Posts filed in: House and Garden

School Has Started!

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

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

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

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

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

Already Mid-May!

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

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

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

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

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

Doing Random Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

It’s A New Year

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Happy New Year, guys.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good times!

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

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

Pulling Together

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

I hope you are all well and hanging in there!

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

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

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

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

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

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

List of Projects and Not So Much

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are you?

Finding Our Way

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

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

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

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

Working on the Yard

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping On

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25Pretzels

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

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

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

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

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

Until then, make pretzels!

25MAggie

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

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

Tiny Flowers Everywhere Now

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Quilt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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