Posts filed in: House and Garden

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.

Blossom Days

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The lovely, tentative first blush of spring with its chilly mornings and brave daffodils has given way to very warm weather, and everything is suddenly exploding in a froth of greens. You know how that happens. It's sudden and irreversible. We've been going to parks as much as possible and it's glorious to be back, and back with a capable six year old who can now do the monkey bars like a pro, loves to play and shout and run as fast as she can, makes friends in about thirty seconds, and just generally is so cheerful and fun to be with that the days out have been pure pleasure. As much as I love winter and cold weather and rain, I must admit that life with kids is about a million times easier and more fun when they can go outside and not freeze their hands off on the metal stuff on the playground. I love it.

Sorry I've been so absent! I don't know where the time has one, I honestly don't. We finished shipping everything for Secret Garden just a bit ahead of schedule, and I've never been so relieved to be finished with a project. It was a pretty big, ambitious project for us, filled with so many new things. I enjoyed it, for the most part, though it's always kind of stressful to do anything for the first time, and many of the things we made and packaged we’d never done before. I was pretty tired when we finally finished, I won't lie! Mentally and physically. I also was, apparently, unable to count to four (seriously happened) so please do check your orders and make sure you got evvvvvvverything you ordered. Because literally every time I tried to count anything, I came up with a different number. It was nuts. So, please check your order and make sure I got everything right and if I didn't just let me know right away and I will fix it ASAP. It's been a week since everything went out and I haven't heard that anyone is missing anything, but I’m on high alert. Again, thank you all so much for your interest and orders, and I truly hope you enjoy everything we made! I will be releasing the patterns as PDFs next week, and we will also make any extra a la carte pieces from apothecary boxes available once we know that everyone who pre-ordered got what they actually ordered!

When we finished, my office and Andy's office both were utterly trashed. I collapsed on the sofa for a couple of days and then started reorganizing the space. This has been needing to happen for a long time. Andy and I tried to figure out how long it had been since we had painted the studio and wow, it's been almost NINE years since we did this. That was really shocking. Nine years. I took everything out of the big Expedit wall of shelves and am trying to reorganize it and eliminate all of the open shelving there by putting everything in baskets or behind doors. I decided, kind of surprisingly, that I want to paint it a creamy white. I ran into this article called "Searching for the Perfect Parisian Cream Paint" (sorry, you might need a subscription to a news service to read it) and I loved it. I, too wound up loving the color that the author chose (Farrow and Ball's Tallow) but I went with a color that I thought was exactly the same just slightly lighter than that (and cheaper than F&B!) called Vanilla Ice Cream by Benjamin Moore. We need to totally prime the whole room first, because I think it will be hard to cover that blue with white, so it might be a week or two before we're done.

I had kind of a funny moment yesterday. I have two ceiling skylights in the studio and I don't like them. The light from skylights is actually sometimes yucky. To me it looks light a florescent light fixture. People are really surprised to hear this. Skylights seem nice. But I honestly prefer just plain old window light. Even if you look up pictures of rooms with skylights, you can totally see this flourescent-effect in the pictures. The light in the room is very cool and white when you have a skylight. And I just prefer lower, warmer light. I almost never take pictures of stuff I'm working on in my studio, because unless I'm shooting right by a window it looks like I'm using a flash camera. I'm sure that might be just me, but it's not really my favorite.

But anyway, back to yesterday. So, after surfing Pinterest for I don't even know how long, looking at craft room and office and studio and even kitchen pictures for inspiration, I ran into a few pictures of rooms (I actually think they were of stores) that had weathered  ladders hung from the ceiling. And then from the ladder they had hung bouquets of dried flowers, or baskets, or lanterns, and I thought it looked so pretty. And I thought it would be a perfect thing to hang just slightly inside the skylight window-well. So, not having ever seen this before, I get super excited: "This is amazing! I've never seen this before! What a cool, inventive, unique, new idea!" And then I take Mimi with me to the antique mall to find a little ladder and we walk in and practically every other booth has, of course, ladders hanging from the ceiling displaying dried flowers, baskets, and lanterns. They were everywhere! It's a whole thing. I was laughing so hard. I never knew. I did, however, find a little driftwood ladder for $35 that will be perfect for this, though, so I'm pretty excited. I'll take some pictures next week and show you what we're doing. I found a really cute Laura Ashley–type lamp, too. I so so so love that she is coming back a little bit. I've been waiting. Anyone have any advice for getting giant stickers off of glass and MDF?

Mimi and I made a rhubarb pie using the sour cream apple pie recipe but increasing the sugar to 1 cup. It was good but the rhubarb is so acidic, I guess, that it kind of curdled the sour cream, so I'm not sure I would recommend it. . . . We also made this Shoemaker's Chicken and served it with buttery mashed potatoes and it was AMAZING. Highly recommend.  I need more of those chicken tray-bake things. Another trend I'm late to the party on. I'm slow!

Showers of Flowers

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There's a mysterious, melancholy beauty that is so specific and to this time of year in the Pacific Northwest. The skies are dark and flat, matte gray, or like a frosted light box, glowing and opaque. The wind is cold, blowing cold rain into your face. The ground squelches and sinks, and you slip, sliding on the skanty grass while trying to fill up the bird feeder. The birds come, bright flashes against the dark afternoon. The wind blows water from the new leaves. Some daffodils have already faded. The branches that haven't yet budded out (and there are many) are dark and wet, their patches of lichen and moss (and whatever else it is that creeps across their spongy bark) bright with chlorophyll and optimism. Everything is tender, and cold, and vulnerable. Nothing, absolutely nothing, wants for water, for water is everywhere now — in the wind, in the air, in the ground, in the leaves above your head as you sit on the porch and listen to the birds sing, and watch the squirrel that is probably the same squirrel that lives in your ceiling air duct eat sunflower seed for four hours from your flat feeder. He's content as a kitten, sitting there right in the pan with his tiny hands held up to his mouth, nibbling daintily but constantly at the black seeds.

This is the best time of year for me, with all the cold and rain of winter but also all the best flowers, the daffodils and forsythia and tulips and bluebells; the enormous, suede-like pink magnolias; the ornamental flowering pear trees lining every street, and the petal-heavy cherry blossoms, and her dirty hands holding bouquets of grape hyacinths to bring to the ballet mistress. The sidewalks are covered in bruised petals, and piles of browning petals collect in the gutters and gullies. Everywhere there are petals and buds and things still just beginning to start, which is my absolute favorite state of being.

Yesterday was a hard day, teacher conferences with Amelia's sweet, darling, angel of a teacher, hard because we have, with some relief but mostly with somewhat broken hearts, decided not to return to our lovely school next year. Simply, we just can't afford the tuition or the very long commute. Andy and I sat in Mimi's classroom yesterday, filled with gratitude for all of the amazing things she's learned this year, listening to her teacher talk about her with so much affection and humor and love. She told us stories so similar to the ones we live daily with Mimi, and we laughed with joy and wonder at the silliness and the amazingness and just . . . all the cool things that she and her classmates are doing right now. Learning to read is pure magic, sitting with her each night as she earns every single word she reads out loud, whispering the phonograms to herself, sounding out the letters, asking me whether a vowel is going to be long or short or silent in any case, restricting herself from using the pictures to guess at the words. I've never told her to do that, but it seems to come naturally, and I watch and listen in constant wonder at the mysteriousness of this process, and marvel at how, in just one week, a kid can go from not really reading to totally, suddenly reading. Is it not a miracle of human development? And what, honestly, isn't a miracle? I'm beginning to think absolutely everything, everything is.

We hugged the teacher and I got choked up in the hallway as we left the conference, saw one of my friends around the corner who knew how I was feeling (she's been there forever, and knows very well what we're leaving), and I said, red-faced and blotchy-necked, "Conferences," as explanation. "It's hard to leave everyone. . . ." She said, "I know," and nodded kindly. Already, in just one year, this has become Mimi's place, where she has loved and been loved and nurtured and encouraged and guided, where the Montessori pedagogy has been perfect for her, where everyone has been just so kind. I fervently hope that transferring to our neighborhood public elementary is as good an experience as this has, in almost every way, been. I'm so grateful it has been so good, even just for this year. We are definitely looking forward to being back in our own neighborhood. But I do wish there were more public options for Montessori-type education. 

Back at home, Kady and Andy and I are finishing up the final projects for Secret Garden. We've started to ship embroidery kits and will start shipping knitting kits next week. Apothecary boxes will be the last to go, as I still need to make all of the wax sachets for that. But that's almost the last thing. Packing these will be an adventure! The boxes are big and heavy. Everything looks so pretty and smells so good. I'm proud of all of this but I will be very ready to be done by the time we get the final order out the door at the end of the month. Next up for me will be a new cross stitch kit, and then I'll be working on my dollies this summer, for release sometime in the fall.

I recently finished two mysteries that I absolutely loved called Missing, Presumed and its sequel, Persons Unknown, by Susie Steiner. I read the first one and listened to the audiobook of the second one. (If you don't have your library card hooked up to the Libby app, I recommend it; Libby is not great for browsing, but if you know what you're looking for you can check out audiobooks [and place holds] and listen to them right through the app.) I loved the narrator for the Persons Unknown audiobook. It's really the first audiobook since Secret Garden that I have totally gotten into. I really like detective characters. These mysteries are wonderful for me because they have so much character development. I'm now in that weird phase that sometimes happens where I only want to read something exactly like what I just read, and nothing else will do. I've started seven other books and three audiobooks since and they've all been . . . meh. I'm sure they all would've been fine books if only I'd read them before. . . .

***The lovely painting of Amelia is one I had done several years ago by Olga Bulakhovska of OliFineArt on Etsy. If you were reading this blog back in 2014 you might remember the photo in this post that was used to paint the portrait, and Oli couldn't have done a more perfect job of it. I love it so much.

Keep It Together

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Hello! Guys!!! Thank you thank you for all of the Secret Garden orders! I'm so grateful — seriously, thank you. I've been here for the past week and a half, watching them roll in and now we are getting organized, placing orders for packaging and labels and materials. So things are happening here, and all the crazy parts and pieces of these projects are starting to come together, and I thank you, so, so much, for all of your kind comments and your orders! I'm really excited, and just so grateful for your support. You can't imagine. Thank you.

This week has been pretty discombobulated. We had two two-hour snow delays, and one totally cancelled snow day. The snow day was lame because there actually wasn't any snow. There was ice, and some wind, and a bunch of minuscule snowflakes that whirled but never really landed or stuck. Mimi and I had been in each other's pockets for days and days. By the time school got cancelled yesterday, I was pretty much wiped. I would've liked nothing better than to sit and watch twelve straight hours of Fixer Upper. Instead I just let her do whatever she wanted. It was too icy cold to play outside. I made breakfast, and then cleaned up. I made tomato soup, and slightly burned grilled-turkey-and-Swiss sandwiches, and then cleaned up. I made a snack, then cleaned up. I made fish sticks and broccoli for dinner and then cleaned up. When I wasn't cooking and cleaning up I read Missing, Presumed while lying diagonally on the sofa while Amelia tried to catch a fly with a handled strainer for forty-five minutes. She painted and drew. She dumped everything out, looking for some random thing. I don't remember what. She found fifty other things she needed. We've been reading eight books a night at bedtime. I put another comforter on her bed last night because it's been so cold and the kid was asleep like a bug in a rug the minute her head hit the pillow. Cabin fever, caught in only a matter of hours, is for reals. 

Only children. They can really wipe you out sometimes. When I come careening back downstairs in my nightgown after putting her to bed I swear I'm one almost-sob away from sobbing with relief. If any of the animals happen to be sitting on the sofa, they see me coming, hair streaming behind me and my eyes ablaze like a bird of prey, focused on my spot, and they get the hell out of the way stat. MAKE. WAY. MOTHER IS FIFTY.

Evening project: Using up my yarn stash. My stash is made up of a million partial balls yarn. Almost nothing has a label. Totally impractical stash. Good for making nothing but stuffed puffins, pears, and hot water bottles.

Love Days

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87DBD436-6092-4B18-B42C-C327F8CDBFD6Sweet Mimi at her Valentine's Day store, 6:00 a.m.

I was going to have all of my Secret Garden things ready to go this week but I'm not quite finished getting the web pages up. I forgot about Valentine's Day, and President's Day on Monday, so I will probably have everything ready by Tuesday and will post links then. There's no need to scramble — this is not a sell-out kind of thing. We will literally take every single order we can get; if you're willing to wait for us to pull everything together, we will make as many of everything as you will want. It will just take some time. Hoops and candle jars are on back-order at the manufacturer, and I'm waiting to place some orders for supplies until after I see how many orders we will get, so I that I try to hit these numbers properly. I honestly never know with new stuff like this — will we get five orders or fifty orders or five hundred? It stresses me out to try to guess. It's too risky to get things wrong. So we'll take orders starting Tuesday and I'll give you more of an accurate expected shipping time when we know how many of everything we need to make. I'm pretty sure that things will start rolling out sometime toward the end of April, and first orders will go out first. Soap takes six weeks to cure. We have about a hundred bars curing right now but, as I said, not sure what the numbers will look like, so stay tuned.

I both very much enjoy and utterly dread the excitement of doing new things. I can't explain the particular emotion. It's complicated.

We had snooooooooooow! It was lovely. So lovely. It was short. We got a few short-lived inches, and those were supposed to be followed by a major snowpocalypse last week, and instead we got literally nothing. Seattle got it all. Well, that's not true — certain neighborhoods around town got dumped on, and certain neighborhoods got absolutely nothing. Mother Nature cherry-picked her locations this time. It was okay. We really enjoyed what we had, and Andy was even home for second day we had snow. He had to work on the first day of snow, a Friday, when school was cancelled and Mimi lost a tooth and she and I walked up to the park and hung out with some old friends. Later we walked up to the cafe for breakfast. The sun was shining and there was no wind and it was just excellent. I miss walking around so much. Now that Amelia is not in a stroller I feel like we just do not do it very much anymore. I miss those walking days, as much as they hurt my foot. I miss being right up close to the seasons like that, noticing peoples' curtains and the things in their yards and the new growth, especially at this time of year. I miss having a baby in the stroller bundled in her blanket, sleeping or drinking her milk, strapped in and not needing anything, me just walking and thinking and talking quietly to her if she was awake. It's nice walking together now, too, but it's different. It's much more active than passive. Pushing a stroller is almost like taking a waking nap. You just keep rolllllling along.

But anyway, we enjoyed the snow, I thought about time, I thought about the snow days of my childhood, how my friend Monica and I spent countless freezing, white-cold weekends at Keystone Park in River Forest, walking under the viaduct with our ice skates over our shoulders, long underwear on under our jeans, a thermos of Swiss Miss hot cocoa to drink in the warming room at mid-day. Everything was white — ground, sky, breath. It was freezing. Every winter they flooded the park and made a big ice skating rink. It was not a destination; it was just our little neighborhood park and grassy ice rink. We shoveled snow off the ice and into big banks of snow around the sides. Bigger boys played hockey. We held hands and practiced going backwards. I honestly don't remember any parents ever there. I know for sure that mine never went. It was the '70s. We walked there on our own and we skated together all day. We did this year after year, Monica and I. Our other friend, Linda, was a skating girl. She took ice-skating lessons at a real skating rink, getting up at five in the morning, every morning, to skate before school. Her mom, who was one of my absolute favorite moms, took her. She skated in competitions. When I went to her ice-skating birthday party at Ridgeland Commons, I was the one who fell down and bit through my lip, getting blood all over the ice and making a scene. I drew a picture of Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, like a big, giant picture of them skating, and I worked on it for a long time. At the end of a skating day, Monica and I would walk back down Hawthorn in the blue snowlight of the winter evening with the huge bare oak trees overhead, fingertips freezing, noses running, ankles aching, perfectly spent. You'd stand at the sink and run warm water over your frozen hands for ten minutes when you got home. I haven't been cold like that in years. 

Winter Warming

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Oh, the days of January, I love them so. I love that the weather is cold, the garden is sleeping, the skies are gray. I love that. I love hibernating, and flannel sheets, and flannel nightgowns, and hot tea, and pretty tea mugs. I love yarn, and knitting, and television at night, and dark. I'm tired, and getting over my cold, and wanting to go slow, and wanting to go upstairs early. The house is frowsy and soft. I'm gearing up to Marie-Kondo everything in sight, but not right now. No, not right now. Right now everything is a bit droopy, and needs fresh paint, and to be vacuumed for hours. I sit and make lists, stab at the taxes, pick up take-out Indian food, read picture book after picture book after picture book at bedtime, and listen to a thousand six-year-old hopes and fears. Her warm body beside mine, we listen to the wind and rain, and talk about going to Great Wolf Lodge someday, where they have an indoor water park, and water buckets falling on your head, and pool after pool after pool of warm water. I'm in. Take me there. Let's go now.

We went to a conference with Mimi's teacher the other day and it's like . . . I could just sit there and talk about my kid all. day. long. I love her two teachers and I love her school, and love how she is thriving there. I don't love the commute, but I'm trying to learn to like it. It's long, and can be ugly if I take the busy way, which I usually don't, and then it's just plain long and slow. I've been listening to The Secret Garden audio-book (read by Finola Hughes) while I drive, but it's almost over. I think I really need to get into podcasts. I don't even know what I want in a podcast, honestly. I'm not sure where to start. And can you download them so you don't have to use data on your phone while you're listening? Or . . . how does that even work? I don't seem to know anything about anything that everyone else knows lately. Thank you in advance.

I've been thinking and working a lot on the Secret Garden projects and the bath boxes that will go with them. What I think we will do is offer two different craft projects -- one is an embroidery project (not cross stitch, just regular free embroidery, of the robin, and the key), and one is a knitting project. The embroidery project is small, about 5" in diameter and will fit and be framed in a 6" hoop (which will be included with the kit). The knitting project will include a pattern for a pair of simple handwarmers decorated with with duplicate stitch, and will include hand-dyed fingering-weight yarn for the main color of the handwarmers and also all of the small amounts of yarn you will use to duplicate-stitch the designs on top. Then, if you'd like, each project can come with the Secret Garden–inspired bath box, which will include a bar of our handmade cold-process soap, a lotion bar, a really pretty apothecary jar of bath soak, a wax sachet, and a little candle.

You may order either of the kits with or without a bath box, or you may order just the bath box. We are going to take pre-orders for all of this in the next couple of weeks, and then it will take at least six weeks for us to ship everything. It will take this long because we don't know how many orders for everything we will get and we want to make sure we can include everyone who wants any of these items. So, since the soap takes six entire weeks to cure, we will continue to make soap almost every day in anticipation of orders. We also need to order the hoops I think I want to use for the framing of the embroidery project from Europe, and they have a long turn-around time (also about six weeks after ordering). So that puts us shipping around the beginning of April, and if you've read The Secret Garden, doesn't that seem kind of like the perfect time for this? I definitely will put together a post that shows you my inspiration for all the things we're working on for this, like I did for the advent calendar. I love making those collages so much and will start working on one later this week. I can't wait.

I've watched a few of the Tidying Up episodes on Netflix. I honestly get choked up every time they thank the house. It's weirdly emotional. I would've never thought to do that but it feels very poignant. It's a really beautiful moment in the episodes, I think. I also watched the documentary Three Identical Strangers last night and that was so incredibly intense. Did anyone else see it? Man. I don't even know what to say about that. As an adoptive parent, especially, it chilled me to the bone to think that they separated those babies. Unrelated, my sister Julie got me the British TV Field Guide for my birthday and I am psyched. I should do a run-down of my favorite British TV shows (mostly mysteries and thrillers) this past year. I love Shetland, Vera, Happy Valley (OH MY WORD crazy intense), Last Tango in Halifax, No Offense, Striking Out, Acceptable Risk, and Keeping Faith. Should I tell you about those or do you already know them?

I took that moon photo during the Super Blood Wolf Moon lunar eclipse! Josh was over and he and Andy were gonna go out to the garage to play video games; they went out on the back porch and flipped out because the eclipse just happened to be almost total at that moment and we had an awesome view of it from the porch. I grabbed my tripod and put it on the back table and got a few photos of the moon right before the clouds moved in. So that's almost total eclipse right there. It was just so totally cool to see that. I'm so glad they just happened to be going outside at that moment or we would've missed it!

The sweet winter field painting is the print I bought from Jo Grundy and had framed a few years ago, and I love it so much. And that beautiful watercolor of Amelia riding the rabbit? The sweetest gift from the most lovely Emily Winfield Martin several years ago. I absolutely treasure it, and it hangs over Mimi's bed.

At Year's End

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Oh, the days, the lovely days! One after another, filled with light and love. I'm already missing it all, this holiday season that has been so simple and sweet and soft. I'd been meaning to get back here to update my blog last week, last sometime . . . the days rolled out and on, a blur of lights and cookies and carols and crows against the blue morning sky and I never could slow the roll long enough to take stock. Andy's sweet grandfather passed away just before Christmas. He would've been ninety-five in February. He always sang "Happy Birthday" to us, to all of his children and grandchildren and many great-grandchildren on our birthdays. I picture him with his date book and phone book, marking time and leaving these sweet singing voicemails throughout the year, year after year. Andy flew home to Chicago to be with his family in the early morning hours of December 26th, and Mimi and I spent the rest of the week curled together like fluffy kittens, snuggling under blankets watching movies, going out to the wintergreen woods for walks, trotting about downtown to see the lights and the people, going out to fancy lunches and ordering whatever we wanted, messing up every single corner of the house with our gifts and toys and treats. Bubble baths and storybooks, Christmas cookies and new nightgowns. This unexpected week where it was just us girls is one I will never, never forget. Andy got home yesterday evening and we all had a sleepy, sweet reunion. Our dear little Christmas tree is drooping and tired. The floors need sweeping, the beds need straightening, the big house and the dollhouse are basically trashed. But we have had love and joy in abundance and I am so grateful for it all.

Merry, merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, my dear friends! Thank you for all of the generosity, kindness, support, and great friendship you have shown us this year and all these many years. I hope your holiday season has been filled with light, and I wish you much love and peace and comfort and joy in these last days of the year as 2018 trails off and we collect ourselves to begin again. Thank you all for everything you give here, and for all of your indulgence in and encouragement of me. You brighten and enrich my life more than you could possibly ever know. Thank you!

Love,
Alicia, Andy, Amelia, Clover Meadow, and, last but not least, our nineteen-year-old little Bee

Jenny Lind Redux

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My mom had my childhood headboard and footboard in her garage and I got them from her recently. This was my childhood bed (here I am in it back then) that my mom and I stripped and refinished at some point when I was a kid. She brought it out when she and my dad moved from Chicago to Portland in 1998. I don't know why I didn't think to ask her about it sooner, but I had kind of forgotten all about it. Sure enough, she still had these pieces; I ordered new hook-on side-rails and a box spring and Andy put it all together for Mimi over the weekend. Mimi was downstairs playing with two gigantic bags of Barbie stuff that I found for free on Nextdoor; our class has been collecting donations for a family of refugees from Syria, and “Barbie house and toys” was on their wish list and I got so lucky to stumble upon these almost immediately after reading the wish list. Mimi knew she would be bringing these to her friend on Monday, and oh my word, no toys have ever been played with as much as those toys that were headed immediately back out the door. She had the best time. Andy and I busied ourselves with taking out the toddler bed and putting together the big bed and washing the curtains and cleaning her room. In the late afternoon, just as we were finishing, she wandered upstairs and saw the new bed and loved it. I mean, she knew it was happening, but it was really fun to have her walk in to it all having been done without her watching the progress. It felt pretty magical. I have always loved this little bed and I don't really have words to describe how sweet it is to see my little daughter excited about getting it for her own. Naturally I am now spending most free time trawling eBay for vintage Laura Ashley bed linens.

The Nutcracker was so lovely, as always. I did not take that photo of the dancing snowflakes (I found it online and it is by James McGrew) because they don't let you take pictures in there and I'm always sad because I just want to remember how pretty it is — the snowflakes are my favorite. They do have a photo-op for the kids with some of the younger dancers, all dressed up. Andy bought Mimi the tiara she picked out during intermission. Before we left the house, she found a pink flower headband and put it on, and posed with the two battery candles in front of the Christmas tree. This was all her idea and she asked me to take her picture and yeah, my heart melted into a puddle of melted snowflakes in an instant and does again, looking at this.

A few advent calendar reveals! Pretty yarn, spiced hot chocolate from Treehouse Chocolate (from Portland) and handmade vanilla marshmallows from Lil' Miss Marshmallow (also from Portland), silver-plated stitch markers with tiny beads (made by me). Andy and I also made beeswax-(from Portland!)-and-soy-(not from Portland) candles with clary sage and juniper essential oil. I hope everyone loved these things as much as we loved making them and putting them all together. Yesterday Andy and I made our very first batch of cold-process soap and it was thrilling and exciting. It really was. We had a blast. I have plans to include soap in my upcoming Secret Garden project boxes if I can get good enough at it. We used the Creamy Shea Butter Bastille Soap recipe from Simple & Natural Soapmaking by Jan Berry. I scented it with Raspberry Jam fragrance oil, colored part of it with purple Brazilian clay, both from Brambleberry. I decorated it with blackberry seeds and tiny heather flowers. I'll let you know how it turns out in six weeks. My first bars that I made at the class I took at OMSI are almost ready to use. I can't wait.

I've been on the fence about using fragrance oils, even only the phthalate-free ones, instead of essential oils but I think from now on I'm only going to use essential oils. Here is an interesting discussion about the pros and cons of both. Thoughts? Do you have strong feelings about this? I didn't think I did but I guess I might. But what to do when you want something to smell like blackberry and there’s no such thing as blackberry essential oil? First-world problem. But I find all of the soapmaking stuff intensely interesting. It kind of reminds me of learning to throw pots and then glaze and fire them. So. Many. Options. For what to make. And when it turns out how you planned it feels like a total miracle. This soap did not turn out like I planned and in some ways that was the most thrilling part. Much more soap experimenting to come. I'm really excited.

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

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.