the next eight days, and I am grateful. So grateful. It is stressful. There have been many tears (mine) and a lot of stress and a lot of worry and a lot of sadness and then just a whole hell of a lot of trying to do everything right when so much is out of our control.

I know people around the country are also sewing masks at home and some people have asked me about that. I am no expert here — I don't pretend to know if they are effective or who is using them. I know that OHSU is not accepting them right now. JoAnn's has collected patterns here and will collect your finished masks for distribution directly "to medical professionals who can best decide how to use them." This article also has information about making masks. I am going to try to make some this week in case they help.

I spent last week assembling and packing up all of the Things of Spring kits to ship off to you. Thank you again so much for your orders. The kits are sold out and I wish I had made more. I always hold out ten or so kits until I know what everyone has received theirs without a problem (and there is always a problem because I always screw something up) and I will trickle those ten back into inventory soon. Don't judge my handwriting on your postcards because it's insane. I know. I was stressed and wanting to get everything out as fast as I could, before our stay-at-home order became official. I do hope you enjoy cross stitching the kit and that it gives you some hours of peace and quiet. I will make the PDF available in the next couple of days as soon as I get organized. ***Update: Here it is! Thank you!

Until then, make pretzels!

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For now, Maggie (and Foxie) are staying cozy and warm. If you'd like to make someone a rabbit for Easter, I've made Maggie's pattern available for free for you. Please enjoy making her and send me your pictures when you're finished, or tag them with #maggierabbit or #missmaggierabbit on Instagram. I love seeing them so much. You can't imagine.

Stay well, my friends. Wishing you every good thing in these hard days. XOXO

Tiny Flowers Everywhere Now

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"Mom, pretend I'm a lost kitten and you found me."

Me, setting the alarm this morning and leaving the house with Amelia, only to come out the front door and almost fall on top of Amelia, suddenly squatting in her winter coat and cowl on the front porch, six inches in front of the front door, writing on a math worksheet (from three weeks ago/not homework): "I'm so focused on my work," says she.

Oh, look at my lovely new quilt! It was made by the lovely Olivia and it is just so exquisite. It's made of all vintage calicos with hand-sewn binding and hand-quilting, and I love it so much. It's a birthday present I splurged on for myself and I couldn't be more thrilled with the indulgence! Thank you, Olivia! It is going to get a lot of love here.

Thank you all so much for all of your comments here and on Instagram about cross-stitch charts and your preferences around them. That was such interesting reading for me! I truly appreciate you taking the time to give me your thoughts on that. I tallied up the responses from both here and IG and the results were (as of yesterday, anyway): 183 people voting for symbols over color and 75 people voting for black and white symbols only. So, more than twice as many people like symbols over color.

That said, there was a lot of interesting feedback within the comments beyond just raising hands for one or the other, and I was quite keen to read further when people elaborated on why they like black and white. Some people only had black-and-white printers, so they struggled with printing shades of color under symbols. Some people mentioned using highlighters on black-and-white to mark progress. Some people use colored pencils to color their black-and-white patterns, especially if they are inclined to change the suggested colors. Some people, I think, are just used to black and white patterns and are more comfortable with what they are used to. But generally I just love hearing all of this and it seems clear that, going forward at least, I should be offering both a color chart and a black-and-white chart in my PDF patterns. This way you can choose which you like, and print only the pages that are most useful to you. So, done. I have one pattern that I haven't released yet (a Little Women–inspired sampler) but that is completely finished, and it does not have a black-and-white option. It is coming out soon (I need to final-proof-it) as a PDF-only option (we're not doing a kit for it). But after that, my future PDF patterns will contain both a symbols-over-color chart AND a black-and-white chart for you.

For kits, however, when we print hard copies of patterns to include in our packages, there will still only be a color copy. It is just too much expense and waste to include paper that won't be used. If, however, you purchase a kit and you would like me to email you a copy of the PDF that contains a black-and-white chart to print on your own, I am more than happy to do that. You just need to email me and request it.

I will have at least four kits coming out this year, as I am working on a new seasonal series, starting with spring. We will start taking pre-orders for that next week!

Part of the reason I'm asking about this is because one of my plans for 2020 is to begin offering my cross-stitch patterns to cross-stitch shops around the country. (They will probably be in color only? Still researching that.) For many years for various reasons I have not pursued this but it's weird, now that Amelia is in school all day and only five minutes from the house, it's like suddenly some things just have become so clear and possible. My time and energy are suddenly my own for almost six whole hours a day (and not spent driving for 2.5 hours of that, like the Hellacious School Commute of 2018-19), and I can see a future for my work that I couldn't see very well before. I realized that I really want to become a part of the cross-stitch community and just enjoy it in real life more! I am kind of a loner and I really don't mind being quiet and alone when I get the chance (not often, quite honestly). But I also think I need to pursue more purely social opportunities in my life that don't involve just other moms and kids. I literally don't have a single conversation with any other adults where we are not either with our kids or sitting and waiting for our kids. Well, I did have breakfast with Jenny yesterday and we were not with our kids. And tonight I also am going to a mom-friend's house with other school mom-friends to watch Pride and Prejudice without kids. But that is rare! I swear!!! So I am going to try to make an effort to either take a class or go to some meet-ups or do something that would be really fun but just for adults, and we'll see how it goes! I'm not sure exactly why making my patterns available wholesale is somehow equated with having only-adult interaction in my mind but it is, and there you go.

Speaking of, kinda funny. There's a cafe in an old church I like to go to to work on my computer. It's a community space that is used for a lot of different groups and functions and is really big and wonderful. I've been going there for years but the past two times I've gone, I've gone at the exact time as some kind of kids' concert in the chapel next to the coffee shop. It's like a Raffi concert but it's not Raffi. I was there on Monday morning and everything was very quiet. I was sitting in the far corner (still working on the master floss list — I can't even count how many hours that thing has taken me) with my back to the room and at some point I could hear the singalong start in the chapel. It went on for a while but then everyone cheered and it was over — and suddenly the cafe was literally FILLED with children, babies, and parents. It was deafeningly loud. They were everywhere. And they weren't just passing through, they were settling in. I made a sound recording and sent it to Andy to make him laugh. He texted me a picture of Amelia back at home in the bathtub (no school), making a bubble beard on her chin. We both agreed, however, that it's strangely relaxing to be in the midst of chaos when none of the crying children are actually yours. Like, only if a totally random child somehow actually fell into my lap, which would've been highly unlikely, would I have had to do something about any of it, and thus it was quite pleasant and relaxing to be in the eye of the storm and know that none of it required anything from me!

***By the way, for those who asked about my little white television in my office, it is this one.

* Thank You *

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Thank you, dear friends, for every one of your kind words. We were so touched by them all, and by your sweet and generous presence here. You are so kind, and I appreciate it so much. Thank you. Thank you. I am so grateful for you.

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It's been cold and gloomy here, for the most part, though it is lovely and sunny today, and it was sunny yesterday, too. The school yard has turned into a giant mud pit; one of the moms at school told me that a branch of the river runs under the neighborhood, and there are drainage problems. Mimi and I discussed on the way to school this morning that we've both given up on getting snow this year. It seems like we never really even got close. It's tricky when you start seeing loads of daffodils before Valentine's Day, but we have them. Spring, it seems, is already on its way.

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Nevertheless, I stretched my First Snow embroidery over the weekend, and did Time of Flowers and Summer Storm, as well. I have The Leaves by Hundreds Came to do, as well as a few more I haven't shown you yet! I have been stitching a lot this winter, and thinking about what designs I want to create for sale this year. Thank you for all of the feedback you gave me on my embroidered jewelry from a few weeks ago, by the way! I was so excited to hear that you like it. I am going to pull together a pattern for those necklaces and pins, and at the least offer some of the brooch and pin trays in my web shop so that you can make your own. I am also planning to offer another seasonal 8″ x 10″ (framed) cross-stitch collection this year. I have already finished stitching the spring edition and am working on the summer one, so that I can stay a little bit ahead of schedule for once. I will show you that new work soon, maybe later this week if I can continue to pull it all together.

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Last week I wanted to make some little clay hearts for a garland, so I used this recipe for cold porcelain clay. It was a lot of fun to make and play with, though it didn't come out like I had wanted it to. It was rather blobby as it dried, and any sharp lines that were cut or carved got quite soft and puffy. The hearts still came out kind of cute. I probably need to get some regular modeling clay (polymer clay is too hard for my hands, I think) to make what I am envisioning. Sometimes I want to take a clay class again. I used to throw pots in college, and Andy did, too. Pottery was a popular thing at our school and I think every single one of our friends took it at some point. I don't even know if I want to throw pots on a wheel or just play with some clay in my hands again. I might look into it, because it would be good for me to get out of the house a little bit. I'm always here.

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I would've love to take this paper mache workshop because how adorable are these little creatures? I love paper mache. Who even knew there were classes in these things? I really need to get out more.

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This little ray of sunshine. Oh how I love her so!!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to You!

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

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

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

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

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

At Christmastime

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

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

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

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

Chocolate Buttercream Mints

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

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

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

Frosting:

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

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

 

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

Decembery

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Halllooooooo! Happy December to you! It's hard to believe it's December already. I'm not ready. I have so much to do and, really, not enough time to get it done. Mild frustrations. I sat down this morning specifically to answer emails and ship orders and blog, and naturally the internet wasn't working. Stuff like that. The house is still mostly covered in pumpkins. Mimi and I did go to JoAnn's to pick up a few things the other day (one of them the pre-assembled gingerbread house — I have no aptitude for frosting together vertical walls) and she got some supplies to make a wreath for her room door. She cut apart a few little sprigs and added the pom poms and picked the ribbon and I couldn't have done it all any better myself.

Thanksgiving was warm and wonderful. We cooked and my family came and the house was trashed and we had such a nice time. I hope yours was lovely, too. I love Thanksgiving weekend so much. It always feels like the longest weekend of the year. Andy had Thursday, Friday, and Saturday off, and this was extraordinary. The three of us went out to lunch and then to see Frozen 2 on Friday, and on Saturday Andy cleaned his closet (it was like an excavation — this is what happens when you don't move house for twenty years) and I cleaned Amelia's room. We moved almost all of her hanging clothes into the guest room closet. We only have three small closets in the house. It was a little bit bittersweet — I remember so well those early years, when I filled her clothes rod with dozens of tiny little calico dresses and wooly sweaters. It feels like yesterday. But it was time for these big clothes to not be hung above the dresser anymore. Taking them out filled the room with light and air. We dusted and remade the bed and hung some new pictures and cleaned surfaces, ready for the tiny Christmas tree I promised her. She actually asked for a new mattress (she has one of those extendable toddler mattresses from Ikea right now and she doesn't like it — truly a girl after my own princess-and-the-pea heart). I am making her a new Calicozy quilt for Christmas and I really need to get on it! Anyway, her room looked so pretty and sweet when we were done tidying it that I just sat in her chair and stared off into space for about forty-five minutes and, as I told Melissa, I have not felt that level of general satisfaction in a long time. It was really nice.

If only the rest of the house felt like that. . . . I have some serious tidying that needs to happen before Christmas can move onto the property. That will be happening soon!

***Some business housekeeping:

The Dovegray Doll pattern and Peasant Dress, Pinafore, and Stockings patterns are now available as PDFs! I'm so sorry I didn't get them up last week! I am still working on my new knitting patterns and will be getting them up soon!

The pink handwarmers in the photo above were early pink prototypes for my Misselthwaite Mitts. Ultimately, I settled on green for them. I dyed some yarn recently for kits for those, too, and we have seven kits (green) in stock if you prefer.

The pink sweater is a basic raglan that I'm writing a pattern for. I dyed those yarns and I am hoping to make some yarn available for when the pattern launches, too. I want to do a video that shows you how I dye yarn if you would be interested in that?

Mimi's drawings were inspired by Flora Waycott's sweet book, Draw Every Little Thing: Learn to Draw More than 100 Everyday Items from Food to Fashion. I bought her this book and a learn-to-write-cursive book and she has been using both of them every day. It's so adorable.

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.