Posts filed in: House and Garden

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.

Magic Days

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Early-December-days mash-up, and I don't even know how to organize these pictures. That in itself feels accurate, nonetheless. The days are a swirl of present-gathering and preparations. I try to get my work done as early as I can (thank you for the lotion bar [and cowl pattern] orders! We are making bars and shipping them as fast as we possibly can, so you'll be seeing your orders very soon) and then I go out and have fun. There are so many special things to do. We went to The Grotto one night to see our school choir sing and wander among thousands of Christmas lights. We went to Merrywood Farm, which is just the cutest, sweetest little place, and spent a gorgeous afternoon walking in the woods and hanging around the fire drinking cider. The low, pale sun shown for a while through the pine trees and yule smoke as I sat with my feet up, listening to Celtic Christmas carols piped over the speakers. It was just so, so nice. This weekend is The Nutcracker and dinner afterwards, and Amelia has her outfit all picked out, along with her new (well, used, from eBay) pink suede fancy shoes. I'll be sure to take a picture. I haven't been good about the advent calendar reveals but I am definitely going to try to catch up with that next week now that I'm getting caught up with everything else in my life. We're having a party next weekend. The days keep rolling along. . . .

CURRENT OBSESSION:

Alicia's Winter Day Bath Soak

1 cup Epsom salts
1 cup pink Himalayan salt, fine
1 cup pink Himalayan salt, coarse
1/2 cup colloidal oatmeal (just grind rolled oats in a food processor until powdered)
1/2 cup whole milk powder
1/4 cup coconut cream powder
1/4 teaspoon rose Kaolin clay
Dried cornflowers, jasmine buds, and rose buds

You could add any kind of essential oil to this if you wanted to, but I thought it smelled so fresh and delicious all on its own I did not.

To use, spoon a few tablespoons into a teabag and hang under warm running water while filling your bath, then plop the whole bag into the tub to further dissolve. Relax and enjoy until they make you come out.

Makes enough to fill two 15 oz. bottles like these.

***

Also, cutest winter book in the world: Mice Skating by Annie Silvestro (illustrated by Teagan White). I just bought this for Amelia and it is absolutely darling. About a mouse who loves winter but her friends don't. #relate

I want to totally have a dye-plant and soapmaking flower garden this year, and also plant dahlias. I'm going to put it in our neglected and frizzled raised beds. For my birthday present, Andy is going to dig it all up and add a lot of compost, etc., and try to get it ready for spring. Question: Do we wait until spring to do this? Or should we be doing something now before really cold weather comes and then let it sit until spring, or . . . ?

Amelia: "Mom, your wreath you made looks so good! It almost looks real!" (N.B.: It was real.)

Start the Season

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Oh, Happy Thanksgiving to you! I've been laaaaaaazy this week. We had a nice Thanksgiving here, and I hope you did, too. People brought stuff to our house and Andy and our nephew, Perry, cooked a bunch of sides so although we had dinner at our place, I think this was the first year ever that I haven't cooked a single thing. I kind of missed it but at the time I wasn't complaining. I was tired. I really had no mojo. We'd gotten all of the advent calendars mailed by Monday the 19th, and then I sort of collapsed into a deflated little balloon-like shape, with just a small puff of air keeping me three-dimensional. Amelia was off school from Wednesday through Sunday and oh my lordy it was so wonderful having her home every day. By today, we were all ready to get back to our routine, I think, but having a long weekend was bliss. She and I went to an ice-cream place for lunch and then a birthday party at a play cafe on Saturday, and it added the perfect amount of sparkle to the mostly gloomy weather we've had. I got to knit and catch up with old mom-friends of mine, which was so nice. Yesterday Mimi and Andy baked cookies and made turkey Tetrazzini and I took a bath and read soap-making books. Usually Andy and I have gone to get our tree immediately after Thanksgiving, but this year the house feels too messy, the legs feel too tired, the weather feels too rainy . . . and so we put it off.

I feel like I have so much cleaning to do. I've started so many new hobbies lately and have gotten so much new equipment for all those things, and I haven't really cleared space, proper space, for these new things. Consequently, it's seriously starting to bug me now. I just literally haven't had time to completely reorganize. I keep talking about it but I haven't done it. I'm hoping to do it in the new year. It feels like a huge project. Everything goes so fast, somehow. I frequently feel quite overwhelmed.

At night, before bed, I watch soap-making videos. Has anything in the history of the world ever been more relaxing? No. No it hasn't. I don't know what it is about them. I like to hear people ramble on about stuff, I guess, and I like looking at the texture of soap as it's poured. I love these ones and these ones. Also, these ones. If you want to learn how to make soap you watch these ones. I don't know, there are a ton out there. Just start poking around. YouTube keeps suggesting things and then I find myself engrossed. I have so many ideas now. You need a LOT of supplies to get started. I'm waiting for one more shipment of stuff (including new goggles and some blackberry seeds) and then I'm going to make my first official batch. I'm pretty excited. Andy is going to help me make space in our pantry for soap curing. I can't wait.

I took Amelia to WinCo yesterday to get a big bag of cinnamon and some applesauce and glue to make cinnamon ornaments. I don't usually shop in big grocery stores like that, and I definitely don't shop in stores like that with a kid who no longer rides in a (absolutely enormous) cart. It was seriously stressful. She kept wandering away to look at things despite my admonitions to stay with me, and I was looking for things because I'd never been in that store before and I didn't know where anything was, and the combination was lame. It's a weird age where they're too big to be contained but too little to totally stay in control of themselves where there is candy and toys and all sorts of junk all over the place. She was loving it, I was stressed. I was in a neighborhood that I don't normally go to, either, and it's just funny how all of those things added up to being something I doubt I'll repeat. Especially now that the holiday season is starting, I think this was a good reminder to me to really pick and choose how to interact with the world over the next month or so. I never really think about stuff like that, to be honest — I usually just bust my way through any and every situation as required, and it's mostly fine — but I think I'm going to actually try to be intennnnnnntional this year. I hear it's recommended. . . .

Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to making the ornaments. I've never made them before. I usually have a theme for our mantel but I don't really have one this year. I think I'll just try to do something pretty and simple.

I noticed people ordering my ornament patterns over the weekend (thank you!!!) and I am going to put together a post with all of my winter stuff in it this week so it's easy for you to find it all together if you are interested. I probably should have done all this before, but I've moving slow lately. Also, I will start revealing all of the advent calendar presents daily on December 1, so you'll hopefully be seeing me more. I'm breathing a bit easier now that it's all in the mail (and, actually, hopefully, at its destinations . . . ).

Wrapping It Up

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Well, hello there! How are you? I finally have a morning to write. This is our long day, with ballet at the end of it, and it is just plain looooooong. Ballet doesn't end until 5:00 p.m. For us, that's very late to be out of the house. We're getting used to being out when it's dark. It's suddenly dark, and cold. November! It's here.

Thank you beyond words for all of your orders for the advent calendar. I'm so grateful for your interest and your support. We are almost done wrapping every single thing and are planning to ship at the beginning of next week. It's very exciting to finally be at this point and I'm so anxious to finally start sharing the goodies here. I'm already working on my next project, which will be inspired by the book The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This is such a beloved book. The version illustrated by Inga Moore is just so extraordinary. Andy, Amelia, and I have been listening to the audio version read by Finola Hughes, and I seriously can't recommend it enough. She does an amazing job. And I am one of those weird people who really just can't get into audiobooks. But this one is totally on point. I love it.

I drew a new embroidery design inspired by the story, and worked it over the weekend, and I just loved doing it. Almost the entire thing is done in a single ply of DMC floss. It was such a cool experience to watch Mr. Robin come to life stitch by stitch by stitch. I didn't think I could do something so naturalistic but it sort of happened like magic. It's honestly easy! You just do it! This design will be available as a kit that is part of another treat box later this spring. (It will also be available as a stand-alone kit.) I'm also planning to do a yarn/knitting version of the treat box, and I'm working on that now, too. Stay tuned. We will make a lot more of these, hopefully one for everyone who would want one. It will be smaller than the advent calendar and the items in it will not be wrapped — the wrapping of every single item in the advent calendar was absolutely bonkers, and I'm afraid that was a one-time-only experience for this crew! I literally lost track of the number of hours we spent wrapping. So this will free us up just to make more boxes. I have so many ideas. It's gonna be really fun.

I took a soap-making class at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) over the weekend and it was really fun. Those pink moons are my first-ever bars of cold-process soap! They are made with olive oil, coconut oil, castor oil, lye, almond cybilla fragrance oil, ground oatmeal, and madder root. They won't be ready for another five weeks or so. Andy and I went to the bookstore on Monday while Mimi was at her grandma's and I got a couple of soap-making books and now I'm so anxious to make so much more. I started following a bunch of soap-makers on Instagram and have been watching soap-making videos on YouTube and ohhhhhhh dear, here we go. Andy knows the signs of an obsession coming on. He says he sees one coming. I have many, so I hardly notice anymore. I've been so excited by the new things I've learned this year. This is exactly what wintertime is for.

I also started a micro granny-stitch crocheted blanket inspired by this lovely one by Deb. I, too, used Lucy's tutorial for the stitch (I chained 302 to start) and this video for the magic knot method for changing colors. I've never used magic knot before and it's pretty wonderful. You do end up with little knots on the edges but they're so small I don't care. I planning to give this to Amelia. I'm using all fingering-weight mostly hand-dyed yarns, both my own and those that I just have. My mom gave me the headboard and footboard from my childhood Jenny Lind bed. We don't have the side rails (or, for that matter, a box spring). But I think I want to try to find some of those second-hand (if they fit — are they standardized? I need the kind that hook in) and set this bed up for Amelia. Her Ikea toddler bed extends all the way to a regular twin size but it's so damn low that it's really hard to make and I seriously don't think I have ever approached that bed without stubbing my toe on that middle leg and practically fallen into the bed. I've literally kicked that thing probably a thousand times. It makes me insane. Anyway, she's six years old now and she's ready for a taller bed, and I loved this Jenny Lind when I was little. She's just starting to want to hang out in her bed before sleeping and after waking up. She has a clipboard with paper on it that she carries all over the house now and she is constantly drawing. She sits up with her little light on and draws almost every night before she falls asleep. This is just amazing to me. I don't know why. When kids just start doing stuff like this, stuff that they just decide to do with no prompting, no suggestion, no encouragement, etc., it is so exciting. It's just all them, becoming themselves. I love it. I love her.

***Oh! By the way — several people have mentioned to me that they were having trouble with my blog lately, and I was too. I opened a help ticket with Typepad and they wrote back and said that last month they "upgraded to support HTTPS — something which had been requested by many Typepad bloggers for months. Some of our more veteran bloggers like you may have links that use http instead of https in older content and so these will need to be updated to use the secure URL now that it is available." So, it turned out that the links in my template did need to be updated. I was able to figure that out and fix them, and it seems to be working fine now, but do let me know if you have any more problems and I will look into it!

****Actually, I don't know that it's fixed. It looks like all of the old photos are still calling up the http prefix. More to come on this — I've opened another ticket. UPDATE: Looks like Typepad was making further changes yesterday that were causing my old photos problems, but I'm told they've discarded those changes and are still working on a future solution. So, we'll stay tuned and I'll keep you posted. Thank you! XO, a

Sweater Weather!

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Good day! Hello! How are you? Hellooooooooo! It's me. I've been bonkers busy and I'm so happy I finally have time to sit and write. Hello! [I'm waving.]

* * * T H A N K   Y O U   S O o o o o o   M U C H * * *

lovely, lovely people for all of your orders over the past couple of weeks. I'm so excited about the new kits and lotion bars and it's always just so nice to get your feedback after scurrying away behind the scenes for so long. Things are coming together and it feels great! Kady (new assistant) is sitting across the room writing postcards to go into orders in the next weeks, and yesterday she packed up our little business card packages, and Andy is about halfway done pulling floss. Next he'll start cutting fabric. Kelsey has an infant so she's at home in her kitchen making hundreds of lotion bars for me. Amy's darling daughters are wrapping and date-stamping mini-skeins for the advent calendar at their house. Kady and I dyed thirty new skeins of yarn on Monday, and those will be mini-skeins for the advent calendars soon. It's truly like a hive of activity around here, and I like it. It feels as if we are squirrels ourselves, industriously preparing for first frost. School has been awesome. At home, there are new railings on the front stairs and new scents being tested in the kitchen. Yarn is being wound, and there is lots of knitting, and I'm teaching myself to make candles. Amelia has been drawing and writing and creating little books constantly. Andy's been cooking for us and there have been park visits and neighborhood adventures. We're getting ready for his parents to visit, and for Amelia's big family birthday party in a few weeks. Everyone is excited! I'm doing that embroidery (from this pattern from Florals and Floss) on a bodice for Amelia's birthday dress that I need to finish. It's go-time.

Pictured above is the Sorbet Mini sweater I'm knitting for Amelia. The kid's pattern is only in Danish, so I'm using the English version of the adult pattern (which I made for myself but apparently haven't photographed yet; I will do that) and plugging the kid's numbers in. She saw my sweater and wanted a mini version, so I had to cast on immediately, as you will when your child shows even the slightest interest in your knitting. I have so many things I need to get up on Ravelry that I haven't yet, so don't bother looking for this from me there. But I will do that soon. I have a basket full of WIPs, it's crazy. All I want to do is knit. I splurged on some yarn from Churchmouse Yarns (along with a candle and a bar of soap) and I'm planning to make Amelia a Volo sweater with that after seeing Kyrie's on Instagram the other day. (That picture just literally destroys me. It is so gorgeous.)

Amelia was home with the sniffles yesterday so we made applesauce muffins, which is one of my mom's recipes from my childhood. They are so delightful.

Applesauce Muffins

2 cups Bisquik*
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup applesauce
1 slightly beaten egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

*If you don't have Bisquik (I don't have it but my mother always did, and this is her recipe) you can use 2 cups of all-purpose flour plus 3 teaspoons baking powder and then add in 2 tablespoons of melted butter, as well.

Mix ingredients together until just combined. Fill 12 muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake 12 minutes at 400 degrees F. Let cool a bit then dip top in melted butter and then in cinnamon sugar.

And here is the recipe for applesauce that Andy always makes for us and it is wonderful. I know it seems odd to use the microwave but this applesauce has a really fresh taste that is so much nicer than cooked applesauce on the stove top, in my opinion:

Applesauce
from the New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

2 McIntosh apples
2 Granny Smith or other tart apples
1 cup water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Halve and core the apples: peel them if you like. Cut each one into 6 wedges or 1-inch chunks. Combine the apples, water, and lemon juice in a deep microwave-safe 2 1/2-quart casserole. Toss the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl and add to apple mixture. Cook, uncovered for 5 minutes. Stir, pressing apples into liquid and return to microwave. Cook for another 5 minutes. Using a hand blender, mix apples into applesauce.

Would you also like to make carnitas? We used this recipe from The New York Times and it was absolutely scrumptious.

Pictured above is the rainy afternoon bath I was taking last weekend. I was in the happiest spot — perfect water temperature, vanilla bubble bath, bath pillow that my dear mother-in-law gave me for my birthday, reading Little Women — right before Andy almost cut the tip of his thumb off (thank you for saving it, fingernail) and Amelia went outside to talk to some people (?!?!?) and the dog started barking her head off and running down the front steps to the sidewalk (never, ever does she do this, but naturally she picked that time to do it, and it turns out she was talking to/barking at a fellow neighborhood Cardigan corgi named Mulberry). Andy howling, then wandering out with a bloody dishtowel on his thumb and his face white as a sheet and not explaining anything, Clover losing her mind, Amelia talking to strangers. It was full-on Donnybrook. Naturally, by the time I had hauled myself out of the tub and dried off and put my clothes on the situation came back under Mr. Paulson's control (he's okay, and Clover came back up the stairs, nonchalant, as if nothing had ever happened). I should've gotten back in the water but I didn't. Nevertheless, that tub and that book and I are going to need to reschedule. I want to make my own soap and bubble bath, too. I got one of those things that covers the drain on the tub and lets the water get really, really high and it is literally life-changing.

Oh, and also thank you so much for all of the kind words and inquiries about Amelia's portrait from a few weeks ago. I painted it myself. It was a total fluke, I literally don't know how I did it, and I'm pretty convinced it was magic, so naturally I haven't tried to paint or even thought any more about it since.

***The cowl is an advent calendar sneak peek . . . :))) More on this soon!

And Now, School

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Amelia started kindergarten this week. This is her picture from just before we left the house on the first day. The mix of emotions on her face just melts me into a puddle of love and hope and excitement and pride. Oh, what an intense time! Everyone says this, and it really is, especially when you're starting a brand-new school. But it's been absolutely wonderful. I find myself smiling constantly. Partially because I have some free time now, I won't lie (it's amaaaaaaaaazing). But also and mostly because school is just thrilling. New people, new places, new routines, new activities, new opportunities (tap dancing!), new expectations. And not just for her, but for all of us. We have a new commute, too, and it's long; please recommend kids' audiobooks we can listen to on Libby, or podcasts for my drive home. . . .

So yes. Now that I find myself with more free time — like, exponentially more free time — than I've had in months, and actually even years, I'm outside in the yard with my camera, taking pictures of raindrops on apples. It's incredible what doing that does for the soul, and everything else. I've missed it. I've missed writing more often, too. But I honestly need quiet to write, and there just hasn't really been much quiet in my life. I have a lot of things I need to get organized around here. I remember this from last year, too. It felt like literally every drawer and every cabinet needed cleaning and reorganizing. The refrigerator and freezer need major emptying and scrubbing. The pantry looks like a jumble sale. Amelia's tiny dresser is stuffed, literally stuffed full, of clothes that don't fit her anymore under all of the new clothes that do fit her. The basket that holds all of the hats and mitten and scarves now also (I notice) holds five outgrown Amelia sweaters, and a couple of new ones.

Speaking of clothes, I don't know if I've mentioned that for the past two years I've bought almost every single thing Amelia owns (that I didn't make) used on eBay. For years before she was born, I sewed clothes for her like crazy (you knooooooooow that). But I only sewed up to about a size 4, because everyone warned me that she would start rejecting everything I made or picked out around then. Well, when she turned four, she still didn't care what she wore, and she basically had no clothes. I was still very picky but I didn't have time to sew like I had before she was born. So I started browsing eBay regularly. Occasionally I would go to kid's resale stores or Goodwill but I don't have a lot of time to do that, either. So I do spend a lot of my nighttime free-time in my nightgown surfing my iPad for stuff that I like that I know she will like and that is also very affordable. I'm pretty cheap. I make offers constantly, and they get accepted pretty regularly. I have a firm cap on what I will spend. I'll splurge on things like coats because for some weird reason I really care about coats, even my own coats. But in general, I look for the nicest clothing brands that make good quality clothes and I tryyyyyyy to find the absolute cheapest price that someone is willing to let it go for, plus postage. This is still generally so much more affordable than buying anything new (though not as cheap as Goodwill) and it keeps stuff out of the landfill for longer. I've always loved clothes, ever since I was a little girl, and for some reason I find browsing used clothes and vintage patterns extremely fun and relaxing. I was selling her baby clothes on eBay for a little while but it was a lot of work and I stopped pretty quickly after I started. I need to go through Amelia's clothes again and decide what to keep and what to do with the rest. The topic of clothing production and consumption is very fraught with tension and I'm trying to learn more about it and educate myself about the issues. I do want to get back to sewing more for Amelia again, as well. I did make her first-day-of-school outfit, above. The blouse was from Simplicity pattern #9091, circa 1970. And the skirt was a simple elastic-waist skirt from Simplicity pattern #8623, circa 1969. Both pieces were size 7 (though she's only going to be six next month) and made from vintage fabric and trim. She requested a shirt and a skirt and this is what we came up. Sweetest darling, ready for anything.

***

Typical conversation with Amelia Paulson:

Me: "Hi!!! How was school???"
Her: "It was great!!!"
Me: "Yeah? That's awesome! What did you do?"
Her: "I don't know!"
Me: "Oh! Well, did you play with someone?"
Her: "Kind of."
Me: "What was their name?"
Her: "I don't know."
Me: "Ah. Did you learn how to do something new?"
Her: "I don't think so. I don't remember."
Me: "Hmmm. Well, what do you do all day? What's the schedule? Like, what do you do in the morning? Do you have a rhythm to the day like you did in Waldorf school?"
Her: "Yeah, we have rhythm of the parrot, it goes squawk, squawk, squawk."
Me: "Okay."

Or:

Her: "I don't like school."
Me: "How come?"
Her: "Because it's too long of a day!"
One minute later:
Her: "Mom, why am I going home so early today??? [wailing] You said I could go to aftercare!!!"

***

As for me, I have so many new projects cooking and no assistant. Aaaaaaaaagh. Things keep not working out, and the girls keep moving out of state or getting other jobs. I'm mildly freaking out. Kelsey will start working with me this fall until her house sells and she moves back to Idaho. It's good, because in addition to launching the new fall cross-stitch kit (the last one in the seasonal series, and a bit bittersweet for me, I have to confess — I have loved these so much) and a new fall lotion bar, we ARE GOING to do a hand-dyed-yarn advent calendar. YES! I'm twitching. I am excited. It's going to be so pretty. It will also be pretty pricey, as there's a lot that's going into it, including lots of special treats. I will have more details for you soon. Because we are only going to do fifty of these, I might release them ten at a time, at all different times and on different days, so you have a couple of chances to order. I think we are also going to limit these to U.S. orders only, because the boxes will be pretty heavy and we will be shipping pretty close to December 1 (because there is so little time for me to work on these; but I really want to do them). Anyway, if these go well and people like them my plan is to do seasonal advent calendars, like "countdown to spring equinox,"  or "countdown to Midsummer," etc. But in a gentle, whispery way, not like a COUNTDOWN! [shouting] kind of way. We'll see. I have plans. Stay tuned. And watch for new cross-stitch kits and lotion bars in the next week or two!

Has anyone ever hired a professional organizer? I think I might need some help. I need to redo the storage and functionality of my office, and I'm feeling overwhelmed by where to start. I feel like a lot of what I'm storing in my office is stuff I used to use but am not using right now, though I do plan to use it in the future. I don't know. I just want to start this new phase of life with a bit less spatial chaos than I have right now. I feel like I've been totally jerry-rigging every process for a while.

Every thought and prayer is with North and South Carolina right now as you brace for a monster storm. . . .

***My new obsession: baking donuts from this recipe. Sorry I forgot to mention.

About Alicia Paulson

About

My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com

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Photography

Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.