Posts filed in: Life

List of Projects and Not So Much

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are you?

Finding Our Way

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

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

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

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

Working on the Yard

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

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

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

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

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

Ride

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In the afternoon I ride my bike down to the mailbox a few blocks away. It's sunny and quiet, so quiet. I pedal slowly, looking around. Aimless. Unusual. It’s empty. I could ride right down the middle of the street. My old bike makes all sorts of noise, things clicking and squeaking, and they're the only sounds I hear. House. House. House. I roll past. My street has a few bungalows and a lot of houses that are called "English" by realtors here. They were built in the 1920s and have steeply pitched roofs, gables, dormers. Mock Tudor. Pretty. A lot of them are tastefully painted stucco. Mine is, too.

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I ride down my street. A block away the houses are nicer and more stately, set further back on the property than ours, with long driveways and window boxes and ancient magnolia trees now in bloom. This part reminds me of the neighborhoods in old Disney movies, The Aristocats, maybe, or Lady and the Tramp, the blossoming trees frothy and pink and the houses old-fashioned and mouse-colored, with borders of lemon yellow tulips just starting to bloom. The street, strangely, has the exact same sort of set-up as the quiet suburban street I grew up on — it's long and stops at a T-intersection at both visible ends, and I'm often reminded of Forest Avenue here. I remember how many thousands of times I rode my bike up and down Forest Avenue, canopied by oaks and elms. Literally thousands of times over twenty years. I don’t know this street nearly as well as I knew Forest, though I’ve also lived here for twenty years. I’ve probably only ridden my bike here a few dozen times.

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My brakes squeal as I go down the hill. I see Scott in his UPS truck. My buddy of many years. We're the only two around for miles, it seems. I've been out here for a half an hour, riding alone around the blocks, and he's the only person I've come across. He sees me coasting past and shouts through the open driver's door, "Whoa! Watch out! Everybody STOP!!!" I'm grinning like an idiot and I pretend to wobble, shouting back, "It's been a long time since I've ridden! You're right to worry!" My smile is huge and loose, my voice sounds crazy, and suddenly I'm crying, tears catching in my throat, a hot bubble of sorrow and stress. He's still out here, doing his job, and so will my husband be tomorrow. I should get back. It's too quiet, the sun is too bright, there aren't even any airplanes overhead, and I feel scared and small. I miss the world. I miss what it felt like to not feel like this.

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It's been a hard few weeks all over the world. My heart is broken, aching and sore with stories of so many others' losses and pain, and the ache never leaves. "Every day feels like Sunday," says Amelia when she wakes up one morning, and although I smile and agree, I hardly know what day it is, what month. Maybe it is Sunday. I look at the expiration date on the bagels. They're weeks old, though the kitchen counter has been bleached countless times and everything else is spotless. Time has blurred into a long, strange ribbon of worry and grief and distraction, punctuated by so much cleaning and so many, many conversations. My phone is lit almost constantly, and it's exhausting. During the day I make tons of mistakes on intricate (for me) quilt blocks and sew face masks to donate out of the scraps.

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We are all finding our way here, taking comfort in soft things, moving slowly. I am reading the book September by Rosamunde Pilcher and I am loving it, at least. Usually my go-to crisis-novels are by Mary Stewart, but a kind blog reader sent me September many months ago and I am grateful now. A steady stream of Lacey Chabert movies plays on the TV every evening, though we did splurge and rent the new Emma (for $20!) last weekend, and Andy and I both loved it. I actually watched it once by myself and then literally started it over again. I found it very moving, and man, this song, at the end. We just sat there listening to it and staring at the credits. I love that song. That song is so good. Occasionally we watch Italian Grandma making gravy, lasagna, pizza fritta. She cooks everything I remember from childhood and reminds me so much of my grandma Ieronemo. I Googled her and found out she is from Foggia, Italy, which is exactly where my grandparents were from. How amazing is that! I shouted with disbelief when I read this. Oh I love her so much and I feel better, hearing her voice. You must watch. You will like it.

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I hope you are well and finding grace during these difficult days. I made a little pattern for you for free if you would like to do some easy cross stitch, or have a youngster who would like to learn. It's called Homeschool Sampler. I've been challenged by some teenage boys to make something way cooler than this for them, so I have accepted that challenge. If you have any suggestions on what to include, please offer them up. I don't want them to know I have literally no clue how to be cool.

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Wishing you good health and all the good things these days. Thank you for all of your kind words and I send sincere gratitude to all of you who are staying home right now, and all of you who absolutely can't. I salute you and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Keeping On

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25Day

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

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

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

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

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

Until then, make pretzels!

25MAggie

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

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

Sending Love

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Cinnybuns

Sending love and endless gratitude to all of those who don't have the luxury of working from or staying at home right now, like grocery store clerks, bus and delivery drivers, airport employees, and especially our first responders, doctors, and health-care workers. Like nurses. Especially nurses. XOX

I hope you are all doing well in spite of circumstances. I am slowly getting my mind around all of this and navigating every emotion, it seems. I know you all are, too, and I wish you every moment of strength, peace, and calm that you can find. I can see we are going to need a big project around here, and I'm not sure what that will be. Maybe starting some seeds? That might be too passive, once the planting is done. . . . Not sure yet.

Take good care and keep the faith!
Love,
Alicia & Co.

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.

Goodbye Bee

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BridgetAndClover

We lost our little cat Bridget this weekend. We'd known it was coming for a while but, even knowing that, it was still so hard. She was twenty years old this spring. We found her when she was a baby kitten. She was always pretty feral. I kept thinking back to the one time she'd ever sat on me in all the years we lived together. It was that first morning she lived with us. At the crack of dawn that morning I'd crept into the guest room (guest room because Violet was stressing) to visit her. I was so excited. I laid down on the floor on my stomach and rested my head on my arms. She came over and climbed up onto the back of my legs and tucked her little feet under her like a tiny roosting hen. She sat there for ages. I didn't move a muscle. I remember just having the biggest smile on my face — a kitten! Sitting on me! We had a new kitten! She was sitting on me! Everyone else was asleep.

She was such a cute kitten, all fluffy and wide-eyed. It was early spring when she came, just after St. Patrick's Day, and we named her Bridget. She was gray, white, and peach, and for some reason she always reminded me of a feisty little Irish girl. She was really feisty. That first morning when she came and sat on me just because she felt like it? Never to be repeated. Ever. She did not like to be picked up, she never sat on our laps, she hissed at everybody (hissing kitten!), and you could only pet her on the forehead or behind the ears while not looking at her. You could pet her if you looked at something else, like something across the room or to your side. But if you pet her "wrong," especially while looking at her, she would punch you right in the face. It was clear after those first few days that she had never been handled by people, and had probably been born outside and had spent the first six or so weeks of her life before she came to us outside. Neither Violet (who was five when we came to Portland from Missoula) nor Bridget could be kept indoors. (When Violet was still a kitten in Missoula she actually jumped out of a second-floor bathroom skylight and got out onto the roof [which she fell off of, into a bunch of hosta plants in the side yard]. We weren't home at the time. I remember that when we'd left the house, she was there in it. When we got home, she was nowhere to be found, and not a single door or window was open. We could not find her and we literally looked in every single place she could be. Eventually, after exhausting all rational options, I noticed that the skylight in the bathroom ceiling was open. It was sort of a flat plane of glass that was like a casement window that you could push open a few inches; one of our roommates had probably taken a shower and left it open, never thinking it would be a problem. She must have literally jumped eight feet straight into the air to get to it, or somehow vaulted from the sink and grabbed the trim with her claws. We ran outside and standing looking around the perimeter of the house, and there she was, sitting in a big plant.) She just wanted out. All the time. And Bridget was the same. So from very early days our cats always went outside. Violet was almost eighteen when she passed away in 2012. Both of those good girls spent most of their time outside and still came home every single night of their lives. They were so good about always coming home. I really appreciated that about both of them. They were so reliable in that way.

The Bee spent most of her days lounging, or hunting, or running off any other cats that came anywhere near the house. She had a funny little trilling, chirrup-y meow that I can still hear in my mind. She was light as a feather and quick as a whip. She would sting you if you weren't careful. If she ever walked across someone's lap, all of us, the whole family, would freeze and hold our breath. She made Clover nervous every single day. She enjoyed the neighbors' yards more than ours, and we frequently got reports from our neighbors on either side that she was sunning herself on their patio tables. The goal of her life since about 2015 was to walk across all my stuff (knitting pattern/counter/embroidery floss/pattern papers/scissors, etc.) on the sofa and knock it on the floor and then come around behind me and drink out of my ice-water glass. Every single night. She'd also, before the days of the sheep fleece (see below), stalk and harass me until I finally got off the sofa to go to bed and then she'd be in my spot so fast; I would literally still be scooching toward the end of the chaise lounge in my nightgown and she'd already be in the warm depression I'd left behind. She brought in probably a half-dozen birds over the years, which was so distressing I can't even tell you. She lost every collar and every bell that we tried to put on her. Every single one. She was free and she wanted to be free. I know she loved us in her Bridget way and we loved her in ours.

She had been mostly inside for the past couple of years, but she'd still go out on the back porch and lay in the sun during the day when it was nice. Slowly, as she got more and more arthritic, her territory shrunk, and since this past autumn she'd been mostly sleeping on a pile of handmade quilts in her basket (which was originally baby Amelia's gorgeous Amish basket, with the wool-stuffed cushion) under the sideboard. A few months ago I found our sheep fleece that we'd gotten at the flock and fiber festival in the basement for some reason. Amelia had taken it outside and it had some little pieces of sticks and grass in it, and I'd been meaning to brush it out. We brought it up and put it on Clover's bed, and Clover Meadow absolutely loved it.

And so did Bridget. :))) The picture above was taken a few weeks ago by Amelia with my phone. Clover's face makes me laugh so hard. She is so nervous because she's literally about to get run off by Bridget. Which she was. Repeatedly. Within seconds of that photo, The Bee was on the fleece. Eventually we just gave the fleece to her and put it in her basket and then she hardly ever, ever came out of her basket. And for these last few weeks I think she was just about as comfy and cozy as a creature could possibly be, and that brings peace to my heart.

She was such a little fighter girl until her dying day. Andy and I counted at least two separate times — once about four years ago, when she had an infection behind her right eye, and again about five months ago, when she had a seizure that messed up her back permanently — that she literally fought her way back from the very edge. This time, this last seizure she had on Thursday was too much, and it broke her tiny, fragile body.

We buried her in the front border, very near the driveway where we had found her all those years ago. It's a nice place, under the plum tree with a view of the birdbath, and we'll be able to see the spot from the dining-room window. I know she is at peace, and so is Violet, out there, too, just a few yards away. And so is our beloved first dog, Audrey, who we lost so long ago now. All of them such good friends to us, for so many years of our lives.

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Goodbye, dear little Bee. I love you and miss you. Rest now, and be well, little darling. Be well. XO

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

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.