Posts filed in: House and Garden

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.

Keeping Warm

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Good morning, dear friends! Hello! I'm alone in my office today, drinking my tea and tidying all the mess I've made here in the past few weeks. I'm seriously happy to say that the last of the pre-orders were dropped off at the post office yesterday and your kits are on their ways to you. Thank you again, so, so much, for your sweet orders and patience while we've put these together. As soon as I catch my breath I will put the PDFs up on my web site, probably by the end of the week!

Our furnace has been broken for the past few weeks. The furnace dude has been here probably five times so far. On to Phase II (expensive repairs). It hasn't been very cold here, luckily. The thermostat reads around 65 on most afternoons, which is a bit colder than I keep it, generally, but not too bad. I kinda like it now. We bought a few tiny fake (electric) wood stoves. I put one in the fireplace (which we never use to burn wood) and one in my office. Mimi already had one in her room. They really work great. I'm kind of used to having these little pockets of warmth around the house now. I only keep the heaters running when we are actually in the rooms, but if I get up to go to the bathroom or go to the kitchen or whatever, the hallways and the bathrooms and the stairwell greet me with a whoosh of cold air. It's kind of like hot sauna to cold-water pool, in a vague way. I'm wearing sweaters around the house, which I've never done. I pretend I'm Finnish. Once the furnace gets fixed, I honestly doubt we'll keep the heat any higher than 66 or so. We used to keep it at 70, but I'm guessing that will be too hot for us now. Beds are deliciously cozy. Mimi has probably seven quilts and sleeps with her fan blowing on her every night. Even in the middle of winter and covered in flannel and duvets she wants her fan blowing. I burrow down under the covers, drinking coffee in the dark, twinkle lights on a dimmer switch, watching the windows turn gray. It's a glorious time of day.

I'm missing my girl terribly today. She's at school and I'm . . . caught up. Funny how it hits you out of the blue as soon as you do get a few minutes to yourself, which, when you're in the thick of it is all you ever want. Quiet. Clean. But as soon as I do ever get a few minutes to myself, I feel so very at loose ends, missing the endless questions, the chatter, the Mama look!/Mama watch!/Mama look!, the piles of tiny pieces of cut-up paper, the hundreds of thousands of drawings left on every surface, the banana peels left on the desk, the shoes left anywhere and everywhere, the love notes written on sticky notes, their sticky strips grimy with crumbs and crud. It's baffling but happens every single time. Oh lord how I love her. Last night she chose to forego our nightly lullaby, which is a book about animals going to bed that I have sung out loud (to a tune we made up) every night for the past four years. Last night instead, without ceremony, she chose to read to me while sitting on her bed in her nightgown and robe, a Little Golden Book about a duckling. I forget which Little Golden Book about which duckling (there are a few). She's reading so well and it's like a dream. It is my dream. I had a flashback while she was reading, her hair falling onto the pages, to when I hung snowflakes from her ceiling, and time folded up right there, for a moment, and I caught myself hiding a sob. She was a baby and now she is a girl, sitting cross-legged, reading books, drawing dollhouses, writing notes. Every night before we move to her room, we sit in the big bed in our big nightgowns with our tiny reading light and she reads to me and I read to her. Teeth brushed, feet up, curled together, done for the day. She leans into my arm, perfect fit. We read and read. One more book. Warm and heavy. Linger here. Just . . . this.

Party Time!

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The party was just awesome. I want to do it over again and have it be exactly the same. The kids were all so excited and so sweet and so giggly and had so much fun. Amelia was in her element, surrounded by friends and chaos and games and toys and fun. She likes to be right in the middle of things, the nuttier and more bonkers-crazy the better. When she slumped down in her sheepskin-lined chair to eat her cupcake with her hat on crooked and her eyes shining I almost burst into tears. She looked so content and comfortable and filled with joy. Actually, it does make me cry. Seven is such a magical age. They are made happy by pom-poms, ping-pong balls, and candy. They TP-ed the yard right away (the game of "mummy" went "wrong," but it was the best thing that could've happened, because they had a blast and got a lot of energy out before they came in) and played Bozo's Buckets and Pin the Tail (where Amelia brought the party to a screeching halt when she went first — blindfolded, she was spun around three times and walked straight to the donkey with her tail held out in front of her and pinned it perfectly into the place — everyone literally went silent, including Andy and me, looking at each other with sheepish expressions . . . ermmmmmm . . . Ha! Well, let's keep playing anyway everybody!!!). I had noted on the invitation that presents were not necessary but every single kid brought a little present, so that shows you what I know. They all sat around her in a circle while she opened them and it was actually very, very sweet. Some kids were definitely quite shy at the beginning, but all of the parents eventually slipped out and the quieter kids got quickly taken into the lively fold. They sat at the table and decorated cupcakes and ate fruit skewers and veggie sticks about halfway through, and it was so adorable to hear them all talking and giggling and being silly and making each other laugh at the table. Almost all of them are in the same class at school. They ended with the pinata, which wasn't mine or Andy's favorite but Amelia said it was her favorite. Anyway, it was just super fun and I thank you so much for all of your advice and suggestions. Andy and I both read them all and we got some really great ideas about what to be prepared for and we all had an awesome day.

Now we get ready for the family party, which is this weekend. Andy's parents arrive from Chicago on Friday and will stay until next week. Amelia's birthfamily is all coming, and her grandparents will come up from Eugene. I've left all of the decorations up and will be doing just some little appetizers, and a strawberry cake has been requested. She also wants roast chicken and mashed potatoes for her birthday dinner. I don't know why but I burst out laughing when she said that. God I love this kid so much.

The weather has been so wonderful. Lots of sunshine, storms, and the leaves are turning bright red and yellow. By the way, I forgot to tell you what that one picture was with the white dots! There were a lot of good guesses, but I don't think anyone actually guessed exactly what it was. It was a picture I took straight on (not through a screen or a window or anything) of a pouring rainstorm in BRIGHT sunlight. It was one of the weirdest things I have ever seen. The rain was coming down in sheets, but there was a hole in the clouds right where the sun was coming through and literally every raindrop was shining with light. The camera captured the raindrops as white blobs. In real life it was a glitterstorm.

Finishing her birthday dress today. We've got almost all of the supplies in for the Dovegray Dolls (except for the muslin . . . need to check on that) and as soon as birthdaying is finished, it's full-steam ahead with that stuff!

Dovegray Dolls Coming Soon

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Well, hello there! How are you? It is raining here this morning and I am well. It's been a busy, exciting, intense couple of weeks since school started. All is well and we are each getting used to our new routines, together and on our own. Kids are so dang brave. It's really incredible to watch, isn't it? It's beautiful. I'm constantly in awe of their abilities to do things they've never done before, go places they've never gone, walk into rooms filled with people they don't know, and basically figure it all out within days. If that. It's so inspiring.

Andy is back at work today after a few days and an entire weekend off, which was so nice. He was home for three weeks on vacation in August and I got used to that. I was antsy to clean the house while he was home. But once he had gone back to work and I had done that, I really missed him and Meems and the long, lazy days of summer, and all the summer things that I've never missed until this, the Summer of Perfect Weather. Suddenly I'm having the summer's-over emotions that most normal people have. I'm looking longingly at the sodden cushions on my front-yard chair, where I sat and read for countless hours, Mimi swinging from the branches of the tree beside me, and I will miss those afternoons. I'm usually just so ready for fall to start that I don't care what's gone. But this time it's a little different, and I am feeling all of the changes.

Thank you so much for all of the Leaves by Hundreds Came orders! They are sold out now. I am busy trying to get my dolls finished and photographed and ready to launch, probably next week. Andy has been in the office during his days off, cutting fabrics for me and generally helping out. We are hoping to have them available for pre-order next week. I first started working on these dolls a couple of years ago. They are based on the animal-doll patterns, and they all share the same body and construction. They can all wear the same clothes. There will be ten different combinations of three skin colors (dark, medium, light) and five hair colors (blond, dark brown, red, auburn, black) you can choose from. Each doll kit comes with a pattern for the doll and her muslin camisole and bloomers and many of the supplies needed to make those things (I'll share full lists of contents at the launch).

There will also be a separate kit (with pattern) available for a calico peasant dress, embroidered pinafore in solid-colored cotton, and knitted wool lace stockings. I'll show you the dress next week. All of the calico fabrics we are including in these kits are vintage calicos from the '70s and '80s, mostly Peter Pan and Joan Kessler that I've spent the last several years collecting either from eBay or estates. It's been such a labor of love and I really have no words to tell you how excited I am to be able to share all of these things with you soon. This is going to be such a cool collection. We will take pre-orders next week and are planning to ship doll kits and dress kits at the same time, by mid-November. We aren't sure how many orders we will get for what skin/hair combos, so we will order supplies on our end after we get the pre-order numbers and begin putting kits together and shipping as fast as we can.

I'm naming the collection the Dovegray Dolls. I wasn't sure what I was going to call them until earlier this summer, when I was starting to work on them a lot. And one night, Mimi and I were sitting in the front yard and we heard a mourning dove.

The sound of the mourning dove is one of the sounds (along with freight trains and thunder) that I miss so much from my childhood. We had them in River Forest (a western suburb of Chicago where I grew up) but we do not have them here in my neighborhood in Portland. (My sister regularly hears mourning doves right across the river in Lake Oswego, but we don't have them here.) If you don't know what they sound like, here is a sample. It's a pretty unmistakable sound.

When I heard it, I couldn't believe it. Mimi cocked her head and listened, too. After just a few calls, she could imitate the dove perfectly, much better than I could. We went and got Gretchen, our next-door neighbor, who also grew up in River Forest (I know, crazy right? Total awesome coincidence. We both graduated from Oak Park River Forest High School in the same year, too, though we didn't know each other. [The high school had almost four thousand people in it, and she and I had gone to different grade schools.]) We all listened. I texted Andy (at work) to tell him what we were hearing. I was excited. It had been decades since I'd heard a mourning dove. We sat out there for a long time, but eventually he stopped cooing and it got dark.

The very next day, the weirdest thing happened: We got a postcard (pictured above) from our local bird shop with a mourning dove on it! (It was a coupon for bird seed.) Andy came home from work that night and saw the post card on the table and said, "OH my gosh, you got a really good picture of the mourning dove!" I started laughing and told him I hadn't taken it, that it was a postcard that had just happened to arrive, etc. We continued to hear the mourning dove for a few days. Mimi and I took the coupon and went to the Backyard Bird Shop and got some special bird seed that mourning doves supposedly like. (She also broke a glass thing while we were there and the ladies at the shop were so incredibly kind and generally cool about it that we will be customers for life.) We put the new seed (I think it was millet?) in the flat feeder right away. Naturally, the minute we did that, we never heard the mourning dove again! Granted, he was never actually in our yard, just somewhere near. The bird shop said that sometimes they sort of find their ways over to this side of the river, but they don't often stay very long. Sad face. I'm still hopeful! I love them.

Anyway, in honor of the summer days we spent listening to the sweet cooing of our mourning dove, I named my little dolls the Dovegray Dolls. The one pictured above is Bridie.

***By the way, that picture above with all the little white dots on it? Does anyone want to take a guess what’s going on there? :)

Fireworks and Flowers

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Slow day, today. Meems and I have decided to just stay home, which we don't often do. I think it can be stressful to stay home all day. I'm not sure why, exactly. It always surprises me. Parenting an only child can be seriously bonkers sometimes. You don't get much of a break. My days are long — Andy is gone from 6:00 a.m. until almost 9 p.m. three or four days a week, so I'm on my own a lot. It's a lot. When he's home he's super hands-on, but we also then, all three of us, do a lot of stuff together. So I don't get much time to myself. Most of the time it's fine, but sometimes, when the days have really stacked up, by Day Four I'm fried, no lie. The cooking and cleaning gets old, too. Mimi is easy to feed — veggies, rice, fruit, chicken, yogurt, tofu. Granola. More fruit. But during the day, we eat out a lot. Self-care, Alicia-style, I guess. We eat a lot of simple Thai food out. She's been ordering for herself since she could talk and, aside from spilling entire glasses of water almost every time they don't have lids, she is pretty great in restaurants. And I like to just sit and catch my breath. I frequently read my book while we eat lunch together. People think that's weird, but what can I say. Introvert mothers gotta do what we gotta. She draws, I read, someone else cooks, we eat, someone else cleans up.

Today, apparently, we're going to bake a cake. Vanilla with vanilla frosting and flowers, I'm told. She's downstairs watching Secret Life of Pets. I'm procrastinating watering the garden but I will do it, because I really am sticking to my resolution. It's been nice. My silly little garden, bringing me so much joy. We got the giant, 100-foot-long hose, which makes it easier to take care of things. The weather has STILL been cool and cloudy and occasionally rainy and, yes oh yes oh yes, just plain glorious. When it's so nice like this you can actually go to a park and play right in the middle of the afternoon. It's amazing! It's not 95 degrees! It's 75! Life-changing. No exaggeration. I’m so sorry for those of you sweltering in heatwaves right now. It’s so hard.

I made the sweet little romper for the @knit.beyond.borders auction that's running right now to benefit @raices.texas . It's from the Billie romper pattern from Strikdet. It is 100% merino and has sweet little buttons on the back. I used snap tape, hand-sewed in, on the crotch. I love these little rompers and I wish I had made more for Amelia when she was little. I have a lot of knitting projects going on right now, and a future lot going on in my head. I just sent off the last batch of new-doll knitting patterns to Laura, my tech editor, so there will be probably ten or so new knitting patterns for dolly sweaters, skirts, stockings, cowls, and other things coming out this fall when the dolls are launched. All of the knitting and new sewing patterns (also coming) will fit all of my animal softies, as well; they all, dolls and animals, have the same bodies. After I sent off the tiny samples, I started thinking about what Amelia needs for fall. First up was a new ballet sweater. I've made this one and this one so far, and she wore neither of them, claiming both were too itchy. New sweater is being knit off of the same pattern, which is perfect. But this time I'm using very soft acrylic yarn because 1) cheap and 2) soft. Cheap and soft are now my guiding priorities when knitting for Amelia. It's a relief, on some level, to finally realize how much going Cheap-and-Soft is increasing my joy in knitting for this kid, at least for stuff like this which is worn close to the skin! I had two coupons for 50% off two separate items at JoAnn's, so we wound up spending $4.99 on the yarn, total. The sweater is black (she's moved up to the next class, so black-leotard dress-code) so choosing pretty colors, which a lot of acrylic yarns, I've found, do not come in, at least in my opinion, was not a problem here. The yarn is also washable and anti-pill. The best is, though, that knitting with it is not as annoying as I was worried it would be. Acrylic notoriously doesn't stretch or give or feel that nice to knit with. But this really is not so bad! I'm quite pleased. I need to find the yarn label to see what the yarn is called because I can't remember. But I will post a picture here and details on Ravelry when I'm done (and I'm almost done). I have a lot of things to put on my projects list, I think. I'm behind with that.

At night I knit and knit and watch episode after episode of Gardener's World and Monty Don (on Acorn TV, I think?). It is literally the most relaxing television show in the history of the world. I love it so much.

Studio Re-Do 2019

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Look how cleeeeeean! I feel proud!

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We repainted, got new curtains, new office chairs, more baskets, and labels. What do you think?

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Pretty much all of the major pieces in here are exactly the same as they were in 2010 when we did a major overhaul of this room, and got new flooring (it had been concrete with carpet on it before) and new furniture. (All of the details about the furniture and that 2010 redo are in this post, FYI.) Almost everything about that original set-up still works pretty great, I have to say; either that or we're just so used it we don't know the difference. But we kept everything exactly where it was and just added a few more things, including the shelfy thing on my table (which, as I mentioned last time I found at Goodwill), and a lot more door inserts and more baskets for the Expedit shelf (the new version of which is called the Kallax — the baskets and inserts all still fit the Expedit). What didn't work great about the old set-up was trying to keep the open shelving that we used to have tidy when it's primary purpose was entirely functional. It got really messy, and I found I just started sticking things in there right and left, no matter what it looked like — if there was an empty space, I filled it with something. The shelves were not organized intuitively — you basically had to be me in order to find anything. And even I couldn't always find everything. So this time my only major functional change was that I wanted no open shelving in the Expedit wall.

For the paint color I finally settle on Benjamin Moore Touch of Gray and, although it's a bit lighter than colors I usually pick, I really like it. I really wanted something clean and pretty that would make all of the warm wood and golden basket colors pop. And I think this does that.

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So I bought more baskets, more doors (I covered the old red doors with wallpaper and double-sided tape), and some boxy things (though my favorite ones, the white linen boxes with the built-in oval label holders are naturally discontinued). I also bought these label holders and attached them to the baskets with long brads. The color of the brads didn't exactly match the label holders, but I didn't care. It's working nicely. You wouldn't believe how much stuff is on that shelf in general. We store everything from all of our kits and embroidery stuff that we sell on the web site, to my labeling materials for lotion bars and apothecary stuff, to office supplies, to yarn and fabric and floss and all of the work and designs in progress. Receipts, binders of information, sample binders from suppliers, our scale, paper and shipping labels, I don't even know what else. It's a lot of stuff. Every inch of this wall of shelving is used. This is not only a creative studio but our "warehouse" and shipping station, as well. In the kitchen island we store paper, office supplies, ink cartridges, odds and ends. On the other side are jars of sewing notions and baskets for lotion bars. I got my logo printed on a board from here.

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This computer is our shipping computer and it is where we print all of the labels for all of the shipping we do. It's attached to a laser printer and a little Bose stereo so it sounds really good. We listen to Pandora through it, and Amelia also sits here with all of her drawing and painting and paper-cutting supplies and watches her shows. I got this little gingham chair at Goodwill for $25 but it was originally from Ikea and seems like it has never been used. Amelia drew all over my last chair (and all over the desk [tip: got the marker off the desk with nail polish remover] and the wall) and she has promised that that was just baby stuff and she "doesn't really know how that happened" and won't do it again (even though apparently she didn't actually do it in the first place, etc.?) so fingers crossed about that. A few mom friends and I were talking the other day about some of the kid-things you think are behind you when suddenly they decide they're going to start doing them again, like the other day at the park when my friend's kid suddenly took off like a shot and started running straight down the hill (out of sight) because (we later found out) he "saw a dog down there." The park is on a hill pretty deep in the woods so there are very few cars and he stayed off of the road the whole time, but still it was like . . . seriously??? Mama went sprinting down the hill after him. You think with five-, six-, and seven-year-olds some of that stuff is in the past but then they surprise you. We have a LOT of permanent markers in our house, so . . . I remain on alert.

Anyway, above the computer is my "pretty" shelving — oh, and that's new, too (from Pottery Barn on sale; not sure what it was called or if they still have it). I wanted these shelves to be purely for display and they make me feel very happy and fancy. I also re-covered my bulletin board but haven't really put any stuff back up on it yet. The Posie sign on it is from fifteen years ago when I used to own my little shop on Burnside.

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Across from that is my table, with my laptop and my sewing machine and my new little television. I got that little lamp at Monticello Antique Mall and it is so sweet — it also seemed like it had never been used! I got the curtains on eBay from here. All of these curtains are a bit fussy, I know, but for now I do like them. They warm up the light in here, and I struggle with the light in here.

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By the way, beyond the French doors is Andy's office, which still basically looks like it did when we fancied it up a few years ago except that his desk is totally messy now. I store yarn and apothecary stuff in the brown cabinets, and fabric and art supplies and overstock products and shipping supplies in the white cabinets. And I moved all of my folded fabric scraps on top of those cabinets (not pictured).

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It's kind of hard to take pictures in here because it's a small space and I don't have the right camera lens for shooting interiors. All of the lines look so distorted, even though I do try to fuss with them in Photoshop (do you know how to do that? Go to Filter/Lens Correction/Custom). I think you can get the general idea, though.

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So . . . yeah! I think that's everything.

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By the way, now that my office is all cleaned up I am working on my dolls and I will tell you about them soon. I was going to do that nursery-rhyme cross-stitch that I designed several weeks ago but I was literally making so many mistakes on it every time I worked on it I had to put it aside. I feel like I am starting to get my feet back under me, and it's kind of amazing how having a tidy space helps so much with that. I feel like this version of the studio fits me so well right now, both aesthetically and functionally. My life can be pretty chaotic, and I needed this space to be anything but that. I'm so grateful I have a place like this. I was just sitting there looking at it the other day and wondering what sixteen-year-old me would've thought of this room and I think she would've been completely amazed that this was in her future. Thank you for indulging me by checking it out and if you have any questions let me know and I will try to answer them!

School's Out!

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Well, hello! How are you? We are well! School's out! Cue angels singing.

You know I don't like summer but this year, oh this year . . . this year . . . summer I've longed for you.

I'm sitting in my office this morning, my newly painted office, of which I have no pictures. But I will take them. The walls are a sweet, frosty pale lilac. Everything is tidy. I've been organizing like crazy. I labeled all of my storage baskets and boxes. This took fifty times longer than I expected and almost killed me, but damn they look nice. I got a pretty-much-brand-new Ikea office chair for $25 at Goodwill. I also got a desk credenza thing for my table (also from Goodwill — I majorly scored that morning) that fits my tiny new TV and my computer and a few chotchkes. I splurged on new curtains and a new ironing board cover and another new chair (we need two in here). In spite of the fact that my email is broken and I'm flat broke because I really haven't had time to work at all lately and I'm half blind because I need new glasses and haven't gone to get them, I feel very grown up now in my new pretty new space. I will take photos today and show you how it all looks.

We've been out of school for a week. I won't lie. It was a tough year. A really great year and also a really tough year in a couple of big ways and also a bunch of subtle ways, mostly centering on our commute back and forth to the school we chose to send Amelia to. I don't think I realized how tough it was until spring break, when the effects of the two-and-a-half hours I was spending in the car every day kinda caught up to me and left me gasping for air. Once I wasn't doing it for even just a few days I could see how it was affecting me. I think it was literally sucking the life out of me. I feel stupid for not seeing it before, and even for not seeing it before we even chose it. It seems so obvious now. Nonetheless, it's hard to totally regret it, because the school and our experience there was so wonderful in so many ways, which was nice. But the commute sucked. And I never got used to it, and I never got over it. And I think it and things that came as a result of it took a greater toll on lots of areas of our life than we ever expected. So I'm happy to be done, and happy to be free, and happy to know that next year at her new five-minutes-away school Amelia will be playing on the playground for those hours every day instead of sitting in the car. Amelia, at the (new) public school carnival a few weeks ago, running up to me with her neighborhood friend: "Mom! This is GUM. It's CHEWING GUM. Can I have it? And can I break it up into little pieces and chew them one at a time carefully so I don't choke?" I try to keep a straight face. Omg. "Yes, you can have it." They run off. I turn to Andy: "Holy shit, public school is gonna blow. her. mind."

My neighbor, mom of three grown children, currently principal of a private school, who has sent her children to every kind of school, both public school here in Portland and private school when they lived abroad for many years, says kindly/knowingly to a weary-looking me getting out of car a few weeks ago: "You know what they say, the best school is the closest school." I just wish, among other things, they could actually drink the water out of the water fountains at the "closest" school (which they can't, because it is lead poisoned). Sigh. How can we not fix this? I gnash my teeth.

I Marie–Kondo-ed my closet and my dressers and got rid of fifteen-year-old handbags and belts (belts! As if!) and old sweaters and gnarly tee shirts and blouses that never quite closed at the bust. It was seriously satisfying. I'm a natural purger (unlike my mate, the natural hoarder, who also leaves a trail of items behind him like breadcrumb; I can trace the path of his every activity around the property from them) but I don't spend enough time doing it. I hate that in life we accumulate so many things. I try try try not to — the house is small, I like to have a place for everything and have everything in its place, to have no more than just enough — but overage still seems to happen, especially when you live in the same house for decades. We've been here nineteen years this spring. We've made a lot of changes to this property. I want to keep it nice. I want to honor the privilege of being here on it. I don’t want more than just enough.

I bought two peace lilies at the plant nursery and two pretty pots for Amelia's teacher-gifts for the last day of school. The guy at the nursery was potting them up for me, and I was wandering around inside, waiting for the plants. I saw the display of stuff you can use to test your soil for pH balance, etc., and it made me think of when, a million years ago, my friend Pat was working somewhere that did this and my dad asked him to test our soil. My parents always did have a vegetable garden, and my dad would have ideas about it — one year it was a square-foot garden, one year a "Victory" garden, one year they put these giant tubes with holes in them underground and you were supposed to stick the hose way down there and it was supposed to let the water really get to the roots. I thought about the hopefulness of all those things and maybe even the silly sweetness of them, and the earnestness with which they were always undertaken, and I got, in an instant, unbearably sad. All the things we want and care about, all the ways we try so hard. Time passes so quickly. My dad and the old house have been gone for so long now. Our little girl just finished kindergarten and will be seven years old this year.

The goal of my summer is simply to water the garden. I think I have some other goals but I'm not sure exactly what they are. The front garden consists of four small perennial borders that line each side of the front yard, two rock walls (hot and dry), and three raised beds on the parkway. There are also two small patches of grass in the upper yard. There are two trees — a magnolia and a dogwood — that are large enough now to arch prettily over this little spot where I put my chairs. I read here in the mornings and whenever else I can spare a moment. I have an intense urge, after all that driving and all those tuition payments, to stay home and not spend any money. Except on water. I set up the sprinkler in each one of the garden spots, moving it after each spot gets its soak. The sound of the water is soothing. Birds come and flit and flicker through the spray. The three baby squirrels that were raised in the duct-work in my studio ceiling — I swear they know our voices. They now sit in the flat feeder and gorge themselves all day on the black-oil sunflower seeds, and our near presence does absolutely nothing to cause them a moment's anxiety. It’s mildly unnerving; I’m not used to wild animals having no hesitation in running straight down a tree trunk ten inches from where I’m sitting. They practically run over my legs. Chickadees and sparrows and woodpeckers and bushtits come and go from the other feeders, and occasionally the squirrels will let someone else eat at the flat feeder. I read and read. I've been reading all of the Tana French books with my best friend, Martha, who lives three-thousand miles away. We text about this throughout the day. "Where are you now?" "Leon just told him that he didn't help him when they were younger." "Oh yeah. Oh dear. . . ." I rub my hands together nervously, knowing what comes next because I’ve finished that one. Martha: "I'm grateful every minute my client is late so I can sit here and reeeeeeeead." Me: "I know!!!" I seriously cannot put them down, and this never happens to me. They are quite dark but very compelling. These are not cozy mysteries. But the dialogue — wow. I think in a cop-Irish accent now. "Ah, what is that eejit on about, then?" (watching someone run a red light ahead of me on the commute). I'm reading the Tana French books from the library so I take what I can get when they're available, and so am reading them out of order, but it doesn't seem to matter. It turns out that my favorite character type is, apparently, Damaged Antisocial Detective. 

While I water and read, Amelia is so far content to wander around the yard, making fairy houses and chalk drawings, swinging on her tree, spraying the sidewalk with the hose, clipping bouquets for me, watching Bubble Guppies. Being home feels novel and still fun. Grandma Paulson and cousin Brooke come for a visit next week, and then we have one week of half-day ballet camp, and then nothing. No swimming lessons (we did them indoors during school year, and I think she's burnt out on them), no Trackers camp or space camp or art camp, no vacation house booked yet. We've had play dates at parks with school friends, some shopping for new shorts, and trips to the grocery store and library. We're going lo-fi this summer. Open swim and tacos as many nights a week as I can get away with and orange-juice popsicles and Camp Netflix. I'm in recovery from being previously over-committed in ways visible and invisible to myself.

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First day of kindergarten | Last day of kindergarten (with Juniper Nia Aliayah Paulson the American Girl doll)

Rain and Roses

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I'm fighting a horrideous cold that laid me out flat yesterday. I didn't even feel like walking across the room. Blah. I'm feeling a lot better today, but I don't know how. Well, I did go to be at 8:00 p.m. yesterday and slept until 6 this morning. Ten hours of sleep. That seems to have helped. Took a shower and put on my coziest clothes and trundled Amelia into the car for the school run. We're listening to Mystery Ranch, the fourth book from The Boxcar Children on audio. I loved The Boxcar Children when I was a kid. I'm amazed she is into these. They're kind of grown up, really. The themes, I mean. Estrangements, various sadnesses, stolen money, hermits, bedridden and bitchy old aunts. She listens, rapt. I don't actually remember a thing about the books (other than that I loved them) so I'm enjoying them, too. Audiobooks and spending time with her are the only things I'll miss about this commute.

We had a truly lovely Mother's Day weekend here. All I wanted was to stay home on Sunday and hang out, so that's what we did. I feel like we hadn't done that in ages, somehow, at least not just the three of us. We've had people over or been other places a lot lately. We worked on my office, which was really fun. Mimi helped by making a list of stuff I needed for my office. I've done a ton of reorganization, took a few boxes of craft stuff to Goodwill, took a few boxes to the basement, and basically have a place for everything and everything is in its place. I love this. What I don't love is the color I chose. Wah. I don't know. I have one more valance coming for my sliding doors and once that's up I may decide to repaint, which seems completely insane. I don't know. Andy wanted to repaint it right away, but I said let's put everything back together and see if I can live with it. I kinda think I should live with it, because it's such a pain to paint, and we've now put up a bunch of wall shelves which would have to come down again if we repainted. Andy is such a good sport about stuff like this, a much better sport than I am and it's all of my doing and choosing to start with, so I'll never understand that, but he is an absolute angel about me and my ideas. I love him. The paint color is reading as a very pale yellow, and I don't even like yellow. I wish it'd had more gray in it, to go, at least, with the rest of the house. Now I'm thinking maybe I'll go with some kind of pink, like Setting Plaster. Or Peignoir. I don't know. I'm getting confused about what I originally wanted. You can see a peek of the Vanilla Ice Cream in that photo with the gray gingham curtains. That's my studio. Hrmmm. To be determined.

"The earth is a better place for me because I love you and I think that is a great idea. I love you I love you." Heart explodes in a shower of Level 1 early readers. Oh my stars, child. I love you, too.

Currently working on an enormous new cross stitch design, which will be a birth announcement (if that's what you call those things that say a baby's name, birth date, and weight and length) inspired by nursery rhymes. I drew it a few weeks ago and have just started stitching it. It will fit into a ready-made 16" x 20" frame. But I really love it! The baby info will go in that middle space. . . .

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Also, we have extra Blackberries and Heather-bells kits that we have put in the shop. And the PDF for Blackberries and Heather-bells is available here; and the PDF pattern for Misselthwaite Mitts is now available here. We may still have extra apothecary stuff but I am still a bit hesitant to put it out there yet, until I am sure everyone who ordered is happy. Probably next week.

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.