Posts filed in: House and Garden

Keeping On

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

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

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

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

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

Until then, make pretzels!

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

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

Tiny Flowers Everywhere Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Thank You *

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to You!

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

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

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

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

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

At Christmastime

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

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

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

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

Chocolate Buttercream Mints

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

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

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

Frosting:

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

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

 

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

Decembery

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

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

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

***Some business housekeeping:

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

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

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

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

Keeping Warm

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

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

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

Party Time!

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

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

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

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

Dovegray Dolls Coming Soon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fireworks and Flowers

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

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

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

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

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.